NASCAR Newsmaker: Danica Patrick

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At $12 million a year, Danica Patrick already was the third best-paid women athletes in the world, behind tennis stars Maria Sharapova ($25 million) and Carolina Wozniacki ($12.5 million). While her value is certain to expand with her move to NASCAR in 2012, she said her decision to leave the IndyCar Series wasn’t about money.

Patrick talked about her decision to race full-time in the Nationwide Series and part-time in the Sprint Cup Series last week. Here are excerpts of that interview:

Q: Will the fact you’ve raced part-time in NASCAR in the past two years help your transition for next season?

A: I had to think about what would make me happiest and where I would have the most fun. I really enjoy racing those (stock) cars. I think it’s about me going where I’m happiest. My greatest successes in racing have come when I’m happy.

Q: What’s the biggest difference between an IndyCar and a stock car?

A: It’s hotter in a stock car, a lot hotter. I found out in Montreal when your water and oil temperatures are between 240- and 280-degrees, it’s a lot hotter. Also, the length of the races. I feel they’re pretty long. Nationwide races are as long, if not longer, than IndyCar races, and Sprint Cup races are even longer. The car changes a lot over a run of the race. The amount of things you can do on a pit stop are pretty cool. It feels in a stock car you can take bigger swings at it. You can start the race off struggling and the second or third pit stop you can be great. That’s pretty fun.

Q: What would define success for you in NASCAR?

A: The same thing that defines success here (in IndyCar): getting to Victory Lane and running up front and being competitive every weekend.

Q: What was it like to get in a stock car for the first time?

A: I remember Dario Franchitti saying he got in a stock car for the first time and said, “What am I doing?” I got in and said, “This is awesome!” I went to Daytona in an ARCA race and got my first taste of bumping and pushing. Sliding into cars was so liberating. It was the most fun I ever had in a stock car. It was so much fun. I really had a great time.

Q: Were finances a consideration in your decision?

A: If it was about money, I’d have gone a long time ago. I just go where my heart tells me, where my gut tells me to go, where I’m enjoying my life the most, where I feel like I can have the most success. I’ve truly enjoyed my experience in NASCAR, to the point that I want to do it full-time.

Q: What will your learning curve be?

A: I feel like in the last year, I’ve really come around much more on the track and the top 10s are happening much more frequently. I feel like I’m getting it more and more all the time. I still have a lot to learn, that’s for sure, but I really feel confident that I can be successful in the future.

Q: Are you a fan of the bumping and banging in NASCAR?

A: I really enjoy it. I really do. It’s tough to do in an IndyCar. You don’t want to be touching wheels. In a stock car, if someone messes with you, you just hit them back. It doesn’t really ruin your day. You help your day out by getting them out of your way. I’m not saying I’m an aggressive, aggressive person out there; I’m not going to go after people. I will always race someone fair to start with. I give them the benefit of the doubt they’ll race me clean, but if they don’t, you retaliate.

– Compiled by Don Coble

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