NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
AAA TEXAS 500
TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
NOVEMBER 4, 2011
DANICA PATRICK, NO. 10 GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET met with media following the announcement by Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Tony Stewart on a limited number of NASCAR Sprint Cup races slated for her in 2012. It was announced that Patrick will race in 10 events (as below), with two yet to be determined. Feb. 26: Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway
May 12: Darlington (S.C.) Raceway
Aug. 25: Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway
Sept. 2: Atlanta Motor Speedway
Sept. 16: Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.
Sept. 30: Dover (Del.) International Speedway
Nov. 4: Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth
Nov. 11: Phoenix International Raceway
ON RACING AT DARLINGTON RACEWAY “I’ve got to earn my stripes, right? Which means brushing the wall a few times probably? I just think it’s one of those tracks I look forward to figuring out and doing well at because I think it really shows who can handle their car. The racing looks fun there. But it’s going to be challenging and it’s definitely different. Tony (Eury, crew chief) and (Dale Earnhardt) Junior have talked about it, but it’s all part of the process. The more times I can learn how to adapt to a car on a track and to a track, the better off I am.”
HOW MUCH INPUT DID YOU ACTUALLY HAVE IN SELECTING THE TRACKS WHERE YOU WILL RUN IN 2012?
“Well, my input first off, was that I’ll do what Tony (Stewart) wants me to do because I’m not the professional and I’m not the experienced one. He is. And the other part that I probably had a little bit of a say on was that I wanted to start at Daytona. Like I said, I just really didn’t want my first Cup race to be at Darlington. So, it’s nice that we can go somewhere that we have a real chance of doing well and so yeah.”
THAT BEING SAID, IT IS NASCAR’S BIG KICKOFF; THE BIGGEST RACE. DOES THAT ADD MORE PRESSURE?
“Yeah, but I feel like it’s easier to get up to speed there than some other tracks; somewhere that it’s flat-out racing; you’re flat-out. In some ways that’s easier than learning how to go to somewhere like Phoenix or Loudon or somewhere like that when you’re having to stop the car and turn and you have to do a lot more things. It’s really down to keeping your nose clean and picking the right lanes and being smooth for the car in front of you or behind you and just getting a little lucky.”
ARE THERE TRACKS MORE DIFFICULT FOR YOU PERSONALLY?
“Short tracks have been challenging for me. I think I’ve gotten a little bit better this year, but short tracks are definitely something that my first year I was not so great at. So, short tracks and I think the 1.5-mile tracks are something I think I’ve caught onto a little quicker. I’d say that’s probably an area that I need the most help. But it’ll be interesting because the Nationwide car doesn’t have as much horsepower and in a Cup car you need to use the brakes and a lot of power to get you out of the corners. So I don’t know. It’s interesting. Sometimes drivers do better in Cup than in Nationwide just because of the characteristics of the car.”
WHAT ABOUT ROAD COURSES?
“Oddly enough, they’re not so bad. And it probably has to do with (the fact that) there are so many good drivers in Indy and especially road racers; and over in NASCAR, there are less of those races run so I almost feel like I am more of a veteran of road courses than they are although I’ve got obviously almost next to no experience other than one race on a road course now. But I don’t think that I will be quite as worried about them.”
WHAT ABOUT GOING TO CHICAGOLAND? HAVE YOU CIRCLED THAT RACE A LITTLE BIT?
“I think that all the 1.5-miles are places where I feel like I have a chance to run with the pack. But like Tony Junior has pointed out, because he has a lot of Cup experience obviously, that there are certain things that I need to work on to make sure that I’m up to speed for Cup level and those guys. So from now until the end, those are the things I’m going to work on and they’re only going to help me in Nationwide.”
ARE YOU ABLE TO FILTER OUT ALL THE ATTENTION YOU’RE GETTING WITH THIS CHANGE FROM INDYCAR TO NASCAR?
“Well, I feel badly for my PR person because she’s going to probably have to say no to a few people. But luckily that’s not my area. And it’s not my responsibility. Whatever I’m told to do, I do; and I try and do the best job possible, but it’s going to be about managing time and I’m sure theirs is going to be a lot of time spent on the Daytona area at the beginning of the year, but that’s okay. I always thought it was interesting that the first race of the year was the biggest race of the year; but then again, it drives so much attention and so much interest and gets everybody so excited for the year that everybody is paying attention and then you just hit the ground running. So that’s actually pretty cool. And it’s going to be about time management, about expectation levels and about making friends. I want to race with these guys good and I need to earn their respect and I’ll take any advice along the way that I can get.”
HOW READY ARE YOU TO FOCUS JUST ON NASCAR?: “It is nice and I’m excited at the thought of just being able to continue with the learning process every weekend instead of at the end of the second practice I feel like I’m kind of figuring things out. I feel like I’ll be able to do that hopefully by the third race instead for the rest of the season, which is really good to have these last few races at the end of this year because I feel like we’ve already started to kind of think of things to get ready for next year and implement them and see how they go. That’s always exciting for a driver to be prepared for the next season before this one is over with and it makes me feel like hopefully we’re going to have a good year. Tony has told me that the first 10 races are the important ones so here we go.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ENTERING A RACE LIKE DAYTONA WITH TWO-CAR DRAFTING?: “I even felt comfortable at the February race this year at the beginning of the race. I was top-10 most of the time and that was really before any but the first couple were bump drafting. I feel comfortable in that environment. It reminds me of Indy Car, it reminds me of mile-and-a-half racing because you’re flat out and it’s about taking care of the car, it’s about putting it in the right spot and it’s about following the run so I feel more comfortable in those environments. Whether it’s bump drafting or not, I feel like the bigger tracks are the high speed chess match that I’m familiar with.”
