NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
THE COMBAT WOUNDED COALITION 400 AT THE BRICKYARD
INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
JULY 23, 2016
DANICA PATRICK, NO. 10 NATURE’S BAKERY CHEVROLET SS met with media and discussed the new paint scheme on her helmet, how she enjoys coming to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the difference between racing IndyCars and stock cars, the progress she and her team are making in NASCAR, and more. Full Transcript:
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE HELMET ON THE PODIUM
“Oh, sure. So, I’ve been racing for 25 years and it was brought to my attention this year by Troy Lee Designs that we’ve been working together for 20 years and they’ve been painting my helmet for 20 years and so, I said it would be really cool if we did a special paint-out. And we thought Indy would be the perfect place to have that, given the fact that I’ve had so much history here, too. So, Troy just drew it up. I said just draw whatever you want and it’s all good for me because it’s more about the fact that they’ve been doing my helmet for 20 years and it’s not about what I want. So, this is just Troy letting his mind wander. Anyway it’s an honor and really cool that I’ve had relationships for that long. I think that’s a pretty impressive amount of time to work with anyone or anything.”
TELL US ABOUT YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR TOMORROW. YOU HAD REALLY GOOD SPEED IN THE SECOND PRACTICE YESTERDAY.
“Thanks. For one lap I went really fast yesterday. We struggled, for sure, just getting comfortable on the way in, especially. We were loose in, tight off; like a nightmare around this track. So, it was much better in qualifying trim. Billy (Scott), my crew chief, had made some changes on top of our normal offset for qualifying, that I think was a really good direction. And when we met with all the drivers after practice was over, we all agreed that was the right direction. So, it made us feel really comfortable to not only believe in that and keep that for qualifying, for sure; but also then be confident to keep that style of change for the race also. Hopefully our race car will be a little bit better than it was in practice because it definitely was very difficult to drive. It was very unpredictable and inconsistent and just really hard to drive hard. I love Indy and I really want to have a good day. The first step to that is qualifying today. Hopefully that goes as well today as it did yesterday.”
YOU SAID THE OTHER TWO TIMES YOU CHANGED YOUR HELMET WAS AROUND PAUL TRACY AND DAN WHELDON. CAN YOU EXPLAIN THAT? WHY HAVE YOU HAD THE SAME HELMET FOR SO LONG?
“The back of it (the helmet) does say. ‘It only took 20 years and 314 races to try something new. Thanks for all the fast times and always making us look cool’. The first time they started painting it I looked at other helmets and I was super young and Paul Tracy’s looked super cool. I’m pretty sure they ended up painting it very much like Paul Tracy’s. At that point in time it was like I was probably going to have to make it a little bit more original and make it my own. So, first was to change it to look like something different. And then the other time was for Dan Wheldon. When he passed away I had a helmet painted out, which Troy was a big part of and really helped me come up with the things. But it had the Union Jack British Flag, and Dan Wheldon-like shoes hanging off of his name because he was always wearing white shoes. It was specially done-up for him and then we auctioned it off to give money back to his family because he had two kids. So, that was the only other time I’d ever changed my helmet, which is why Troy said it only took 20 years and 314 races to try something new. I’m a bit of a creature of habit and I think that the Open Wheel world is more like that, I think; especially more than stock car racing because you can see our helmets and you can tell who is in the car based on the helmet. Sometimes other drivers would pop in other people’s cars and you can tell who is in it based on the helmet. So, I’ve always just stuck with it because it’s identifiable. It’s always the same. It’s me; even though you can’t see it in a stock car as well. It just is a mentality for me. Anybody who offered to pay me to change my helmet it was always a ‘No’, because it was the only think I have that I can choose to make it look just like I want it to look. I’m just a bit of a creature of habit with that stuff. Even with my race shoes and things like that, I’m super slow to transition to new designs and new technologies. So, I ran the double-strap, high-top racing shoes for a very long time before I went to one strap. I did try some of the one-piece leather shoes but that didn’t work out for me, either. Again, I’m just a real creature of habit. I even wear the same stuff all year. I could probably use two pair of race shoes a year, although they’re white now so it’s a lot more difficult. I’m just a creature of habit.”
AS SOMEONE WHO HAS SEEN TONY STEWART’S CAREER FROM A LOT OF DIFFERENT VANTAGE POINTS, WHAT’S IT BEEN LIKE TO HAVE AN INSIDE SEAT FOR HIS LAST SEASON, AND PRESUMABLE HIS LAST RUN HERE AT INDY? IS HE STAYING AS CALM AND COLLECTED AS HE’S TRYING TO PROJECT TO US?
