Danica Patrick talks Indy's centennial, future in NASCAR, more
MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- There is exactly one month to go until the 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500, which means Danica Patrick is counting down the moments until she gets yet another chance to try to become the first woman to win the historic race.
She's already made history there, becoming the first female ever to lead laps during the 500 and nearly won the race as a rookie in 2005. In 2009, she finished third -- the highest ever for a female driver. Patrick made NASCAR history this year when she finished fourth in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas -- her highest stock car finish, and the highest for a female in NASCAR since Sara Christensen's fifth-place finish at Pittsburgh in 1949.
But nothing, absolutely nothing, would top a win in the world's most prestigious race.
Indy practice doesn't start until May 14, with Pole Day on May 21, and Bump Day set for May 22. Race Day is May 29 -- exactly one month from today. Meanwhile, Patrick will hit the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil on Sunday for the final road course race in the series. Indianapolis is the first oval track race for the drivers in the IZOD IndyCar Series, something she's looking forward to because she's a better oval driver than road course racer.
SI.com caught up with her before she departed for South America and got her views on her hopes for this year's Indy 500, what she learned from getting booed there last year and more.
"What I learned early on there and partly because I had a good race car and had something that did everything I wanted it to do is you can't drive around the car there. If it's not good, it's not good. If it doesn't feel right you can't just pound it around and try harder. You won't be successful every single lap and every single corner. You have to get the car right and trust your instincts there. You don't have to get the car loose to show your team and engineer the car is loose. If you can't keep your foot down going into the corner than just come in and fix it. Those are the things that I have done there and part of what helps me do well there. It's a long race, too, and you have to stay focused for four hours."
"Other than that is where you see the big difference at qualifying on ovals. For the most part, it's easier, you put your foot down and go for that. If you were going to trade you would trade and have worse qualifying results on the ovals and better on the road courses because you have time on the ovals to make up position. On the road courses there is not much you can do. You have to rely on chance and risk and strategy and those things don't always play out for you. On the ovals, if you have a good car you'll go to the front. Qualifying is not so great on the road courses for me so the short answer if I'm happy to be going back to ovals? Yes."
"I think any time you are on a street course things will happen. Like at Long Beach, accidents happen, there are mistakes and there are less room for error on the street circuits unlike the permanent circuit road courses where you can be off track a little bit and keep driving and come back on and not hit a wall. There is less passing, less accidents and less yellows. Between that and the fact there is a mile-long straightaway where you can get a draft and pass people it makes it real exciting. I wish they designed all road courses to have an element like that in it."
"It's a pretty high standard to have. I think we have a good group of drivers now. Everybody gets along very well and this is an opportunity to get back to some of the fun teammate stuff and try to jell a little bit. It's something you are always trying to achieve and it doesn't happen all the time. Every team has its challenges and we are no different."
"We all get along really well. Tony Eury, Jr. is just kind of a cool guy. He is kind of funny. Pops, his dad, who does the 88 car is a little more serious and gets a little more moody, but he is also funny as well. It's a good group of people."
"The answer is no. I would love if the series got more attention the whole year. I'm not the solution maker to that. All I can do is drive my best, put on a good show, you can't do it every weekend, but hopefully you do throughout the year and help get new people interested. But that's something we as a series have tried to achieve for years is how to generate more attention for the whole year -- not just Indy."
"Eyeballs are important."