TALK ABOUT HOW PRACTICE HAS BEEN GOING; HOW THE DUEL WENT FOR YOU AS LOOK AHEAD TO THE DAYTONA 500:
DANICA: ”The Duel was fine. I started on the bottom. Tony (Stewart) was right behind me if I started there, so we thought that was kind of the best place to be. We didn’t really know that it was going to be so obvious that we needed to start on the top; that’s why we will do that for the 500 on Sunday. Tony just stayed back there, so I just stayed with him. We just kind of fell back; we got three-wide a little bit at one point, and I just got out of it and let that pass and then dropped to the back. The car was pretty tight, so there wasn’t a lot I could do anyway. Passing seems tough without a fair amount of help. And even when you get that, it sometimes get stopped-up by somebody dropping down in front of the lane, and slowing it up. So, it is going to be interesting to see how things end up working out on Sunday. Practice today was really the most amount race running I felt like I’ve had. We did 32 laps straight. I was running with great cars – Jeff (Gordon), Kasey (Kahne), Tony. I think Dale (Earnhardt, Jr.) got in mix at one point. It was a good group of cars to be with. We stayed out there for a long time. Just got a feel for things. I don’t think we even expected to do so much running. The car was good from the get-go. Tony (Gibson, crew chief) made some nice adjustments from the Duel to today. We’re feeling much more comfortable and confident with the balance going into Sunday.”
TONY, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT SOME OF THE THINGS FROM THE CAR? SOME OF THE THINGS YOUR CREW HAS WORKED ON, AND HOW THINGS ARE SHAKING OUT FOR YOUR TEAM: TONY GIBSON: ”We’re just trying to keep speed in it. We were way, way, way too tight for the Duel. We kind of over-adjusted there; we weren’t sure. We figured with the weather that we needed to be tightened up a little bit: especially starting on the front row on the inside. Our plan was to stay with Stewart right behind us. We were hoping to be able to pull away – at least both of us at the start and get to the high-side. But that didn’t happen. So once we got back there…just stay out of trouble and help Stewart if he got in some trouble and had to catch back up. You are going to have to have all the speed that you can get in these race cars. We were just too tight. I felt like we killed our speed with over-adjustments. We worked on some things last night based off her comments mainly just to keep speed in it. Mid-corner speed is going to be big. I think you get runs; pushes from other cars and you suck up really well. But, your mid-corner speed is going to have to extremely good to duck down and pass somebody on the inside and get a run. I felt like we made some pretty good gains today. I felt like there are a couple of other things me and Danica talked about that we need to be a little bit better at car-wise. So we are going to work on those tonight and go into the 500…just some small things.
“Some shock adjustments we’ve been working on to keep speed in the car, and the right front spring we worked on a little bit. Just things to keep it in traffic. Keep the car consistent because when you are out front, all the air is on the front-end and the back-end gets light. And when you are in traffic, the whole car kind of lifts out of the race track, and you lose that pressure on the nose. Just working on things to make the car consistent no matter where she is at. We were in the front; we were in the back; we were the fourth car; third car; second car today around some really good race cars. Some fast race cars. Some of the guys you are going to have to contend with for the win. I felt like we did make the car better. We have some more stuff to do to make sure we can win this thing. We have speed, and she can definitely get it done. I think we have some partners out there that seem to me are committed to helping us there. I know we’ve been holding her back. We haven’t been letting her race, and I know that is frustrating to try to protect your race car so you can lead the field down. But, we are going to cut her lose on Sunday. I told her she can treat it like a video game. If you feel like you want to pull out and pass, go for it.”
DANICA: ”I finally said in the hauler after we were done ‘We are definitely, definitely, definitely starting on the front row for the 500 now because we are done.”
TONY GIBSON: We’re done.”
DANICA, WITH ALL THE ATTENTION YOU ARE GETTING FOR BEING ON THE POLE, DOES THAT PUT ANY MORE PRESSURE ON YOU TO BE COMPETITIVE AND THAT YOU ARE SORT OF BECOMING THE FACE OF THIS RACE?