“I don’t know how he’s been to you guys (the media), but he does seem really cool and calm. He seems very generally happy and I can only imagine if being in his shoes and having the success that he’s had and having the years of struggle both with on and off-track things over the last few years, to win and have a shot at a championship in your last season coming off a season that you didn’t even start on time. He didn’t even start the year, this year. So, something like that had to happen if he was going to make it in because he wasn’t racing the whole season has to be just a humungous relief for him. And like I told him after he won that watching him work, when he puts his mind to something, is really cool. And I think his last championship is a great example of that, where he was not even very high on his season and until he made it into the Chase, and then he won five out of 10 races and the championship. So, it’s just really cool what he does when he puts his mind to something. It will be interesting to see how the Chase goes. Obviously he’s been a lot faster lately. It’s good to see. He’s a good person. He deserves it. He’s had a great career and he deserves to go out with happy memories instead ‘get me out of here’, you know?”
EVERY YEAR WE ASK YOU ABOUT RACING AT INDIANAPOLIS AND THE GREAT HISTORY THAT YOU’VE HAD HERE; BUT IS THERE SOMETHING TO BE SAID FOR THIS PLACE GIVING YOU A WARMER FEELING THAN MAYBE A LOT OF THE OTHER NASCAR VENUES? MOST OF THE TRACKS YOU HAVEN’T RACED IN BOTH AN INDYCAR AND A STOCK CAR. WHAT IS THE FEELING YOU SENSE HERE AND THE RECEPTION YOU GET FROM THE PEOPLE? IS THERE A DIFFERENCE?
“I think that anytime you go to a hometown city for a race, like obviously IndyCar’s hometown city is Indianapolis. There’s a certain amount of backing and interest and excitement. Also having a race with such history, more history than any other race out there, over 100 years, there’s a legacy out there and so much prestige. I’ve learned in my older age that history is what makes things special. Do I think its just Indy? I think it is because that is what created what it is today. It works hand-in-hand with it being a special track and having special races over the 100 years and making and breaking careers, which I feel like I’m a product of the Indy 500 and the power of it and the awareness of the race. I think yeah, it is Indy; but it’s also the people and the history that create the backbone of what makes this place special and what makes that warm feeling that you talk about when I come in. Never mind the fact that when I was driving out of the track last night with Ricky (Stenhouse Jr.) and telling him about how I wondered how many times I’ve driven in and out of this track, especially at night because you just drive to dinner or drive to an event or whatever it is that you have to do. That’s just not what you ever do barely at any other track. But here at Indy, you do because you’re here so long. And we just talked about how cool it was that when it used to be three weeks and it used to be a long time here and how we both talked about it being really neat that length of time behind it and have a routine almost, because so many events we just blow in and blow out and it’s over. Even when I was in IndyCar and they shortened the schedule, I didn’t like it. I liked the long time here. I also think all that practice makes for great racing, too, because you work on your car to make it better. Everybody does. And so the better your car is, the better the racing gets. It’s a special place for a lot of reasons.”
“Yeah, I totally feel it. I think that it’s probably undeniable on some level; even just driving back into the track and seeing the Pagoda all lit up which is what I love seeing when I come in through the Turn 2 tunnel. Seeing that and just having spent so much time here. I feel it. And, having great memories. That always helps.”
AFTER POCONO, MOST OF THE TRACKS YOU’LL BE GOING TO WILL BE FOR THE SECOND TIME THIS SEASON. BASED ON THE WAY THE CAR SET-UP WAS THE FIRST TIME AT THESE TRACKS AND GETTING ACCLIMATED TO THE CURRENT RULES PACKAGE, ARE THERE ANY TRACKS IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE SEASON WHERE YOU MIGHT BE MORE OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THAN OTHERS?
“That’s a good question. I haven’t sat and thought about it. There are specific tracks that I’m excited about going back to, but I think given the fact that Billy just started as my crew chief. Literally, the first day we worked together was at Daytona, on-track, for the Daytona 500 was the first day we ever communicated driver/crew-chief, wise. Of course I had talked to him many times before that and seen him many times at the race shop. But I think that second time back will hopefully be a big help for us. And, just having honed-in more on the rules package; I think that it doesn’t ignore the fact that as a team you still have to work incredibly hard to not only keep up, but then of course to get ahead is a relentless amount of work during a season. The stage is set in the off-season and then during the season you work really hard to stay ahead or try and catch-up your very best. There’s a lot work that needs to go into it as well. Just going back for a second time doesn’t mean that it’s just going to be better because other things are static, or the same. It’s a work in progress. There’s constant car revisions that get done and updates to cars that get done throughout the season. Every single week that work is done in the wind tunnel. So, things are very evolving from the car perspective. But, there are a lot of things that go into a race other than just the car. And, so having a set-up when you first start the weekend that’s closer than when you went there the first time is a great thing. We don’t really get that many shots at making the car that much better when we get there. It’s more about optimizing what you have. So, hopefully that will be a good second-half of the season for us to have that foundation established between rules, crew chief, me; and I know that none of us are happy running 20th. I’m not. It’s miserable. So, we want to do better.”
