Q: Talk just a moment about what you need to apply to be ready for qualification Saturday, given the short practice.
DP: You have to stay confident here. I think that's a really important thing. I think you have to feel comfortable with your car. You have to go into Turn 1, every lap, with confidence. You have to be sure of yourself and your equipment.
Like I was telling someone the other day, I don't make a decision if I'm pitting until I get out of (Turn) 2, because you have to commit to (Turns) 1 and 2.
I just think we have to work smart. Sometimes that means not going back on changes, maybe just leaving the car where it's at. I think drivers, engineers are inclined to make changes, make it go faster. Sometimes you can tune yourself out. I think it's about being honest with every change we do, make sure it's the right direction so we make sure we don't start down a bad path.
I have a feeling we're not going to have as much time to sort of do everything as slowly and methodically as we wanted to in the very beginning, because there's only two days left. Hopefully our changes are efficient and they're good and they do what you expect them to do. Hopefully every degree is the 0.6mph you think it's going to be, and you keep moving forward. Time will tell. This is a unique place. You can go out there from one run to the next, come back to the garage, go back out with the same car, it feels totally different. You have to keep your head on straight and stay confident.
Q: You talked about the feelings your first time here at the Speedway. Do you find yourself trying to replicate that? And can you?
DP: Kind of (laughter). I suppose that's superstitious, isn't it? Gosh, I think I really did in the very beginning. But I felt like after a couple of years that evolves, everything changes. You have to adapt, move on, take what comes at you.
I guess the one thing when it comes to Indy, I try not to have superstitions, I try not to have things that I need to do well to have good luck because they tend to mess with your head a little bit. But I pull them all out. I'm going for all of them (laughter). This is not the place to not feel lucky or confident. Like I said, this is a special place.
Q: How would you assess your season up to this point?
DP: It's better than last year. I think last year, I mean, everything from sort of the first lap I turned in an IndyCar to practice to the races, it was not great. This year I've made a lot of passes in the race, I've been fast in the race, I've even been relatively fast in practice. I'm just not great at qualifying. I get out there, think I'm doing a much better job. I should be much faster, and I'm not.
I don't know what it is, but I have to figure it out. It's obviously quite the roadblock on the road courses. I mean, passing five cars on a road course is a damn good day. That's not going to move you very far when you start 20th. I have to figure that out.
Other than that, I think it's been a good year. Also the NASCAR stuff I've done has been good, too. Having a fourth at Vegas was great, leading at Daytona in the Nationwide race. So far it's been a good year.
Q: Do you feel you're at a crossroads in your career with open-wheel and NASCAR on the horizon? How do you feel you've evolved as a driver and a personality as the most marketable person in this sport?
DP: Am I at a crossroads? Yeah, I suppose so. And how have I changed? You know, hopefully I've gotten more savvy and wise with my personality, my tactics, my antics, as I've had some over the years (laughter). I guess I came to find out as I grew older that being really honest, emotional all the time – while it is me and I don't regret anything – it makes for work. Because people talk about it, people have opinions about it. As much as you don't care, they still affect you and you have to deal with the situation.
Eliminating that kind of stuff as much as possible has been easier for everyone. It is easier. It's less energy put toward things that aren't about going faster. Kind of learned about that over the years.
And what I want as a driver in a racecar. You know, something that I feel like I always have to keep sticking to and reminding myself of is just being really honest with what I feel in the car, make the crew make the change, it doesn't feel like it made a change, then you just say it. Even though they did, you have to be very honest. That's the best way of keeping the car where you want it, is being honest with how it really feels, trying not to make anything up or anything like that.
Just getting older, hopefully wiser, I don't know. Hopefully I haven't changed, too much. Hopefully my friends, people close to me would say I'm the same Danica when they knew me from high school or as a kid. I hope that's what they say, but I'm not the one to say that.
Q: This is the 100th anniversary of Indianapolis. What's it like to be part of something that has been around for such a long time?
DP: I thought it was pretty cool that I was on the front of Sports Illustrated, like historic part of cars. That was pretty cool. Again, it reminded me of 2005, which I can't forget. It just makes you want to win that bad, that much more.
I think that's part of what makes me more nervous every year I come here, is just wanting to really be a part of that, really wanting your face on the trophy, being a part of the footage that they run on the track feed when it's raining, being part of that historic footage. Just achieving something that you worked so hard for. We do, we all work so hard for that.
I would go so far as to say I don't think there's any other event where any team works as hard as the Indy 500 because of what it really means, what it can do for a driver, a team, anybody involved in a good day or a victory.
Q: If you don't run this race again in the future, would there be a void in your life, in your profession if you didn't have another chance to do this?
DP: I think whatever happens, I'll take into consideration that this is a huge event, like I said. I think I've had great memories here, no matter what. I don't know. I think that's a question I don't really have an answer to. I'm not there yet, so I don't know yet. I haven't thought about those kinds of things.
But all I know is I know I'm going to do my best to try to win this year and see what happens.