DANICA: ”I’m just going to answer your question about if I feel more pressure. I can understand that there will be more hope out there, and there will be a lot of people that will be excited, and anxious to see what happens. But, I put plenty of pressure on myself, and I want to go out there, and I want to win the race, and I want to run strong all day. I want to do all those things for myself. I don’t think that anyone can make me feel it anymore. I guess I’m okay. I’m noticing by the attention that is getting that it would be….when you are already being watched a lot in those moments. It happened in the Indy 500 in 2005 where qualifying came and went, and we missed out on the pole, and everybody was watching me to see what happened in the race, and have it go down in an exciting fashion and come close to winning it, it blows up even bigger then because so many people are watching. I can understand that could happen. It’s going to be a big challenge no doubt. There are a lot of really good drivers that know what they’re doing. I need to go out there, and I need to just hold my own. I also need to…I’m thinking about more what I have to do, not what’s going to happen. Doesn’t do me any good to think about what’s going to happen.”
IT WILL LIKELY CHANGE DURING THE RACE, BUT ARE THERE PEOPLE YOU WOULD LIKE TO DRAFT WITH? IS THERE SOMEBODY YOU HAVEN’T HAD A CHANCE TO DRAFT WITH YET?
DANICA: “You’ll take anybody you can get. It really doesn’t matter. It’s a little bit different now that we’re not bump drafting. So, it’s not like you have people that you feel more comfortable with or not. It’s just pushing with air. So, I think that you’ll take anyone you can get to try and pull out and pass people. It’s going to take a fair amount of them. So, I’ll take ‘em where I can get ‘em.”
DON’T TAKE THIS THE WRONG WAY. BOTH OF YOU TALKED ABOUT WINNING THE RACE. PEOPLE MIGHT HAVE THOUGHT OH, SHE WON THE POLE AND THAT’S GREAT. BUT SHE PROBABLY WON’T BE UP THERE RUNNING FOR THE WIN ON SUNDAY. WHY ARE YOU BOTH SO CONFIDENT THAT YOU CAN BE A CONTENDER AND GO GET THIS WIN?
TONY GIBSON: “Well, I can answer that. I have 100 percent confidence in her skills and her ability. I’ve seen it just in the two races we did last year. We were sitting there running 11th or 12th in Phoenix on the lead lap and running with guys I never dreamed we’d be running with. So, she’s got the talent and she’s got the ability and she’s already proven in the Nationwide Series, from what I’ve seen, on the speedway stuff she definitely gets the respect and people know she’s fast. She can draft. She knows how the air works. She gets a lot of that from IndyCar. So I have 100 percent confidence that she can win the Daytona 500. I can remember Derrike Cope and nobody gave him a chance either, but I saw him in Victory Lane and I actually hung the body on that car so I know it can be done. And I think she’s definitely got the support from her team and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing and Hendrick Motorsports that she can get it done. From what I’ve seen out there today with practice and we ran 32 laps and we had four of the Hendrick cars and us and the No. 14 (Tony Stewart) car and we shuffled around and moved. She would lead and run second and third and Jeff (Gordon) and those guys were just like she was a part of them. They had no concerns. I definitely have all the confidence in the world we can win it.”
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST CONCERN ABOUT THE HANDLING OF THE CAR AT THE STAGE YOUR AT RIGHT NOW?
DANICA: “I was saying earlier that I think one of the things that I have worried a little bit too much about on these speedways is being really fair and caring about every single driver out there and trying to show them I’m loyal being behind them or things like that. What you end up noticing with a lot of guys that are at the front is they go. When other drivers see someone that wants to go they want to go too and they will go with them. I think I just need to be a little bit more aggressive from that standpoint and stop worrying so much about being in line and being loyal and worry more about getting to the front if I’m not there for some reason. I guess I’m concerned that I will pull out and I will just keep shuffling to the back because nobody will go with me. I guess that would be the big concern for Sunday. There is nothing you can do about that you’ve just got to try.”
