Chevy Racing–Indianapolis–Danica Patrick

DANICA PATRICK, NO. 10 GODADDY CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Indianapolis Motor speedway and discussed racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, season-to-date, expectations for rest of season, her SHR teammates and other topics. Full transcript:

KERRY THARP: Danica Patrick has joined us, and Danica drives the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet for Stewart Haas Racing. Thanks for coming by. Talk about how practice has gone yesterday and today, and as always, certainly a special place here for you. Talk about how the race car is setting up and your outlook for this weekend.
DANICA PATRICK: I feel like the car is a really good car. It’s a brand new car for the weekend, and Hendrick has been very strong this year on the horsepower side of things, so both of those things play into our favor for this weekend. Good car, good engine.

I think we’ve got a good feel for the direction we needed to go from yesterday to today with the race setup, and I think that that also relates pretty well to the qualifying setup.
I started off okay, just I think we were a little bit on the tight side and really couldn’t get that out of it and needed to get more aggressive, so we’re going to for qualifying. We’ll just see how it goes.
I think it’ll be okay overall, but you’re hoping for great because it’s a tough place to pass and it’s Indy, and you want to do really well.

Q. What are your memories of that first race here where it was a shuffle between three or four of you for the victory?
DANICA PATRICK: I don’t know, I’m too old, I can barely remember. It was so long ago.
I mean, I just remember that it was a really good car and really fast, and that was back in the day of fuel trim, so got a good restart and took the lead and just immediately started tuning it down to make it to the end on fuel because we were going further than anybody because of the accident that ripped the front wing off. That was my last stop. You know, tires were getting a little bit older, couldn’t quite hold the bottom line as well, and it allowed Dan to be able to keep his wing below me and get a run off the corner, and I was maintaining all the way until the last fuel position.
We had eight fuel slots and I was on seven when he finally caught me, but at six I was main gaining a gap, but we went to seven and he caught me and he was able to keep a wing below me and get the runoff and get by me, and that’s it. I mean, it went yellow, and I guess in hindsight it would have been nice to ‑‑ I think it ended in yellow. Obviously looking back it would have been nice to have just kept it in a fuel position that kept the gap, and we also probably weren’t as aware of our fuel levels as we knew. We ended with two and a half gallons left still. Progress was made from that, from what we were running for pickup and being able to see exactly where we were with fuel.
And then I also remember the pace car going about 30 miles an hour before the last green flag, which I get during the norm, but that was out of the norm going slower so that we could have more green flag laps, and that didn’t help me, either.

Q. Can you talk about what your expectations are for the second half of the season?
DANICA PATRICK: I mean, I think a win is going to be pretty tough, but I think a win is realistic. If we look back to the best race of the year, which was Kansas, as far as regular racetracks go, I mean, things go a little bit differently and I could have won that race. I mean, I feel like I’m able to, I just don’t know if we’re there yet. But if it presents itself and I’m in a position to win, I feel perfectly ready. I’m just not sure as a group in whole, probably including myself, that ‑‑ that’s not a scenario that we’re able to put ourselves in every single weekend, and even for the people that are, it’s still hard to win.
Like I said, if the opportunity presents itself, I’m ready, but outside of that in a points situation, I don’t think there’s much hope there. It requires you to do that every weekend, finish right up front every single weekend to get those points, and I think that, like I said, if we’re able to be up there as far as running, then the win is probably much more ‑‑ it’s much more likely, but that’s not where we’re at.
Places like Daytona would have been nice to go back green and see what would have happened, especially with so many fewer cars out there, but it didn’t. And Talladega is in the Chase. So that takes that out of it.
But we are getting stronger as a team. There’s no doubt about that, and we’re getting better and better, and the team is doing a great job of producing better cars all the time and keeping up and moving forward. All that stuff is going in the right direction, but I’m still only at a year and a half’s experience in Cup.

Q. Johnson said yesterday that this is one of the hardest tracks for him to lead his team and to know exactly how to attack it. His résumé says different ‑‑

Q. But nonetheless he said it’s really difficult for him to do that, but there was a lightbulb moment back in ’05 where he realized I’ve been driving this place wrong the whole time. I wondered if you’ve ever had a moment like that here and if it is one of the more difficult tracks for you to lead a team and tell them what’s going on?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, I will say that this time being here I feel like I’m able to drive more consistently and feel like I’m reaching the potential of the car much more, and I think that that just has to do with the car being better. When the car is not right it’s moving all over the place, and you’re like, did I not go in hard enough, did I go in too hard, did I pick up the throttle too late, too hard. There’s a lot more questions when the car is off and the balance isn’t right through the corner because the corners are so long, and there’s obviously four full corners, so I feel like much more comfortable overall, but it sounds like I need to split out of here and go talk to Jimmie about what it was that he figured out in 2005.
You know, I feel like part of the challenge here is that the straightaways are so long, and the corners are so long, so it’s like you have to meet this perfect marriage between getting into the corner far enough but not getting in so far that you mess up your exit. You’ve just got to walk that line, and like I said, I think that having better cars here is giving me a better feel for being able to repeat which is going to help me learn I feel.

