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2013 Daytona 500 Q&A: NASCAR Sprint Cup - Danica Patrick
DANICA PATRICK, NO. 10 GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET SS met with media and discussed her outlook for the 2031 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, her relationship with driver Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., her rookie status as a full-time Sprint Cup drivers, the new race cars and her driving style, running some races in the NASCAR Nationwide Series this year and more.
DANICA PATRICK: Okay, let's do it.
Q. I asked Joey Logano if there any sense in the garage area of a relationship. He laughed and said, Ray Charles could have seen it.
DANICA PATRICK: I'm curious what that means (laughter).
Q. Did you notice that other people were noticing? Did y'all talk in the garage, hang around together around the garage?
DANICA PATRICK: We've been friends for a long time. I mean, I've always gotten along with him. I guess that is what they observed. They saw something we didn't know about.
Q. Oh, really?
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, I mean, here we are now, but...
Q. Are you surprised at the attention it's gotten from media and fans? Seems like now that's all anybody wants to talk about.
DANICA PATRICK: Seems like that now. I haven't been asked that many questions about it. Poor Ricky has been asked a lot of questions. But I haven't gotten too many. But I'm happy to answer them. I'm happy to talk about it. It's fine with me.
Q. How is Ricky doing with all this attention?
DANICA PATRICK: I think you have to ask him. Seems like he's doing pretty well. A little while back he was talking about not wanting -- doesn't like people looking at him, staring at him. So I'm like, You better get used to that because there's going to be a lot of people looking at you. He said, No, they're not, they're going to be looking at you. I said, No, they're not, they're going to be looking at you as well.
Anyway, but he's doing good. Doing good.
Q. How did it change from a friendship to a little bit more romantic? Who asked whom out first? What was the bud of the thing?
DANICA PATRICK: I mean, the friendship is the bud, for sure. But beyond that, I think it was like, you know, just talking a little bit more often and then deciding to spend time together, and that goes on from there.
Q. Was there a first date?
DANICA PATRICK: I don't know if you could really say. I mean, I've spent so much time with him, whether I have dinner with him or do appearances or things like that, so I think it's pretty tough to put a first date on anything.
Q. You don't, like, have an anniversary?
DANICA PATRICK: There was one point in time, though, that I asked him to ask me out on a date, though, because it's just like you go do something. Are you going to ask me on a date? When was that? It wasn't that long ago. Just an official one, you know. I can't remember what the date of that was, though.
Q. What are you guys doing tonight?
DANICA PATRICK: Good question. Well, luckily my bags (luggage) came in. My flight was very delayed out of Chicago, so I caught another flight. They were supposed to be in already. They're hopefully going to be in in time because my Valentine's Day present is in that bag. In fact, there's like a whole bag dedicated to Valentine's Day.
So what are we doing? I'm going to bet I'm cooking 'cause I cook and he does not cook.
Q. He bought you a card, but you tweeted that you haven't gotten his yet.
DANICA PATRICK: Oh, no, no, I have a card. What I was saying is in the future, I was saying in the future, when you get my homemade card, it's like a folded over white piece of paper from the fax machine or from the printer machine, that's when you'll know I forgot to get you one and that will be funny. But like I said, I'm creative. So I'll make it look nice.
Q. Have you ever done a press conference like this before?
DANICA PATRICK: No. This doesn't feel very racing oriented really. I don't want to be on this loud speaker, honestly. I asked them if I could not be on it.
Q. Jimmie Johnson said this would be a fun thing to follow because everybody would be watching it. He said, Danica, she can get a little upset and let people know it. Ricky, on the other hand, is never involved in payback much but he drives the car sideways. If Ricky is driving his car sideways and drives it into you, what happens then?
DANICA PATRICK: He better have a really good 'I'm sorry'. I'm just kidding.
I got a feeling PR is just lurking and sweating their butts off over there.
Q. Can you talk about how you will race each other and eyes will be on you every time you're near each other.
DANICA PATRICK: I think racing-wise that's obviously a big question in a lot of people's minds, fans' minds. I had a friend say, I'm excited to see how you guys race against each other when you're out there. That's someone that isn't even into racing curious to see how that will go.
We've been racing against each other as long as we've known each other. So, you know, there are times you're out there on the track, you don't even see each other, you're not even next to each other. Every time we have been, it's about respect and neither of us put up a big fight.
