What’s next for Danica Patrick after the Indy 500? Dreams, downtime and waffles

Leave a comment

INDIANAPOLIS – When Danica Patrick was a 14-year-old growing up in Roscoe, Illinois, she had a firm idea of what she’d be doing 20 years later.

A reporter from her hometown newspaper recently reminded her of that in a recent interview when he brought a prescient artifact from those teenage years – an essay that she crafted as an up and coming go-kart driver about her racing accomplishments.

“I’m breezing through it, and then at the end, it said, ‘I wanted to race Indy cars,” Patrick, 36, said Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “I was 14. I told him, ‘See? If this isn’t an example of “Write that shit down,” nothing is.’

“This is manifesting. You have write it down and you have to imagine what you want. So I do that as much as I can.”

Heading into the final start of her career in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, Patrick already seems to have a solid idea of the next 20 years — in part, because of having some glimpses into her post-racing life.

There has been plenty of downtime since her final NASCAR start in the Daytona 500 three months ago. She has taken vacations (including an India trip to meet the Dalai Lama with boyfriend Aaron Rodgers) and created several new routines on her suddenly free from racing weekends.

“I make waffles on Sundays now,” she said. “That’s pretty fun.  In the summer, there’s like farmers market.  I can’t wait for that.  I mean, there’s going to be probably some new stuff that I don’t know yet.

“The one thing that I am definitely looking forward to less of is less stress.  Last weekend was awesome at the end of it all because it went well with qualifying, but I was nervous for 95% of that weekend. That’s uncomfortable.”

But testing her comfort zone is appealing to Patrick, who has spent most of her adult life testing the boundaries of gender norms in her profession. Though the pressure of race weekends might disappear, her incessant quest for challenges probably will remain.

Now that racing is over, Patrick still has a winery, a clothing line, a cookbook and a fitness manual to promote – and more is on the way.

“I just have a habit for pushing myself to uncomfortable spaces, making them comfortable for me,” she said. “At least just making them comfortable enough to be able to manage.

“As an example, I went bungee jumping a long while back, like 10 years.  I’m super scared of heights.  I’m still scared of heights.  But I just like to know that if I want to do something, I am brave enough and confident enough to do it.  That doesn’t mean I’m not still scared.  That doesn’t mean it’s not still something that’s easy to me afterward. I just like to know I can get past the fear if I have to.

“I’m OK with transitioning into other things, finding a little bit of happiness and joy each day, less colorization of emotions. I’m ready for that.”

So what specifically is on tap? Talk shows? Another book?

Patrick demurs when pressed.

“I think I have definitely big dreams and aspirations for myself, for all my companies, for the kind of emotion I want to have on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “I’m looking forward to a good, easy, happy, calm, joyful, exciting, adventurous life.  If I say I want it, there’s a very good chance that’s what I’ll get.”

In the short-term, there’s hosting an ESPN awards show that will keep her busy through July.

And after that, her schedule will free up just as Green Bay Packers training camp begins for Rodgers, the two-time MVP quarterback.

“I’m thinking I’m going to have plenty of time to write a cookbook in Green Bay,” she said.

Reviewing Danica Patrick’s highs and lows at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the legacy left by her success

2 Comments

So much of Danica Patrick’s fame can be traced to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It’s where she became a household name 13 years ago when she became the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500 and emerged as a transcendent athlete.

It’s where everything started. This Sunday, it’s where everything will end, too.

In her last warmup before starting the final race of her career, Patrick had a bumpy final practice Friday on Carb Day. She was eighth fastest, but her Dallara-Chevrolet was in the garage most of the session because of an electrical problem in the engine. After returning during the final 10 minutes of the session, Patrick’s No. 13 seemed to be OK.

“At the end of the day, these are things you’re actually glad for, because if this had happened Sunday, we would have been done,” she said. “I’m glad to get the issues out of the way early on. Overall, today felt good. We made some changes when I went out the second time, and I’m feeling good about starting seventh on Sunday.”
Though she has had her share of success – along with a fourth in her debut, there was a third in 2009 and six top 10s in seven starts — Patrick has learned well how to handle frustration at the 2.5-mile track, too.

Fuel mileage might have kept her from winning her debut, a pit collision ruined 2008, and an unstable setup made 2010 a wild ride.

