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A Conversation With ... Danica Patrick

MODERATOR: We're going to go ahead get started. We're joined by Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 7 GoDaddy car for Andretti Autosport. This weekend Danica will be attempting to qualify for her sixth Indianapolis 500. She finished third at last year's race and has four top-10 finishes at this event.

Danica, obviously, this week the rain's been a factor. What have you been doing to kill time?

PATRICK: Signing stuff, signing stacks of hero cards and photos. You know, there's just not much you can do, really. I mean, you know, there's not been that much track activity, so there's not even that much to talk about when it comes to the car, either. So what did I do yesterday? Worked out. You can work out a little bit longer when there's nothing to do. I don't know, organize the bus, throw old stuff away, all those DIY stuff that you can do like what you would do at your own house.

But it's disappointing because, you know, this is kind of what I was hoping wouldn't happen with the month, is that rain wouldn't be a factor because it's much more impactful since there's lost track time. But I'm sure everybody will get up to speed and it will fast-forward the programs, and maybe some top speeds will be sacrificed and maybe some comfortable cars will be sacrificed to just extra downforce. But I'm sure we'll make it work.

Q: A lot of people talk about on a normal IndyCar race, you practice for an hour and a half, then you go out and qualify and then you run the race, but this isn't a normal IndyCar race. Do you think more thought probably should have gone -- this format only works in a perfect weather situation.

PATRICK: Yeah. Yeah, I don't know. I mean, I'm sure that there was some logical reasons to shorten up the month, like money. And, you know, I don't know, maybe -- I don't feel the tradeoff because I don't own a team, but maybe it is worth the tradeoff to the team owners. There are a lot of entries, so maybe that's why we have so many car entries as well, because it's -- I mean, well, think about it. In years past you'd see 90 percent, 95 percent of the field out there the first week, and then you’d see cars that planned on starting on the second week, probably for the money reason obviously. So maybe that’s why we have so many entries to start with.

But, yeah, I just hope that it doesn’t take away from the racing, because the longer we have to make the cars better for all situations, the closer we can run to each other out there on the track and inevitably the better the racing is. So hopefully it doesn’t take away from that.

Q: Danica, Saturday trying to make that first nine, do you sort of sandbag early to not show your strength or do you go all out? Is it a different philosophy?

PATRICK: I don't think anyone really knows exactly how it's going to shake out except we know when the track is the quickest due to humidity and ambient temperature and stuff. So as cool as it can be and as good for horsepower, which is important around here. So beginning and the end of the day are usually the best. So I imagine there will be no sandbagging whatsoever; it's the Indy 500. You never know what you're going to be up against on the next round.

So I actually view the first run to be probably one of the most important to getting into the top nine, just because it will be cooler out. If you have to make up time, I mean, you can lose a mile an hour at least just in conditions. So you can't -- shoot, you work your butt off to find a couple of tenths a mile an hour with setup and things like that. So I think that first run is going to be really important.

Q: Danica, I'm wondering what comes to mind when somebody asks you about Tony Kanaan, specifically how he's helped you or maybe a story you can share about your time with him.

PATRICK: My time with him, you make it sound like it's over or something like that or like he's gone, your memories.

You know, I think of Tony and I think of someone who's a great driver and someone who has been very helpful. I mean, he's one of those guys that if I have a question, he'll give an answer. I think he's a great guy and great for the team. And he's funny, he's a good storyteller, he's always good for stories. Every time I hear the same ones, they get bigger and bigger every time, but I'm sure somebody's had that situation before. But that's the charm of Tony. He's a great storyteller, and he's very animated, which keeps it fun.

Q: Danica, ever since we saw the old video of you as a little kid talking about the Indy 500 but you've had a lot of different things going on in your life since then, a lot of different endeavors, but is the Indy 500 still that one thing, that ultimate goal? If so, how do you approach knowing it just comes around once a year despite everything you have going on?

PATRICK: I said on the way out of the track yesterday -- I had somewhere to go -- if only there was an Indianapolis series, we could race like tons of time here, but I guess then it would dilute it all. So that's the excitement is that you're only here the one time, and it is the biggest race of the year. It’s the biggest race in the world to me. And it still is. As I said when I was 13 or 14, however old I was when that video came, when I said that the only thing, only trophy missing from this room is the Indianapolis 500 trophy, that’s still true.

Q: Danica, we can remember times that you sat out there on qualifying day that you wanted to go back out again. I’ve talked to a couple of people this week that said they wished that that decision was still in their hands. Do you like it better this way having it not in your hands, having to go back out there again or –

PATRICK: You mean the top nine?

Q: Yeah.

PATRICK: I didn't see what was wrong with it before, so I don't know. I'm not going to criticize it until I've done it, but there was nothing wrong with it before. It was exciting. I mean, last year was the first year I ever re-qualified, and I had runs two times and I was in line and I think I would have been the last car to run, and where was I? Eighth or seventh, I can't even remember where I qualified. But I just remembered that I thought I had a shot at getting up into the top few positions and, you know, maybe a pole but, shoot, being in the front row is fantastic. So I just remember getting pulled out of line because it was, you know – I don't know why. You have to ask somebody else why I got pulled out of line. (Laughter)

I was ready to go. So that was exciting. Disappointing for me, but exciting for the fans. Part of the game is that there are cars that shouldn't be in line that are in line. So you have to take into account those cars. You know, it's going to just be like normal qualifying shootout kind of stuff with the top nine. I don't know, I mean, you can go from 10th to the top five positions pretty easily at the end of the day if you fix your car up or if you didn't have a good run the first run. So, you know, I don't know. I don't know; I didn't see what was wrong with it before.

Q: Danica, Castroneves is going for his fourth Indy 500, and obviously as a competitor you don't want to see him get that. But the drivers in the garage, can you kind of empathize on how special it would be to be part of that, something that hasn't happened in this generation of drivers?

PATRICK: You want me to comment on how exciting it would be to be around Helio for his fourth win? (Laughter)

Q: Just, I guess, the special importance of something that hasn't been done with this generation of drivers.

PATRICK: Rick Mears is around, and he did it four times. I don't know. If it's not you, it doesn't really matter. So, you know, everybody wants their own win. I was saying last night as I was driving by the billboard that s

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