The 27-year-old driver spoke two days before finishing 3rd in Sunday's Indianapolis 500, the best finish ever for a woman at the Brickyard.
Dan Patrick: It's been four years since your first Indy 500. Did you think you'd have a win in the race by now?
Danica Patrick: Yeah. It was such a good year that first year. [Patrick led the race with six laps remaining and finished fourth.] But it's been more difficult as the years have gone on, especially when we went to a single engine manufacturer [in 2006] and everybody has the same car.
Dan: What has changed about you in the last four years?
Danica: I'm more relaxed. Each year I've learned a little bit from the year before, and each year I'm a little more mature.
Dan: A victory at Indy would mean ...
Danica: Whoa, that's a lot. That would be—I might actually have to say it—a dream come true. It's just one race, but it's not just one race from a recognition and a history standpoint.
Dan: Let's talk about the tattoo. What made you do that?
Danica: I love tattoos. I'm a very passionate person, as you may have guessed, and I would like to say I'm kind of fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants. I like the idea that you can believe in something so much that you are willing to have that on your body for the rest of your life. And that you're committed enough.
Dan: How many do you have?
Danica: Just one. I made it a little bigger last year.
Dan: It says your husband's name?
Danica: No, I'm trying not to curse the relationship like that.
Dan: What does it say?
Danica: It doesn't say anything. It's an American flag and a checkered flag. I got that when I was 19. Then last year I got some angel wings around it and some yellow stars, because my name means "morning star."
Dan: If you could take a performance-enhancing drug and not get caught, would you do it if it allowed you to win Indy?
Danica: Well, then it's not cheating, is it? If nobody finds out?
Dan: So you would do it?
Danica: Yeah, it would be like finding a gray area. In motorsports we work in the gray areas a lot. You're trying to find where the holes are in the rule book.
Dan: When do you start NASCAR?
Danica: I don't know. Maybe next year, maybe never.
Dan: What are you hoping will happen next year?
Danica: In all seriousness, it's a contract year, and I'm going to evaluate all of my options. I am going to factor in who's asking, based on the team and their performance, and then after that see what the rest of the deal includes.
Dan: You can start negotiating with teams in June. At midnight on June 1, do you expect a phone call from a NASCAR team?
Danica: I would hope so. I don't think expect is the proper word.
Dan: What would be the attraction of NASCAR?
Danica: It looks like fun. There's a lot of [competitive] racing. There are a lot of opportunities with the platform it provides, with more viewers and more fans. It's a large area of motorsports. But on the other hand, there are a lot of races and it's a lot of work. It would be something new—would I catch on or not? There are a lot of unanswered questions.
Now Hear This
Listen to the podcasts atdanpatrick.com/interviews
1. Kurt Warner dishes on his meeting with President Obama.
2. Dodgers GM Ned Coletti talks about Manny's suspension.
THE FINE PRINT: Sad state of affairs at this year's Indianapolis 500. By the end of the race, 22 of the 33 cars were owned by the government.
Hear Dan announce the week's Got It Done Award every Monday.
PRESENTED BY grape-nuts
The Rockets had a great postseason run—without their best player, Tracy McGrady, who has an injured knee. That led to talk by the press and fans that Houston was better off without him. "In the past when I was out, you really never heard that," McGrady told me. "Are they better without me? I don't think so. You ask those guys on that team, they'd say the same thing." I asked who the press in Houston has been tougher on, him or Roger Clemens. "This year," McGrady said, "I have to say it's me."
Packers rookie linebacker Clay Matthews III was happy his former USC teammate Mark Sanchez was featured in the June issue of GQ, but Matthews had one quibble—the clothes the new Jets quarterback wore in the photo shoot. "I don't know if white jeans go over so well in America," Matthews told me. "Maybe in Europe and other places. They weren't sitting well with me. But he's in GQ and I'm not."
Line of the week
I asked Blake Griffin, who is likely to be chosen first overall by the Clippers in this month's NBA draft, if L.A. is big enough for him and Kobe Bryant. The kid from Oklahoma said, "I don't even know if it's big enough for Kobe himself."
ILLUSTRATION BY KAGAN MCLEOD
GREG NELSON (MCGRADY)
TAMI CHAPPELL/REUTERS (GRIFFIN)
BRIAN SPURLOCK/US PRESSWIRE (DANICA PATRICK)