“I’m trying to think of some disasters this year. I always do like going to Pocono. Pocono is always a track that while I haven’t had great, great finishes; I feel like I like it. I had four cracked rotors racing there last time and still managed to finish somewhere around 20th. So, I look forward to going back there. I think our short track stuff is where I hope that there’s the most improvement because I really do love the short tracks. And we’ve been way off. Even last weekend at Loudon it was like why are we in left field on short tracks? I don’t understand it. So, hopefully having been to those short tracks the first time around, the second time will be easier. We found ourselves in a whole different area to make me comfortable and get me going faster at all the short tracks this year; it’s been a bit of a point of confusion. Hopefully that’s better.”
THIS IS YOUR FOURTH YEAR IN THIS EVENT SO WHAT CONCLUSIONS WOULD YOU DRAW ABOUT YOUR STOCK CAR RACING AT THIS VENUE? YOU’VE MAGICAL IN AN INDYCAR HERE.
“I remember last year turned out to be an absolute meltdown disaster by the end of the race. I think I had worked my way up to maybe sixth or something like that, and I was pitiful on the restarts. And I ended up finishing 25th or something like that. There were just a bunch of restarts at the end and every one of them was horrible. It was actually that point in time last year that I had to cry it out and re-establish how I was going to figure out these restarts. Knock on wood. Maybe its just Indy, I don’t know. Maybe we’ll see tomorrow. But it’s been much better since then. Every now and again of course there’s a rough one but it’s by no means of major, major concern for me anymore. I feel like I learned a lot. I pushed myself to get better in that area. But it makes me remember that I was running really well at the end of the race here. I think another time I was here, I was running around 12th, 11th, 10th, somewhere around there, and something happened with the transmission and we didn’t finish. Another time here I had an oil leak that lasted the entire race and I’m sure made everybody else’s corners miserable, behind me. That was a bad race. What I’m saying is I don’t think they all have been really bad, but I think it’s tough for me. Do I miss running in the Top 5? Of course I do. Especially for casual fans, it’s very easy to understand. But a Top 5 for me now is a Top 15 right now. And it’s just different. In stock car racing there’s so many more cars and there’s so much that goes into it and there’s so many of these guys who have just been at it for so long. Especially with my lack of stock car experience before I jumped into it, I didn’t start off racing dirt. I didn’t start off in Late Models and things like that and work my way up. The car itself is challenging. It’s a work in progress and I think that at any point in time, when everything is right, it can be a breakthrough and a great result. By great, it’s a Top 10; maybe a Top 5. But, there’s a lot of variances between car to car and team to team throughout the garage and looking back, IndyCars were a lot more similar. I know I drive for a great team now, but I did drive for really good teams in IndyCar. So, hopefully that’s a thought of the past and I have a great day tomorrow and a great qualifying today and can make some more good memories at Indy.”
WHEN THE TRACK STARTED RENOVATIONS A FEW YEARS AGO, THERE WAS TALK OF PUTTING THE APRON BACK IN THE CORNERS. DO YOU THINK THAT WOULD BE BENEFICIAL FOR THE BRICKYARD 400?
“I don’t know. Usually there are marbles where people don’t run. I don’t know. Maybe it would help. I do think that IndyCars have better time passing here than stock cars. Stock cars are much harder for us for some reason. The closing rates are a lot slower in stock cars than in IndyCars. When someone is five back in a stock car, that’s not that far. But in IndyCar, you can be ten back and still get a run on somebody. I think I’ve always felt that for stock cars, the slow flat tracks are good; and high-banked fast tracks are the other side of good for us. I don’t think IndyCars and stock cars have ever been parallel to what makes good racing; at least not exactly. What do I think of an apron? I never ran it before, but I would be much more happy to drive over an apron in a stock car than an IndyCar. There would probably be a lot more accidents on the exit of Turn 1 if there was an apron to drive on.”