So far it's been pretty obvious who is faster than who whenever someone comes up behind the other. For the most part it's been him faster than me, I would say, of course. The few times it's happened to me, he doesn't put up a fight. And I don't see that any different. I don't see us putting up a huge battle.
But I'm guessing, I mean, as we keep getting better over the year, over the years, you know, you're going to end up having to race each other harder because they're going to be for better spots. But in general, it's going to be just like it always has been.
Q. Have you sat down with Tony or your sponsors and do they have any interest or care about this?
DANICA PATRICK: You know, when I told them about the relationship, they had no questions about the racing side of it. I think they all trust that both of us are going to do our jobs and do it the way we always have.
Q. Other people, the ones asking, curious about this, have you actually had a conversation with Ricky, If that happens, then this or that? Or do you feel other people are more concerned?
DANICA PATRICK: I think the extent of our conversation about racing with each other is like laughing and saying that I'm going to have to outsmart you because I know you're not lifting. That's kind of it.
Q. Did the whole friendship and everything start with you seeking his advice about racecar setups and everything?
DANICA PATRICK: I mean, we first got to know each other in rookie meetings. He was Rookie of the Year in '10, was that right? So I did race. That was my first year, was '10. So I saw him in rookie meetings. But it's funny, basically it will be us in rookie meetings again this year. Since we're running for Rookie of the Year we have to go to every single track for the rookie meeting. That's funny.
Q. Does that change the dynamic, both of you vying for the Rookie of the Year?
DANICA PATRICK: Does it change the dynamic of what?
Q. Your interaction on the track when you're both racing for something.
DANICA PATRICK: You know, I don't think it does. I think both of us are just going to race really hard and do what we've always done. Running for Rookie of the Year is something that's happening, but it's not going to make you try any harder. I mean, we both try as hard as we can every time. Kind of where it ends up panning out at the end it does.
I mean, usually at the end of the year, no matter what's going on, whether it's Rookie of the Year, whether it's for a championship position, you kind of put a little emphasis on certain things or start to understand where you're going to end up just based on points. I mean, that's 38 races away, or 30. How many races is the season?
DANICA PATRICK: 36 away.
Q. Do you feel like a rookie at this point?
DANICA PATRICK: I definitely feel like a rookie because I know there's a lot I have yet to experience in Cup, and especially the competition level of that every weekend, and the length of the weekends, adding an extra day on every weekend.
But, honestly, I mean, in my heart I don't feel like a rookie. I feel like somebody who has a lot of experience but needs to kind of train different. It's a different car, it's a different experience. But I feel seasoned and kind of everything else that goes on around it. I guess that's the reason why I feel pretty comfortable right now.
That's probably a good thing. Whether I have a situation going on now that y'all are asking about or being in Sprint Cup for the first time this year, it's nice to have had the experience, media and work-wise and everything outside the car, that helps me be able to focus on my job better because this is less stressful to me.
Q. When you were in IndyCar, you used to express some dismay at the very notion of running 36 races.
DANICA PATRICK: I did. You're right.
Q. Now that you're at the brink of this, how does it feel?
DANICA PATRICK: I feel like I had a nice little transition into the length of the season. This will be a whole 'nother level because we're adding 30 odd days onto my racing work schedule because of the extra day for Sprint Cup.
But, you know, with doing those two years of part-time Nationwide, it really helps kind of transition into about 30 races a year. Then last year was 34 or something. Now this is going to be 36 or so. So it's been a nice transition and it doesn't scare me anymore.
I think more than anything I found something that I really, really enjoy doing. I've said it before to people. Driving stock cars, it's really fun to me. The racing is really fun to me. While I get nervous, it's something I really care about, I want to do really well. For some reason I have more excitement than I do so much nerves. Like in IndyCar I was always really nervous. I always felt like there was a lot of pressure and I felt like every lap was on the edge. The racing was getting really dicey at the end. People were just all over the place and I felt nervous going into that. Now I just feel excited. I feel a little nervous but definitely more excited.
Q. Mark Martin said he advised you that not only can you slide these cars around, you've got to. You felt like you were sort of the Jeff Gordon school of loose and necessarily fast. Ricky is known for sliding these cars around. Do you think talking with him over a period of time you might be more comfortable in a looser car, sliding cars around?