YOU LOOK AT THE PROGENY OF A LOT OF THE ESTABLISHED STARS RIGHT NOW THEY ARE ALL LITTLE GIRLS. DO YOU THINK YOUR POLE VICTORY MIGHT CREATE THE NEXT WAVE OF DRIVERS? CAN YOU WIN THIS RACE?
DANICA: “It’s funny because a couple of nights before that Carl Edwards came over with his daughter. I have known since last year she was a huge fan of mine. She was over at the bus and Carl was saying that it’s good that she sees me in real life and in person because he’s like ‘because to her you are like some mythical creature that doesn’t exist’. She had green shoes on, green GoDaddy shoes on. She is a big fan. After qualifying Jimmie Johnson brought his little girl over because she wanted to meet me. I mean that is three pretty big drivers that have little girls that wanted to meet me that is very flattering. I don’t know, but I think you can only lead by example and I don’t necessarily want my example to be to step outside the box and be a girl in a guy’s world. That is not what I’m trying to say, but, if you have a talent for something to not be afraid to follow through with it and not feel different. Not feel like you are less qualified or less competent to be able to do the job because you are different is to ignore that and let it be about what you potential is. Can I win? Yeah, absolutely I believe the statistic is a 17 percent chance starting from the pole. That is what somebody told me. I feel comfortable in this kind of race situation. I feel comfortable in the draft. I feel comfortable with these speeds they are not a problem. For me it is just about finding out how to pass cars and having who I need to do it with, if I need somebody how to use them the best ways to get by. If I get shuffled back, which to be quite honest, it’s probably going to happen. I doubt that you will see someone lead the whole thing. You are going to have to figure out how to pass. I know I’m inexperienced, I know that I’m a rookie out there. I will do the best job I can. I believe I do have a chance to win. I do believe experience would help but it doesn’t mean that I don’t have a chance to win.”
YOU WERE MENTIONING EVERYTHING YOU DID TO THE CAR YOU LIKED IT. EVERYTHING YOU DID MADE IT FASTER. WHAT WAS IT YOU WERE PLAYING AROUND WITH MORE COMING FROM A FORMULA SET-UP BASIS AND DO YOU THINK IT HAS ANY IMPACT ON YOUR SETTING UP THE CAR THE INCREASED CAMBER CHANGE?
DANICA: “I would love to sound smart right now, but I have no idea what they do to these cars. I have no idea. I really don’t. I tried in the very beginning when I jumped into stock cars to read set-up sheets. I don’t even know how to read a tape measure. I am not qualified to give you that answer, but this man is. I’m not sure if he is going to give you the answer because then he would be telling you what we did to the car, but I’ll let him take it from here.”
TONY GIBSON: “I think the difference in the cambers can be taken either way. There are going to be tracks that taking advantage of the max camber rule NASCAR has given us it’s not going to work everywhere we go, there are going to be certain tracks it’s going to want more in the right than it is in the left. It’s going to want to be maxed out and not maxed out. We have had three different housings in our car since we’ve been here just experimenting with that. Today was a prime example we had a totally different housing in today with different cambers and things that we didn’t have in the 150’s. I think it’s just a matter of we are building a notebook on what she is going to want to feel and what the car is going to want on different tracks and different tires. I don’t know that we will ever pin point every track will want this. That is some of our gains. This whole week and a half with the new camber rule in the back, but it’s an ongoing process. It’s not easy a lot of guys are doing the same things. I don’t think I’ve seen as many housings change at a race track in all my life. When NASCAR gives you a rule that you can work within you are going to work within it. Just right now everybody is just trying to figure out what this tire is going to want, what this car is going to want and I don’t know that we will figure it out this year. It may take us two years to figure out. If they give us the opportunity to work in that area we are going to work in it pretty hard.”
