This weekend, Danica Patrick will be making her 116th and final IndyCar Series startbefore her full-time switch to NASCAR next year. She offered her thoughts on that and other issues with the media at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Q: Danica, you placed fourth here earlier in a stock car. Talk about the opportunity to get that finish at Las Vegas, kind of what you're expecting this weekend?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, I think it's a great track. I think that we'll put on a really close race here this weekend. Even in a stock car there is a lot of grip here, so I'm sure that it means that we're going to be three or four wide, four or five rows deep for a lot of the race here. I think it's going to be exciting and I think it's going to be a great way to finish the season off. Having that little bit of experience here in a stock car, I think will help. It definitely can't hurt.
Q: How do you prepare for a track like this where there have been limited testing opportunities in an IndyCar?
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, I thought today was an Open Test day even, so for me to see the schedule and see we only have one hour today, I was a little surprised about that. Surely we could have just tacked one hour on to tomorrow? But, anyway, we're here. Viva Las Vegas, baby.
I think it's going to be a lot of grip, and I think it's going to make it easier. We're going to have an easier time setting the car up, so I don't think it will play a huge role.
Q: You finished fourth here in NASCAR Nationwide – is there much you could transfer from stock car to IndyCar?
DANICA PATRICK: Everything is a little bit different, and the line is always quite different. But like I was just saying, the fact that I know that there's a lot of grip here, I think, is probably the most valuable part of that. I definitely had my say so on what I thought the car should be set up like coming into the weekend. But that's about it.
Q: I know you still have one race to go, and you've probably been asked this a million times, but can you kind of sum up your IndyCar career to this point. How things have gone, and have you been happy with what you've accomplished?
DANICA PATRICK: I'll always remember my first Indy 500, for sure, winning in Japan, and those will be the things that I remember most. But I'll remember that it has gone fast, but at the same time it seems like light years from 2005 when I started and how far I've come as a person and how many things I've been able to do, and all the things that I've learned along the way. So a lot has happened in that seven years. It's where I got my start, and it's what made me who I am today. I've had a lot of fun.
Q: Lot of hoopla around Dan Wheldon. He didn't show as well maybe at Kentucky as we expected. Would you bet on him?
DANICA PATRICK: I do believe so. I think it would be a fun bet, and I think that's perfect because it keeps it exciting, and he's the kind of driver that put in the right position, will close the deal. Obviously, the team has shown that they can be very fast. So I think it's going to be interesting for sure. It would sure be a great story. But the field is 34 cars, so it's not like there are 24 of us out there. But, then again, perhaps having 34 cars and creating lap traffic opportunities could also help.
Yeah, I think it's a great story. I said from the very beginning that he's got a real chance of winning. I was surprised that he got to run last weekend, to be honest. I thought being such a big jackpot at the end, if he's able to accomplish the feat, but I didn't think they'd let him get practice, but they did. Not only just regular practice, but from the very back even, so he should be even more ready for the weekend.
Q: Looking back over your IndyCar career, what would your biggest regret be – if you had one?
DANICA PATRICK: Nothing. I very much don't believe in regret, because I think that every little thing that I've done so far has put me to where I am today and made me who I am today. To change one little thing that may have not seemed so fun or so great was all part of the process. A lot of times you learn more from the mistakes than you do from doing things right. So it's all part of the process and the journey. In the end, the journey is the fun thing; once you've accomplished what you want, you just set another goal. I wouldn't change anything.
Q: As you prepare to close one chapter in your career, can you talk about ending it on a 1.5-mile oval?
DANICA PATRICK: That is nice. That is nice to end on an oval. I think I still believe that our most exciting races are put on at a mile and a half. We always have our closest finishes and our most side‑by‑side racing and our most spectacular crashes. So to end it like this is great, and to end it in a cool place like Vegas as well, and also having that little bit of experience and history of being the highest-finishing female in NASCAR here earlier this year, it's a nice little come-around story.
I'm looking forward to the weekend. I'm excited. I think my emotion is just like “I'm excited for this last race.”
Q: Is there an update with regard to your NASCAR schedule yet?
DANICA PATRICK: I just don't have anything until that Nationwide schedule comes out. I wish they would release it. I know they're up against a lot of challenges – I knew they weren't sure they'd be going back to Montreal. So I know they have a lot to deal with. Last I heard there might not be 34 races still, so I'm sure they're trying to accomplish that.
But I'd like to get the schedule set, and it would be nice to know what we're doing for next year. I'm sure that Tony Stewart would like to know what I'm doing next year too for planning for next year. But until the Nationwide schedule comes out, unfortunately, I just can't put the whole thing together, so, sorry.
Q: Would you like a Cup race here at Vegas?
DANICA PATRICK: Sure, yeah. I mean, I'd like to run somewhere where I have a chance to do well. I think that even the first time I came here last year in the Nationwide car, it went so much better than the previous races before that in my first few. I think it would be nice to run here, but then again we're looking at the schedule and looking at some places where I need the most laps too, and places where you might not be so good or are usually the places where you need the most laps. Again, it will be all about the schedule and figuring out those races, because, obviously, it's just, I don't even know. Is there going to be another person driving the car and sponsors and which events do they want and which markets. There are so many things to evaluate and decide on that, in theory, would be nice.