DANICA PATRICK: I think that for me, my driving style is smooth and not heavy braking, so I feel like I'm learning mostly from Tony Gibson, from Tony, from Ryan, just being able to put my driving style compared to them, and then having that translated to words by Tony Gibson as to what that means in a racecar.
I drive a little bit more in the Tony Stewart way. I have a style like him at this point in time. I'm kind of slow in, not heavy braking, and smooth. It allows me to run a freer car because I'm not so hard on the brake and pitching the car so much.
I'm just kind of learning more about my style than anything. There's no changing that really. I think that's one of the great things that Tony Gibson understands and knows. The driver's style is the driver's style and you do the best job you can as a crew chief to adapt to it.
So I don't feel like I'm going to change my style based on anything else. I think for me it's going to be how to get a racecar so I can be fast.
Q. How do you like the new car compared to last year's car?
DANICA PATRICK: I like the new car's looks, number one, for sure. Another thing is they do drive maybe a little bit tighter, so that's kind of nice for me.
I also like the more grip. I mean, I'm used to having so much grip coming from IndyCar that I felt like the tracks I had more grip and was able to carry more load through the corner because of that felt to me most comfortable. I feel like I was able to feel the edge of the car better. I think there's a lot of things about this car that are good for me.
We have yet to see how it's going to perform in all aspects yet, especially when all of us get out there on the track, especially at a place like Daytona, or when we get out on a mile-and-a-half. But so far, so good.
Q. What about the laws of unintended consequences with this car that nobody will know what happens between now and the checkered flag?
DANICA PATRICK: As in like what?
Q. A lot can happen with this car that a lot of people are not prepared for.
DANICA PATRICK: I don't know. Well, I don't know. If I knew what was unexpected, we would just have the answer then. So I don't know. I suppose we'll just all have to see.
But I think one of the things that piques my curiosity and I'm sure a lot of other people's curiosity is how it went in practice, when all the cars get in pack, how easy it was for people to get turned around. So that could make for some pretty exciting racing for the fans.
Q. You're running in the Nationwide race here.
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah.
Q. Is that a good warmup for Sunday?
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, so today it's official that I'm going to run the Nationwide race for Turner Scott Motorsports. Go Daddy stepped up in a big way to make that happen. So it will be the GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, Camaro. How should I say it?
Q. Chevy Camaro.
DANICA PATRICK: How about that? Damn good thing I included Chevrolet in there. I'm getting used to it. It's a mouthful. Please tell me if I lose my spark. That would be sad (laughter).
I'm glad to be running it because I think it's really good practice for the race. The racing is very similar from the Nationwide to the Cup car, especially at a place like Talladega or Daytona. I feel like we have a chance to win and that's exciting.
I appreciate that everyone made it happen and put it together. I don't even know when the first practice is, but I'm excited about it.
Q. That's the only race announced?
DANICA PATRICK: At this point in time that's the only race that's for sure. Originally we were looking at 10. So anywhere up to 10 would be great. It serves as the ability to go out there and do well, gain confidence, keep confidence up, to be able to get some experience on tracks that just need laps. So more challenging tracks. Also just have a chance to have good races.
Q. What's the likelihood of 10?
DANICA PATRICK: I think the likelihood of 10 is probably low, but maybe five. That would be good. Probably in the middle of the season, if we only do five, probably good we only did five because it will be very busy.
But as busy as those weekends were that I did both series, I really felt like it ultimately helped each other a lot. So practice in the Cup car helped practice in the Nationwide car and racing the Nationwide car helped racing the Cup car. I feel like they really help each other. It's a great swimsuit diet in the summer, too.
Q. Your old IndyCar profile under musical tastes used to say, Anything but classical or country.
DANICA PATRICK: You're right.
Q. I assume rodeo becomes country. So how does that come along?
DANICA PATRICK: Because I went to a rodeo?
Q. I would assume with Ricky's taste, along with rodeo...
DANICA PATRICK: He definitely loves country. He loves country. He likes a lot of different country. I'm more of the modern kind of country girl. I like more modern country. He likes a lot of the older stuff.
He probably tolerates some of my music that's a little bit more '90s. For some reason he doesn't like '90s music. He likes '80s before '90s. What? Barely just a baby then.
I don't mind country now, I really don't. I actually really like it. I think it's some fun music. It's great to put on. It's like you can understand all the words, tell a little story (laughter). But there's a lot of great artists in country.
