A longer version of my Q&A interview with IndyCar and NASCAR driver Danica Patrick than what appeared in the paper today:
IndyCar driver Danica Patrick makes two stops at Homestead-Miami Speedway this fall – in Saturday’s Cafes do Brasil Indy 300 and Nov. 20 for NASCAR Nationwide Series’ Ford 300. It’s just the third time this year a track has hosted Patrick, who made her NASCAR debut this year, in both series. A $70 “Double the Danica” ticket is good for both races.
At Boost Mobile in Pembroke Pines on Thursday to donate $2,500 to Adopt-A-Classroom and sign autographs, Patrick talked about her year in both series:
Q. You debuted at Homestead in 2005 – what do you think of the track?
A. I think it’s a really challenging track … it’s long straightaways with relatively tight corners, and it makes for a lot of passing. Last year there was a lot of lap traffic just because of the difference in speed between first and last. so there’s a Lot of action to be seen for the fans, for the second year now, it’s the season closer, so it’s like extra extra exciting for everybody to see who’s going to win. Another close down to the wire championship.
Q. This is the last Indy Race at Homestead – will you miss Homestead?
A. I’ve always enjoyed coming to Homestead, and I’ve always thought the racing’s good. And I think it’s a great place but if it was up to me, I would have kept this one and a heck of a lot of other ones on the schedule that aren’t on it. Shoot, I’d probably make a whole Indy 500 Series. I’d just base in Indianapolis and do like a series there. At the Indianpolis Motor Speedway, but that’s not my decision.
Q. Does racing both series at Homestead make racing easier?
A. I don’t think it makes it easier or harder. There’s just more of me in that market. I think it’s fun for IndyCar fans to be able to see me in NASCAR. And I think it’s fun also the NASCAR fans that may have not gone to an Indy race maybe they’re interested, maybe they plan to come on out to see the Indy cars there … It’s a completely different from perspective from a stock car than an Indy Car. They seem like two different tracks.
Q. How hard is it to race in both series at the same time?
A. It’s challenging, because it’s challenging. The IndyCar Series is really hard, there’s a lot of really good drivers. In NASCAR, I’m a fish out of water. I’m just trying to figure it out, just trying to finish a race, so that’s all different, too. Everything from how the qualifying works, to when to get into your car, to where to go out of. I’m used to starting and stopping from pit lane, not the garages.
Q. What are the major differences, besides speed - and the cars?
A. The heat. Like the other day when I did a race at Dover, I did two races that weekend. I think my air conditioning unit was pumping heat as opposed to air conditioning, and there wasn’t good insulation so it was getting extremely hot and I thought I was literally going to pass out when I got out of the car. I’ve done Bikram yoga and I can do heat, and it’s not an issue, and it’s never affected me, but that was something else. The people are different, the language is completely different. Everything is very opposite with the way it works in NASCAR with everything from what you do in the car to how you speak about the car out of the car … It’s a big learning curve.
Q. You’ve been introduced as a NASCAR driver not an IndyCar driver on TV (including at the ESPYs)
A. I know, a couple of times. That has nothing to do with me or anyone from Danica Racing. It’s unfortunate they do that, I think it sounds better to say I’m an IndyCar driver and a NASCAR driver, than just one or the other. I think it sounds way cooler, but I think it just shows the league has a long way to go, before where we are where we need to be, where we are so mainstream that it would matter to be mentioned. That’s sad. I think it’s big enough, I think it seems relevant enough, but then again there are great racecar drivers that have won championships, and they get introduced for the Indy 500 they won. So they’re both very difficult, but a championship is very hard, that shows you’ve been good all year. The Indy 500 is just one race, but it is the biggest one. It’s just what the general public is aware of, and what they pay attention to and what sticks.
Q. Has the exposure of being in both made a difference in terms of companies wanting you to endorse their products?
A. Yes it has. Being involved in NASCAR has made people more interested in me and there’s a greater reach there. As we spoke about earlier, about being an introduced as a NASCAR driver, I think that’s an example of what I’m talking about. It’s just something resonates with people and they’re familiar with and they understand. A couple of times I’ve heard people call racing NASCAR, like ‘oh you race NASCAR.’ I’m like ‘No I race IndyCar.’ They’re like ‘Yeh, that’s what I mean. Yeh.’ I’m like, it’s not all called NASCAR. It’s like the company called Kleenex was brilliant because it’s always called a Kleenex. I’ve had people think that racing is called NASCAR. It has a really large platform with a lot of people paying attention.
Q. You won in Japan in Indy, and you’ve struggled in NASCAR. If you don’t win again soon in Indy or if you don’t win in NASCAR are you concerned about the criticism?
A. No. I do everything I can do. I think I more care about going out there and winning and performing, well for myself than anybody else. I want to perform more than people could want me to. So no, It’s more for myself. I’m harder on myself than other people are. I’m very frustrated with the way that it has gone in NASCAR, there have been some good things, but it has been hard and it’s been really humbling. And I thought it was going to be a little bit easier than this. And people then correct me and say you’ve done a great job, you really have, I don’t know why you keep saying you aren’t.’ I’m harder on myself than anybody else could be probably.