Q. As a rookie we hear so much about getting experience. Halfway through your sophomore season what has changed for you in the car? What’s different for you and the team overall this year compared to what you went through last year?
DANICA PATRICK: It’s a good question. I really think that just the experience in the car is helping me feel what’s happening more so, and so it leaves less options for the crew chief as changes when you can be more specific about what the car is doing, and then your progress on the weekend tends to be better.
I also think that just getting up to speed quicker from the get‑go also helps in not doing a big circle with the setup. Usually if you’re not driving hard enough at the beginning of practice when you first hit the track, you are loose and then as soon as you get more confident and you’re driving in harder, all of a sudden you’re tight again, and what do you know, you’re right back where you started but you’re a session behind now.
I think getting up to speed and then also just being able to identify a little bit better, and I mean a little bit better. I don’t mean ‑‑ I have a lot to learn and a lot of progress to still make on being able to feel the little things about the car that I need to to help even more, but I think those two things are really helpful overall on our weekends and help us to be more methodical and fine‑tune the car.

Q. Was the 30th place finish last year, did it sting more than some of the other kind of blah finishes, or was it just another day in the season?
DANICA PATRICK: No, that was another day in the season. We started the race with troubles anyway. We had a little bit of a leak, a little bit of an oil leak, and after five laps you probably saw me in the broadcast smoking. I was dropping oil, and it was just not a good race for us. There was oil all in the wheel wells and in the car. Yeah, it wasn’t good. I don’t think any hope from lap 5 on. Oddly enough, I do remember starting off thinking, not too bad, and then I didn’t go anywhere. That’s just the way our race went.
You know, beforehand in the season if you were to pick tracks you want to do well at, I would pick here, but when you’re in the moment and it’s happening, it just is what it is. I could care less where the really good races come from when they’re happening.

Q. Are you the doting aunt? Are you the one that brings the expensive gifts? Your mom loves to post pictures of the grand babies, so how are you with the new addition?
DANICA PATRICK: Those blue eyes, that soft hair, those sharp teeth. Oh, I was talking about Dallas. Were you talking about Dallas?
Yeah, Reese is really cute, my sister’s little girl. She was here today and she was dressed in one of the, as you said it, expensive gifts in one of those expensive outfits that I found for her downtown Chicago, and she looked very cute. But I do my best, yes. I try. I also try and take care of my sister and my parents and everybody else, too, but it’s impossible when you have a little niece to be able to walk by a little girls’ clothing and not go, oh, my God, look at that, I have to buy it. So I do.
Do I change diapers? Heck yeah. Yeah, I do. I don’t mind. I was changing a diaper, and I had a new one ready to go, and all of a sudden I looked down, and I’m like, gosh, girl, you were sweating, weren’t you, and I’m like, no, you peed again. So then I went for another diaper. At least it wasn’t a boy, right? That would have been in my face.

Q. Back at media tour and media day, there was so much conversation about this team and the four big personalities and how everybody was going to get along. It seems like at this juncture of the season it’s been a total non‑story. Can you address that, that chemistry there?
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah. I don’t think any of us thought it was going to be a story. It was more of an interesting story from the beginning that wasn’t going to materialize. I feel like with all of our personalities, while we’re strong, we’re not necessarily just like strong at each other, we’re just strong personalities and have opinions, but more than anything we all want to do well and get better. For sure in my position I’m lucky to be with guys that have so much experience that I can learn from.
You know, you get a lot of really constructive progress and constructive criticism along the way, and everybody can get better and everybody wants to get better, so when everybody wants to get better and they’re not defensive, then it all goes ‑‑ it’s all just to get better and everybody knows that. I think that’s why you’ve seen an improvement in our team this year and everything from top to bottom is just a little bit better, better communication, and it shows.

Q. How has Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch impacted you on that team this year? Has it helped you out quite a bit?
DANICA PATRICK: Kevin is probably someone that’s helped the most. He’s just able to put things in terms and ways and words that I understand and I’m able to use. Kurt has been helpful, as well, but Kevin the most, and it helps. It just helps. Little things like when you get up to speed, are you flat out around 3 and 4, and what are some of your tricks when it gets tight or gets loose or where is there a little extra grip on the track. So they both are helpful. They’re all helpful. Tony is, too, but I think above all of them is probably Kevin is the best of them at teaching. I don’t think everyone has the gift and I don’t think I do, but he’s pretty good at it.
KERRY THARP: Danica, thanks for coming in, and all the best of luck this weekend.