Danica Patrick is making her NASCAR Nationwide Series debut this weekend at Daytona. After running 26th in opening practice yesterday, the IZOD IndyCar Series regular, improved to fifth today. Afterward, she met with the media.
Q: Talk about how it's been.
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, it's nice to go up the speed chart. I was just saying that, you know, they told me not to look at the speed chart yesterday when I was 26th, because it doesn't really matter. I'm not going to look at it today because I'm fifth, because it supposedly doesn't matter.
I know a lot of cars were running qualifying runs. There was a little less pack running. There was a good pack of us at the beginning.
We improved the car a little bit from yesterday to today. I was a little loose yesterday. I'm still a little loose today (laughter). But we've done some things to chase that down. You know, the big difference for me from last weekend to this weekend is I think just the ARCA car rolled through the corner and there was a lot of grip there, and the closing rates were not as dramatic as they are in the Nationwide car.
So, just dealing with how the car kind of goes over the bumps, it's a little bit more on the edge more with this car, the wheelbase being a little shorter. Then dealing with getting really big runs on cars all the time, I kind of hope that's not normal. I hope that's just because I'm really fast (smiling). It's also something we have to keep under control because running up on people with the rear-end being a little bit on the edge, if you have to jump out of the throttle, it's a little bit of drama out there. So, you know, we're just trying to contain that all.
The front end has been pretty good. I've been told it gets to a big push here. So far, so good. We've made steady, steady improvements. We're going to keep our heads down and think about what last little changes we should make for Saturday.
Q: It sounds like you did a lot of film study in preparation for this. Can you describe what you looked at, what you saw, and was it just video or did you do the computer simulations?
DANICA PATRICK: I did not do any computer simulations. Tony [Eury] Jr. has set me up with the whole iRacing kit. I haven't started that yet. I'm not normally a video game person, but I'll give it a whirl. Him and Dale Jr. were talking about it last night. They just get so excited. They said Tony Jr. will take me out, so those are things I'll be ready for.
I did some in-car camera and race footage from last year. I watched the first bit of the race this morning. I'm in the garage telling the guys, "Everyone went loose last year, everyone went loose last year. Please, I'm already loose." So, you know, just taking all that into consideration and also just looking at how the pack starts, how it spreads out, where the cars end up, maybe what lines end up being better than others.
You know, they've been telling me it's going to be two-by-two for the start. It sure was two-by-two for the start last year. As long as my car is good enough at the start to hang there and not drop back in any way, we'll be good, because the car doesn't have a big push in it right now. As long as the rear doesn't get too hot and start to oversteer too much, hopefully I'll be all right.
Q: You mentioned when you came in there's a lot more of us [media] in here now. You had to know there was going to be interest, but has this been overwhelming to you, a surprise, this amount of media?
DANICA PATRICK: I probably sound just like, you know, a sweet little lady just saying, I feel really lucky, but I do. I've been lucky enough to be in situations in IndyCar before with the Indy 500, winning my first race and everything, that the media was paying attention and asking me questions.
This is definitely by far the biggest room of media I've been in. But once you get to a certain point, you know, a little more is not as dramatic. I mean, if it was a room of a few of you, and then all of a sudden it was this, it would be a little bit more intimidating. I've been lucky to be in these situations.
I think that played into what made me ready to go NASCAR racing. I know this is a bigger stage. I feel like I've really built up a lot of, you know, patience and tolerance and confidence along the way in IndyCar to be ready for everything, including this.
Q: Do you know the first time you started mentally preparing for this moment that you're in right now, what was going through your head?
DANICA PATRICK: The race, you're talking about?
Q: The first time you thought this moment could happen and what you did to mentally prepare yourself for it.
DANICA PATRICK: I really think it's experience. You can't just think through experience or think through situations you've never been in. You just have to kind of build up. It's just like speed. It's about starting out in karting, building your way up.
Everything I've done has been some preparation for the position that I'm in now. So, you know, I'd have to say that I've been preparing for this since I was 10.