With the news of her departure coming just one day before practice begins for the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma on Infineon Raceway's 2.303-mile, 12-turn road circuit, Danica Patrick faced the IZOD IndyCar Series media to discuss her past, present and future.
Patrick, who has a best start at this track of seventh in 2007 and finished fifth in 2008 for her finest result here, feels the Infineon road course requires a certain rhythm to it.
"I have to get comfortable with the car" in order to perform well on the track; off the track, "I look forward to drinking wine, champagne… " she said with a big smile.
While many of us thought Patrick had her head firmly in the Indy cars all these years--she started in 2005--by 2006, she was already receiving inquiries from NASCAR. "It's just a relief the news is finally out there and I can talk about it," she said. "I'm not trapped behind the secrets anymore and I'm excited about racing these cars; otherwise I wouldn't be doing it."
There's still not any clarity about her plans to race in the Indianapolis 500 should the opportunity arise because the pathway is not clearly defined. Danica Patrick has always stated her goal to win that seminal race. "Right now it's just not clear about what's possible" in the future.
What is clear is that Danica Patrick isn't leaving the Indy cars for money. "If I wanted to leave for money, I would have been gone in 2006. I'm doing this because I want the challenge and I really like driving those cars. In the Indy cars, if you touch it could be a major disaster; it's pretty tough to push people around in the Indy cars. I like it in the stock cars because if somebody messed with you, you can get them back. Of course you have to be careful not to ruin your front end… "
It's apparent she feels reinvigorated with the announcement having been made and her decision being in the books. "I almost feel like I'm racing karts again with my friends. I have to do what makes me happiest doing and what's the most fun for me to do. This is it. There are some areas I need to improve on for Nationwide but in essence, the races where I do well in IndyCar are where the most races are in NASCAR," so this is the right thing.
What Patrick feels will be the most challenging for her in the coming months as she makes the transition to stock cars are heat inside the cockpit--she had little relief in Montreal last weekend--and the length of the races. She does like the fact that race lengths allow her crew to make changes and adapt the car as each race progresses. "The pit stop adjustments throughout the races are really cool; we can take bigger swings at it in a stock car--and the power steering is kind of nice, too!"
But for now, and for these five remaining races in the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series, the focus is on doing well and leaving the Indy cars on a positive note. Danica Patrick seems to have her head in the right place to do that.
© 2011 Anne Proffit