Danica Patrick: ‘If I’m in a position to win, I feel perfectly ready’

13 Comments

INDIANAPOLIS – She readily admits the odds may be long, but Danica Patrick is not giving up on earning a win this season — and potentially making the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

“I think a win is going to be pretty tough, but I think a win is realistic,” Patrick said during a press conference Saturday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “I feel like I’m able to (win), I just don’t know if we’re there yet. But if it presents itself and I’m in a position to win, I feel perfectly ready.

“I’m just not sure as a group in whole, probably including myself – that’s not a scenario that we’re able to put ourselves in every single weekend –and even for the people that are, it’s still hard to win.”

To make the Chase, Patrick has to win one of the next seven races. She concedes she’s too far back in the points (27th) to enter the Chase solely on points and without a win.

“Outside of (a win) in a points situation, I don’t think there’s much hope there,” Patrick said. “It requires you to do that every weekend, finish right up front every single weekend to get those points.

“I think that if we’re able to be up there as far as running, then the win is probably much more likely, but that’s not where we’re at.”

Just past the mid-point of her second season as a full-time Cup driver, Patrick sees progress in her development. But there still remain struggles that are frustrating to her as well as her team and overall Stewart Haas Racing organization.

“I really think that just the experience in the car is helping me feel what’s happening more so,” Patrick said. “It leaves less options for the crew chief as changes when you can be more specific about what the car is doing, and then your progress on the weekend tends to be better.

“I also think that just getting up to speed quicker from the get-go also helps in not doing a big circle with the setup. Usually if you’re not driving hard enough at the beginning of practice when you first hit the track, you are loose. And then as soon as you get more confident and you’re driving in harder, all of a sudden you’re tight again, and what do you know, you’re right back where you started but you’re a session behind now.

“I have a lot to learn and a lot of progress to still make on being able to feel the little things about the car that I need to to help even more, but I think those two things are really helpful overall on our weekends and help us to be more methodical and fine-tune the car.”

While Patrick and her fans would obviously like to see more progress, she’s content for now. But if she somehow steals a win in the next seven races and makes the Chase, it’ll be a whole different ballgame from here on out for Patrick.

“We are getting stronger as a team,” Patrick said. “There’s no doubt about that, and we’re getting better and better, and the team is doing a great job of producing better cars all the time and keeping up and moving forward. All that stuff is going in the right direction, but I’m still only at a year and a half’s experience in Cup.”

Even so, Patrick hopes for a good day Sunday. Anything over and above will be a bonus.

“I think it’ll be okay overall, but you’re hoping for great because it’s a tough place to pass and it’s Indy, and you want to do really well,” she said.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Fernando Alonso likes NASCAR country, but he’s not leaving F1 any time soon

Getty Images
Leave a comment

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Jimmie Johnson strolled into the Charlotte Convention Center and did a double-take when he saw Fernando Alonso hanging out in a hallway.

“What’s he doing here?” NASCAR’s seven-time champion wondered.

Alonso made the trip to North Carolina to make an appearance at NASCAR’s annual preseason media tour. No, a ride in NASCAR is not imminent, but the two-time Formula One champion is about to embark on his first major sports car race .

Alonso will race this weekend in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for United Autosports, the sports car team owned by his McLaren F1 boss, Zak Brown. It was Brown who paved the way for Alonso to compete in last year’s Indianapolis 500, and he is helping the Spaniard knock prestigious races off his wish list.

Alonso spent about 10 minutes chatting with Johnson, and the duo was eventually joined by sports car aces Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, who were brought to the NASCAR event by IMSA to help promote the Rolex, and then Cup champion Kevin Harvick.

The meet-and-greet with Alonso was a thrill for Johnson. Alonso was equally impressed.

“The first time I heard his name it was probably 2003 on the NASCAR video game,” Alonso said Tuesday. “I used to choose him, not knowing him, just because of the car. I remember playing with another friend of mine, he likes a chocolate company I will not name now, and he was choosing that car and I was choosing Jimmie’s car.

“But that was the first time I heard of him, and obviously the success that he has in the years in motor racing, he became a legend of our sport, and massive respect.”

Johnson said he’s always been a fan of Alonso’s and spent some time telling Alonso how well he ran in the Indianapolis 500 last May. Alonso led 27 laps and seemed to be in contention for the win until his engine expired 21 laps from the finish.

“He handled himself so well, really did a great job, and I think brought a lot to the table,” Johnson said. “He brought worldwide attention to motorsports and it was really good for us here stateside.”

While in NASCAR country, Alonso was asked about potentially trying a stock car someday. It’s not something that could happen soon, he said, but it is something he’d like to at least attempt.

“Right now, it looks quite far. The driving technique and the experience all those guys have, it’s difficult for me to achieve that level,” Alonso said. “I will never know until I try, so I would like one day to test a car and after that, driving the car, I will know how enjoyable it will be in racing.

“Outside (watching), the races are great because they are all in a group, it is not predictable at all and until the last lap, you don’t know what is going to happen. We love watching from the outside, but I don’t know from the inside.”

Alonso has so far only had three days of testing at Daytona in the sports car to adjust to a closed cockpit, as well as driving at night and in traffic. Trying different series has been a thrill for him, and he’s still eyeing a way to get Le Mans on his schedule.

“It’s one thing that I would like to do, I would like to compete in the best races in the world, and Le Mans and is one of the top races,” he said. “If that day will be this year or not is still to be discussed, but maybe yes.”

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org/