For a review of her up-and-down history at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and her legacy in racing, watch the video essay above that ran during Friday’s NASCAR America Motorsports Special on NBCSN.

 

NASCAR’s Avengers are here to save the day

Getty Images
Leave a comment

In case you haven’t heard, a little movie called Avengers: Infinity War was released last week and it has made all the money.

The Avengers, also known as “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” are a ragtag cast of characters and personalities that on paper shouldn’t work, but in reality make for drama that has captured audience’s attention for 10 years in cinemas and decades in comic books.

This raises an obvious question.

Which NASCAR Cup drivers – current and retired – would make up the Avengers?

Here’s an exhaustive (one afternoon of contemplation) evaluation of NASCAR’s best.

Send your Avengers/NASCAR recommendations to Daniel McFadin.

Nick Fury – Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, is the most visible face of NASCAR’s leadership. Now imagine that face with an eyepatch.

Iron ManAustin Dillon has that Tony Stark style and he parties like the billionaire playboy philanthropist would if he owned a barn.

Rocket Raccoon – No, Tony Stewart isn’t a talking animal. But the talking raccoon is a weapons expert who likes to make things go boom. If you’re ever in a tight spot that requires the use of a flame thrower, Stewart is your man.

Star Lord AKA Peter QuillClint Bowyer has a couple of things in common with this character. Both are from the Midwest. Bowyer hails from Kansas and Star Lord from Missouri. Also, Bowyer is the driver most likely to call someone a “turd blossom.”

Captain America/Falcon – These modern-day best friends and allies bring to mind the Ryan Blaney/Darrell Wallace Jr. duo and NASCAR’s best bromance.

Spider-Man – The youngest member of the Avengers is a tech savvy teenager just getting his feet wet in the superhero world while also attending high school. William Byron fits the mold of the webslinger as he navigates his rookie year in Cup while taking college courses.

The Incredible Hulk – Don’t make Matt Kenseth angry. He might not be physically imposing, but poke the bear enough and you’ll have to face his inner Hulk in-between haulers after a race or find yourself punted into the wall at a short track.

ThorJeffrey Earnhardt has the beard, he just needs the hammer.

Doctor Strange – The Sorcerer Supreme has the ability to manipulate time and space. When it comes to restrictor-plate racing these days, few are better than Brad Keselowski at manipulating the draft to work their magic.

Drax the Destroyer – Just like this Guardian of the Galaxy, it takes a lot to make Paul Menard smile.

Black Widow – For a long time the former Russian spy was the only woman in the Avenger boys club and Danica Patrick was in a similar position in Cup until moving on after this season’s Daytona 500.

 and on Facebook

Danica Patrick: NASCAR cars ‘way easier than an IndyCar to drive’

AP Images
16 Comments

Following Wednesday’s practice session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Danica Patrick made her opinion very clear when asked to compare driving a NASCAR stock car vs. an IndyCar.

“All the IndyCar fans out there might find this warm and fuzzy, but everyone would always ask me if I had a hard time driving those big old stock cars and if they were really physical, and I’m like (she snickers), ‘No, they are way easier than an IndyCar to drive.’”

Patrick also said driving an IndyCar is more of a finite exercise, where attention must be paid to everything more closely than in a stock car, all the way down to the safety belts.

“Maybe this isn’t a popular thing to say but you didn’t have to run the belts all that tight in a stock car,” she said. “You didn’t have to worry about your helmet or the padding that much (in NASCAR). It was all just like fine.

“But in an IndyCar, it’s all critical.”

Patrick’s comments echo those of NASCAR driver Kurt Busch following his first practice sessions while preparing for the 2014 Indianapolis 500.

“With a Cup car, we have to lift – not necessarily get on the brakes, but at least know they’re there – and settle the car down before you turn in,” Busch said. “This, you’re driving down the middle of the straightaway, then you swerve wide to gain that nice arc into the corner – and there’s no deceleration rate.”

It’s clear Patrick still holds a strong affinity to IndyCar racing. It’s where she first made a name for herself. It’s also where she won a race, while her best career finish in a NASCAR Cup race was sixth.

And it will be in an IndyCar that Patrick will compete in the last race of any type in her career, the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 27.

