Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Danica Patrick returns to NASCAR, races at NHMS for the first time


Danica Patrick is not only returning to NASCAR after a four-month absence, but she’s coming to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the first time to race in the New England 200 on Saturday June 26. She’ll be driving the No. 7 GoDaddy.Com Chevrolet for Junior Motorsports.

She held a press conference on June 22 to talk about her return to NASCAR and her upcoming race at Loudon. Here are some of the questions she was asked and what she had to say in response.

Q. Just wanted to get your reaction to the news that the IRL is planning to come to New Hampshire next year. What thoughts do you have on that and do you think this is going to give you a little bit of a leg up, getting a look at the track before anybody else?

DANICA PATRICK: I didn't know that was news. I kind of heard little rumors about it. But that's great news. I love the fact we'll be putting another short oval back on to the schedule, because we're down to one this year that we just finished with. So I always think short oval racing in an Indy car is great. And so it will be even better that I'll get a chance to get a look at the track and get familiar with it all this year if it's on the schedule next year. That's awesome. It's a real positive.

She was asked how she feels about racing a track she hasn’t done before (New Hampshire), and the track being different from most other NASCAR tracks.

DANICA PATRICK: So I'm nervous because it's new and there's so much to learn about the way a race goes, how the race kind of plays out normally, and the yellow flags and the pit stops and how the car changes over a fuel run and how the tires change. And there's just so much that I'm unfamiliar with.

And so that makes me -- that makes me nervous because I care and I want to do well. And I'm not going to know it all the first time I go there, but I hope to do a good job. So I know that people are watching and I want to put on a good show for the fans. I want to give them a reason to cheer for me. So I just want to do well. So I'm just nervous for that, as it's all very unfamiliar.

Q. You've hit your best stretch of the IndyCar season here with three straight top 10s. Is a small part of you hoping maybe you were still in IndyCar this weekend, because you could keep that role going, or could you carry some of that confidence and momentum despite being in a totally different car this weekend at New Hampshire?

DANICA PATRICK: I think that it can keep going. It can stop. I don't know. I mean, it was a little bit of a tough weekend in Iowa in the Indy car. But I think we still made the most of what was a difficult weekend.

But I'm indifferent. It doesn't really matter. I think that the roles kind of come from everybody around you being upbeat and positive and on their game. And that includes, if it was in an IndyCar, that includes those IndyCar people. So perhaps it does not carry on over into another series with another group of guys. But, then, again, my confidence is there.

I'm eager to learn the Nationwide car. And I think that the best thing I can do for myself on the NASCAR weekends is really come up with some realistic expectation levels instead of having them be like IndyCar expectation levels where I'm hoping to win and I'm hoping to finish on the podium. (That is) probably a little bit more unrealistic in Nationwide at this point for how much I still have to learn. So that's probably the best way that I can come away with momentum coming from Loudon, would be to set a realistic expectation level, and hopefully that happens.

Q. What are those expectation levels this weekend?

DANICA PATRICK: I think it's probably better for me to say like, you know, I hope this weekend I finish in the top 20 or the top 15. And kind of build myself up. I didn't really set any expectation levels in the first few races that I did. And I think it would have paid off to do that, even in qualifying, set some expectation levels. Like I've had a tough time because qualifying is so different in those cars, you never experience the amount of grip or the kind of car that you get in qualifying until you're really in qualifying.

So that takes some learning. So to say, hey, look, qualifying in the top 20 and maybe finishing in the top 15, that would be great. And build myself up from there and then hopefully one day they'll be the same expectation levels that I have in IndyCar.

But I think it's best for my confidence and my morale to set those kind of expectation levels.

Q. If I could broaden the scope here to the New England sports teams in general. Celtics just went to Game 7 of the NBA Finals. They've won championships. The Bruins went to the playoffs. The Red Sox have won championships. The Patriots and so forth. What do you know about the Boston sports scene in general, and what does your presence in New England do to add to that?

DANICA PATRICK: I know that it's very intense for its sports in Boston. I went to Boston for the first time actually during at the end of the month just before the Indy 500, at the end of May. And I had never been to Boston before. So it's a beautiful city.

It's so much bigger than I imagined. I felt like I was in that bus going through downtown, I think we were in the bus for like an hour and a half. So it's a big city. Lots to see. Beautiful.

And I was kind of cheering for -- I was cheering for the Celtics. I was. I know that's not a popular answer with my friends in LA. But I met Ray Allen a couple of years ago at the SB Awards. He was just a nice guy. I was kind of cheering for them. But obviously the Lakers are pretty good too, and Kobe is a nice guy. But I was torn. I was cheering for the Celtics.

I think they obviously embrace their sports. And I've raced in Watkins Glen in an Indy car, but I really haven't been anywhere other than that in the northeast, the New England area, for racing. So I'm excited to see what the fan turnout is like, but I'm sure if it's anything like how they cheer for all the rest of their sports, it will be great.

Q. You have obviously had three pretty good top 10 finishes going into New Hampshire. But the No. 7 team seems to have picked up the pace a little by having a top 10 finish at Road America. Does it make you feel better knowing that the team's going to have that confidence this week in Loudon?

DANICA PATRICK: Well, I think it's great for the car to be earning those points and keeping us in a good position to always be qualifying. And it's cool that the team's done that and kept the car going.

I'm sure that the guys are upbeat about having a good weekend. I know they've had a tough year. I know there's been a bit of damage and a lot of drivers shuffling around in the car. So I know they're a little tired. But hopefully we can come away from Loudon with no dents and a good result and more points for the Go Daddy 7 car.

Tickets for Saturday’s New England 200 are $5-55 and are still available on nhms.com.

source: newhampshire