In what will likely be her last session with reporters until after Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, Danica Patrick made two things very clear during Thursday’s Media Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway:
First, Sunday is, without a doubt, her very last race of any type, period. Win or lose, when she climbs out of her No. 13 GoDaddy-sponsored Indy car Sunday afternoon, she will never climb back into another race car ever again.
Second, while some say her foray from IndyCar into NASCAR may have ultimately been a mistake, Patrick doesn’t see it that way.
When asked if she regrets anything in her life, Patrick replied:
“No, I don’t. Unless I ate something I wasn’t supposed to, then I regret that.
“One of my favorite statistics is the fact that I’m one of a short list of drivers that have led both the Indy 500 and the Daytona 500. I couldn’t have that if I didn’t do it (raced in NASCAR).
“There were some high points in NASCAR. It wasn’t a complete failure by any means. I mean, having a Daytona 500 pole is cool. I’ll remember some of those other races that were big for me as far as how it went.
“Maybe they weren’t wins or they weren’t vying for the win and not getting it, but they were great for me. I’ll remember those things.
“Also coming back and having this be my final race, it wouldn’t have been possible if I would have finished up in a normal way. Normally, usually when you choose your retirement, you finish up at the end of a season. I would have finished up in NASCAR. It would have been over at Homestead. That’s how it would have gone.
“Also the fact that it kind of felt like it wasn’t really finished properly, that’s what led me to think, ‘What else can I do to finish it up?’ That also has brought me back here (to Indy). It wouldn’t be so dramatic if I wasn’t gone for seven years. I’m sure I would probably have a few less people standing here.
“It’s kind of made the story what the story is. I’m just grateful I’m in a position where I have a fast car. I can see Indy on the way out the way I saw it on the way in hopefully.”
Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.
If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.
“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”
The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.
Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.
But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.
“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.
“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”
Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.
If #F1 wants to start looking around for an American driver, Colton Herta has a suggestion for where that search should start. https://t.co/71PVeu6aBj
Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.
A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.
“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.
“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”
During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:
–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;
–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;
–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”
–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.
“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”