“I remember watching the Indy 500 the first year I wasn’t in it and I missed it,” Patrick said. “I miss that relevancy of being in the game and being someone like before the race, where they’re like, ‘Who do you think is going to win today?’ My name did not pop in NASCAR, you know?

“I missed being relevant. So I’m going to try and achieve that here this month. It’s going to be hard because everybody is really good.”

As she prepares for the opening of practice for the 500 on May 15, Patrick isn’t just thinking about winning the race, she’s also soaking in all the atmosphere and legacy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“It always feels like home here at Indy,” she said. “The track feels so familiar, everything like from the walk to pit lane. I’m just waiting for the alley cats to show up, basically.”

Check out the following tweet to hear more of what Patrick had to say.

After two days of practice, Patrick is consistently up to 220 mph in laps around the 2.5-mile IMS oval. It doesn’t look like she’s lost much from her previous IndyCar tenure.

When her comments about NASCAR and IndyCar first hit social media, battle lines between fans of each genre of motorsport were quickly drawn.

One tweet in particular, however, helped make more precise what Patrick said, leading the Illinois native to respond in kind by saying simply, “thank you.”

Kevin Harvick on why Danica Patrick didn’t go from superstar to ‘megastar’

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
7 Comments

FORT WORTH, Texas – Winning is still everything to Kevin Harvick.

Not just on the track for the Stewart-Haas Racing driver but also in terms of building a star athlete into a transcendent brand whose boundless popularity can carry a sport.

After qualifying second Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway, Harvick was asked who could be the next driver to “move the needle” like a Tiger Woods in golf.

He said there was one active driver who could, and one former driver who had the chance but didn’t.

“The guy that has the most potential is Chase Elliott with the traditional NASCAR fans,” Harvick said. “There’s a difference between a superstar and an megastar. In the past, a superstar wasn’t a megastar because of the fact that he didn’t win enough. Chase Elliott is the next guy that can be a megastar, but you have to win.

“When you have a guy like Tiger Woods, he’s won and won and won and won and won and won. Danica (Patrick) had a personality. She didn’t perform well. She could have been a megastar as well. Danica didn’t perform well. In the end, performance trumped superstar to megastar. And if you want to be a megastar you have to perform and win. That’s the effect that a guy like Tiger Woods has.”

Patrick was Harvick’s SHR teammate for the past four seasons before retiring after this year’s Daytona 500.

It isn’t the first time Harvick has spoken out about the need for popularity to be linked to winning. Last year, he said Dale Earnhardt Jr. had “stunted” NASCAR’s growth because he lacked a championship (Earnhardt recently said the comment still stung).

Harvick clarified some of his position Friday, explaining that neither he nor seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson could become megastars because they lacked the necessary pedigree.

“It’s something that when you look at a guy like Jimmie Johnson — and Jimmie and I have had this conversation — we don’t have that capability from that traditional, roots family standpoint that you can be that guy,” he said. “There’s only a few people that come through the sport that can be that guy. Jeff Gordon came through, but he won a lot in the beginning. He was that young guy that kept winning and won championships and had that immediate impact as far as catching everyone’s attention.

“After you get in here for a few years and don’t catch everyone’s attention you just kind of wind up being one of the guys unless you end up winning a lot.”

Harvick said it would help if there were a few more natural rivalries among the younger set.

“I think when you look at the dynamic between Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, that’s the dynamic that we have the potential to have right now with the group of young racers that have come in,” he said. “But somebody has to step up and be that winner. Who’s the young winner? Who’s going to be the guy that’s going to go against (Martin) Truex (Jr.) and challenge him for the championship that he’s defending and win races?

“I’m happy with where I’m at. We’re winning races and gaining momentum and doing all the things we need to do. If we keep winning you’ll keep gaining that same momentum with the fans and hopefully we can keep doing that. … I love to talk about it because it’s very interesting.”

He also can be very honest in his self-analysis.

“The fact of the matter is that I’m never going to be Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Chase Elliott,” Harvick said. “You’re not going to have that connection the hardcore roots with the fans. Tony (Stewart) was popular but he was never going to be an Earnhardt. As you look at it right now, Chase has that potential. I’m fortunate to have a solid fan base. It seems like we keep gaining momentum from a fan side of things and hopefully that continues.”