Q. You've been reluctant to talk about your private life. What makes this different?
DANICA PATRICK: I mean, I'm sure there's definitely going to be a line. I mean, I'm not going to go into details about my private life all the time. I understand there's a curiosity for it. To be honest, it's my life. I have always done everything to my comfort zone level. Once it starts to go beyond that, I just stop.
Whether it's a photo shoot, whether it's talking about my life, these are things that I draw the line by instinct. So I don't think there's anything too serious talked about today. But I'm sure there will come a day where you ask a question that I don't want to answer and I'll tell you I'm not going to answer it.
I mean, I'm just relaxed. Like I feel happy. I feel like I'm just enjoying my life. It makes me smile to talk about him.
Q. I know y'all became friends first, but what attracted you to him?
DANICA PATRICK: I feel like I'm on The Bachelorette. I just had a connection (laughter).
I mean, I think there was just something there. I think you end up finding some kind of a chemistry with someone and you can't always put it into words what exactly it is. We've just always kind of enjoyed being around each other. I think he's really funny. His jokes are really funny.
Yeah, I just like being around him.
Q. Can you talk about qualifying with the way they're doing it this year, even though you have points. Have you looked at it?
DANICA PATRICK: I have absolutely no idea how qualifying works. Does anyone? I think I was actually sent like a long email with the way that qualifying works. I didn't read it. 'Cause you're just going to drive as hard as you can, right? What else am I going to do? I got to qualify in the top two or top six, whatever it is. You're going to go as fast as you can possible can and deal with it afterwards.
I know that with buying the points, what that does for us, it allows us the opportunity to make sure we compete even if there's a rain situation.
That can happen. It's that time of year where that can happen. Hopefully everything goes well for the Nationwide race. I remember my first year it rained out qualifying and I had points so it would be fine. It would be a different story now. Hopefully we don't run into that situation. But it's very important that it doesn't happen in Cup.
Q. Within reason and cleanliness --
DANICA PATRICK: Cleanliness? Of people? Yeah, like I said, I thought the bump-drafting jokes were hilarious. It's going to be like when I'm out there on the track, it would be like me and Dale Jr. bump-drafting, like teammates, and Dale Jr. at Daytona. It's going to be like that. I feel like that's kind of the excitement level if we were out there bump-drafting with each other.
I'm not sure I want to be bump-drafting with this car very much. It would be unfortunate if he was pushing me and I was turned around. Clearly it won't be intentional, but it seems as though that might be a real likelihood in this car with the new changes.
But, anyway, go ahead.
Q. Nationwide garage is full of young, single male drivers.
DANICA PATRICK: I'm too old. I'm too old.
Q. Did anybody else ask you out or hit on you among all those young, single drivers?
DANICA PATRICK: Uhm, no.
Q. I don't want you to name names.
DANICA PATRICK: There was some curiosity maybe. But I think I scare people, so not a lot. Do I scare people? Maybe I should ask that question.
Q. Did you ever maybe second guess dating Ricky because he is a competitor.
DANICA PATRICK: Sure. I think initially it was a little bit of a mental hurdle of like, We compete against each other. I said it's like the Capulets and Montagues with Chevy and Ford. This just doesn't work.
You can't tell your heart who to like or not like. In the end it ended up being something that I just didn't think was a big deal at all.
Q. You're about to start your full Sprint Cup season. Are you anxious, nervous, excited?
DANICA PATRICK: I'm excited. I think of all the years I've competed at a top level, I feel like I'm most excited for this season. I really am. I think it's going to be a fun season. I think it's going to be a great season.
Q. Do you have a points finish range or set of results you'd like to hit this year to make this a success in your mind?
DANICA PATRICK: I mean, you know, I think it would be great, if I looked at the points from this past year, looked at the people I was competing against last year in those 10 races that I did, if I could be somewhere up a little bit ahead of where that kind of area is, I mean, that's probably a first blush good spot to hope to be.
But secretly do I hope for more? Of course, I do. I feel like these long races are going to play into my strength of focus, improving on the car, getting more confident and stronger as the race goes on.
There's too many changes going into this year with the new car, new full-time schedule, all kinds of stuff that it's going to be really difficult to pin it down. Ask me again when we get a little bit into the season and I think I'll be a better judge as to where I'm falling into the line.
Thanks. I'm sure everybody enjoyed that.