WILL YOU HAVE A SECONDARY RESIDENCE IN NORTH CAROLINA?: “I don’t know. I don’t think so. I have a pretty busy schedule outside of the race car anyway that I tended to have about one or two days off each week, which I know everybody gets Saturdays and Sundays off — other than us, we all work at the race track on the weekends. For somebody reading something at home, but when we’re on the road, you all know, you’re on the road. You don’t go home at night to your bed. You don’t go have dinner at home. You are in a hotel and it’s exhausting. I spend five, almost six days a week traveling and doing appearances and photo shoots and races anyway. We’ll have to see, but a couple years ago when I was in Indy Car I would stay at my parent’s house in Roscoe in between races and that was pretty functional. I’m sure we’ll figure something out, but if I’m needed in Charlotte — I’ll be there.”
ARE THERE ANY SIMILARITIES BETWEEN TONY STEWART AND MICHAEL ANDRETTI?: “I don’t know. I don’t think I know him well enough yet, but as a friend, Tony (Stewart) is a very kind of funny, outgoing, vocal guy and Michael (Andretti) can be a little quiet sometimes. We do have a good rapport. We’ve done a few appearances together and I can remember one that was about two years ago and I was doing something for Peak and he was doing something maybe for Armor All and we did a little Q&A session on stage together. There got to be moments where I couldn’t say what I was thinking. It was pretty funny. I almost said it and then I decided I couldn’t say that out loud. We have a good time, but I do think we have good rapport and I think that’s what’s going to make this really fun. Everybody in my organization that’s worked with them had nothing but praise for everything from my experience with Tony to the marketing side to the media side to everybody in the company has been outstanding and everybody at Danica Racing is looking forward to working with them.”
IS THIS THE WAY YOU NORMALLY INTERACT WITH TONY?: “Yeah, that’s pretty much it. That’s pretty much normal conversation. We have to make sure there’s no mics on when we’re ‘BS’ing.”
IS TEXAS A NO BRAINER TRACK FOR YOU?: “No, anytime there’s lifting involved it means that the car is at its limit so I think that it’s just about getting more and more comfortable with that limit is what I need to do. You know the faster and the more grip the track has, it tends to be the more comfortable I am. Any time you’re taking the car to the limit, which is when you have to lift is still my experience coming out to play or my lack of it.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT RACING AT BRISTOL OR DOVER?: “I enjoyed Bristol — I really did. I think and I’ve also sort of found this too that not only tracks that have grip, but also one way things translate to grip is banking and anytime there’s more banking then it holds the car in better. Bristol has a lot of it — a lot of it. I remember when I got there and I walked out on the back straight and I was like, ‘How can this not be the corner?’ I think tracks with more banking I do well at. I found that places like Loudon I struggle at the flat, short tracks. Those are the tracks that I struggle with the most. When we raced at St. Louis last year that was a bit of a struggle so the flatter the track and the less grip there is — is where I need to find the most in me and learn the most about the car and what I need. That’s the most challenging, that’s where you’re finding the car at its furthest limit. It’s funny because in Indy Car it was the opposite. I liked the flatter, shorter tracks like Milwaukee were the best. Then Loudon this year we went to was really fun, but it’s just a different handling car.”
IS TODAY AN EXCITING DAY?: “It started out with seeing my car with Dan’s (Wheldon) tribute on it and seeing the helmet in person for the first time and that and talking about that earlier today and being really excited to not only see my car because I hadn’t seen it yet, but to talk about it being the No. 10 car and how just cool I think that is. I know it sounds silly, but I’ve never been able to choose my number in racing other than go-karts. Actually even in go-karts when I got to the A level, they gave you different numbers so it was really the last time I got to pick this number I was probably about 15 or 14. Pretty cool.”
DOES IT FEEL GOOD TO GET THIS ANNOUNCEMENT DONE?: “It’s nice to get these things going. It’s good to tell you what’s happening before everyone finds out. As I said, when the news happens, I want it to be our news and I don’t want someone else to find out through the grapevine when something’s happened so it’s nice to give you something that you don’t know and haven’t heard yet and something that is real news. It’s nice for me to not get questions about these things. Although Tony and I kind of share this — we might act like we care a little bit, but we don’t mind when you harp on us and it gives us the chance to let you know that you’re asking the same questions or it gives us the opportunity to get a little quick and witty with you. Ultimately, the focus needs to be on running the car, getting ready for the next season and getting up to speed and hitting the ground running next year so I can come out of the box strong for the first 10. It’s not all finalized, but it’s not finalized and that’s the thing that it’s smart to leave the dates open to see where I need the most practice at and where I need the most preparation for hopeful 2013. There’s enough for you guys to still have questions about.”
IS THERE INTREPIDATION WHEN YOU RETURN TO VEGAS?: “Actually I was in Vegas on Tuesday — I was there for an appearance for my sponsor Peak and we did do quite a bit of shuffling, I was meant to be there another day and I was meant to do something else the week before, but I have great partners and they helped rearrange the schedules. They made sacrifices so that we could do the best job possible to honor Dan and to be tasteful with what we’ve done and think it though and do smart things. I’m sure they have and we’ll get back to racing and the best thing that can happen from a really awful tragedy is that positive things come from it and strides in the safety and awareness and knowledge for what happens in those situations grows and we’re all better for it.”
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