Danica Patrick has either one of the best jobs you can imagine – or one of the most difficult. It’s all in how you look at it.
As more or less a rookie on the NASCAR Nationwide series, she’s refining her skills in a very different style of racing compared to her previous gig on the IndyCar series. Meanwhile, some veteran drivers are making her earn every lap amidst constant bumps, nudges and swapped paint.
And, her name value and celebrity status focuses fan and media attention on her every move more so than maybe any other Nationwide competitor. As if that wasn’t enough on her plate, she’s also running in the occasional NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race against the biggest names in the sport.
While Patrick battles her way through this year's Nationwide series, she's taking a break to serve as a digital correspondent for Coke Zero's social media followers for the Coke Zero 400. She'll be on hand to bring fans "behind-the-scenes access to race weekend through Coke Zero's Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts.
Patrick will then continue her Nationwide schedule before she resume her part-time Sprint Cup Series runs on Aug. 25 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
During race prep at Daytona this week, she connected with Crave Online to talk about how this season is progressing.
CRAVEONLINE: Just a couple weeks ago, you drove Road America with its constant turns and speed changes. Then, it’s back to the ovals. Do you have a favorite kind of racetrack?
Danica Patrick: Racing in IndyCar, we drove a lot of road courses. I felt like that was part of why I left IndyCar – because I enjoy racing on the ovals more.
But, since NASCAR races on the road courses so very little, I felt surprisingly calm getting back out there at Road America. I was excited to go. We took the lead for a little bit and ran in the top five all day. It was a fun race.
CRAVEONLINE: We hear from other drivers who have made the transition from open wheel racing to NASCAR – or vice versa – say it takes a couple seasons sometimes to make the adjustments needed in racing style. Has that been your experience?
Danica Patrick: I’m trying to get better every race, but I’m not running in the top five every weekend. So, I’m still a work in progress until that’s happening. I think there are always adjustments to make when you come from a different style of racing – especially when you’re competing against guys who have been racing this style since they were kids.
I’ve been fortunate to have guys around me that want to see me success and are there to offer help.
CRAVEONLINE: Can you describe the difference in feel between an IndyCar and a NASCAR for anyone who hasn’t driven anything similar to either ride?
Danica Patrick: IndyCar has a lot of downforce – with the wings and underbody design. You could drive that car upside down. Those cars are twitchy. But when they’re comfortable, they’re very comfortable. With a stock car, you have very different conditions with the track temperature and tire life that the car changes a lot.
At qualifying, you have one lap to get your best time, so you end up driving faster than you ever had during practice. During the race, tires are changing and going off as the race goes on. You just have to deal with the constant changing conditions.
CRAVEONLINE: You have one of the most instantly recognizable names not only in motorsports, but perhaps all of sports. How has that affected your daily life?
Danica Patrick: I guess I have to thank my mom for giving me a unique name. That helped. But, now I have to be careful where I use my name, who I give me address to, where I say I’m going – that safety side of things.
Beyond that, I feel very fortunate to have achieved the popularity level I’ve found. It makes it easier to get a table at a restaurant.