FOLLOWING UP ON THE DAUGHTER’S THING WITH CARL (EDWARDS), JIMMIE (JOHNSON) AND JEFF (GORDON) ANYTHING OUTSIDE OF RACING THAT HAS ALSO HAPPENED OVER THE LAST FOUR OR FIVE DAYS THAT IS PRETTY COOL LIKE THAT?
“Not really around anybody else. I’ve been stuck here at the track (laughs). The only other outside things I see are the articles you guys write. I think that it is a strong enough example with Carl (Edwards) and Jimmie (Johnson) and Jeff (Gordon) that something is impacting kids. In fact I did have one other thing happen with a guy. I was in the gym and I didn’t know him, but he obviously works on a team. He wanted to show me this video of a couple of kids that were two years old. They were both his kids so unless they were twins they must have been two and three or two and four or something, they were young. It was a magazine that I was on the cover of. The kids were shown a picture and asked ‘who is this’ they both knew who I was. They said my name and he said I have no idea how they know who you are. I have no idea. I don’t get it either. I don’t know where it is coming from. I don’t know if it’s something that they see on TV that doesn’t seem to be so obvious to a parent or if their kids once they are in school if it’s part of some curriculum. I’m not really sure. I think it’s an interesting thing though. It’s very flattering and it’s a fortunate situation to find myself in. I enjoy being inspirational to these kids. I’d love to know why.”
TONY GIBSON: “I will say this much. I have handed out more lugnuts to little girls at those little windows in the garage area than I have since I have been here. It’s pretty amazing to see the little kids and the girls especially walk up with their GoDaddy stuff on and their hats. All they want to do is get a glimpse and get a picture and be part of it. That part of it I know you guys probably don’t see, but from being in the garage and having the windows down and the kids coming up writing things on the window. I’ve gone through I bet you 50 lugnuts that I have handed out to little girls. I think that is really cool for our sport and I think it’s going to help our sport grow.”
CAN YOU SIGN A LUGNUT?
DANICA: “Yes, you can.”
TONY GIBSON: “What I do is I write little 10’s on them. I just take a Sharpie and put a 10 on the lugnut and hand it to the kids. We have gone through a whole bag of lugnuts since we have been here.”
DANICA: “You made a good point about the window. The window for the garage there is tons of writing on the window and I didn’t know it was all there. I’m going to have to go out and read it all. I’m sure there are some pretty cool messages.”
YOUR BOSS TONY STEWART DIDN’T HAVE THE KIND OF YEAR HE WANTED TO LAST YEAR. DO YOU THINK YOUR WEEK THIS YEAR HAS ENERGIZED HIM TOO?
DANICA: “That is not a question I can answer. I have no idea. I think that if anything all I can say is that he should feel proud that he has three very fast cars. He should feel proud that a team with his name on it and that he has helped build put a car on the pole for the Daytona 500. He should feel proud that he was a part of putting us together. Those are all things that I think he should feel proud for. Now does it amp him up or give him excitement I really don’t know. I have definitely shown how appreciative I am for everything that he has put in front of me and the opportunities he has given me. And just the fact that someone like Tony Stewart will endorse me that means a lot to a lot of people. It helps out on the track, it helps in the garage area and it helps the general public. I’m grateful.”
YOU ARE A PETITE DRIVER FOR SUCH A BIG CAR DO YOU DO ANY EXERCISES TO INCREASE YOUR STRENGTH TO DRIVE THESE CARS?
DANICA: “I work out of course. I lift weight and I do cardio. Those are the things that I think are important. Power steering is pretty nice in these cars so I think the moments I need to be prepared for are when it goes out, if it goes out. These cars are really repetitive so I feel like it’s important to take care of your body too. Just for that repetitive motion so you don’t get any kind of like over use fatigue. Really with stock cars, indy cars were very physical especially on the road courses without any kind of power steering. These cars are hot. They are really hot and in the summer months when it comes along I’ve just learned a lot about hydration and how important that is. I’ve always worked out as much to drive the car and have that be easy as to feel good. And be able to do a nice job and look good for my sponsors. There are lots of reasons.”