NEW YORK (AP) — Danica Patrick knows there isn’t enough time before the Indianapolis 500 to make the significant changes she believes her car needs.
“Most probably I would need big changes,” she told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “But I think we can get close. I don’t think it’s going to be the perfect car, but I think we can get close.”
IndyCar’s most popular driver will start 23rd Sunday, her worst spot ever at Indy. Patrick was booed Saturday when her comments blaming a poor qualifying performance on her car’s setup were broadcast over the track’s public address system.
During a whirlwind trip to New York on Tuesday to promote the race, Patrick said she didn’t regret her words.
“Could I have put it a little bit more PC? Probably,” she said. “But that’s never been me. I think I’ve been quite a bit better in the last year or two. When you go from qualifying in the top 10 to 23rd, it’s a pretty big shift.”
Patrick, who finished fourth at Indy in 2005 and third last year, has struggled this year. In her first season racing part-time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series while maintaining her full-time IndyCar schedule, she’s 16th in the point standings.
It was a rough weekend for all the Andretti Autosport drivers: None of the five qualified higher than 16th.
“I reassured the guys that are on my team that it didn’t sound right and I’m sorry,” Patrick said. “It’s in no way coming down on them. It was really just me saying, ‘Hey, these cars aren’t right.’
“And they know they’re not right. They know the setup isn’t perfect, and that’s why we’re not able to run for the front row or a pole like we’re used to running. … Hopefully this weekend was enough to get the team thinking of what to do and what to change to make it better.”
Teammate Tony Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar champion, spoke to Patrick on Saturday night about her comments. He noted that her words were very much in the heat of the moment, coming almost immediately after she finished a frustrating run.
“Indianapolis can really mess up with your head,” Kanaan told the AP on Tuesday.
He wondered how Kobe Bryant would react if he was interviewed seconds after losing the NBA finals: “I don’t think he’s going to say good things about it.”
But that still didn’t make her comments right.
“You can’t expect that people will do everything for you and you just go driving, and when it’s good you take the credit, and when it’s bad you don’t,” Kanaan said. “That’s why it’s called teamwork. Now we go down as a team.”
Patrick said Kanaan’s advice was mainly about confidence — ensuring that everybody around her is confident in the driver.
“At the end of the day, last year we finished fifth in the championship and we beat our teammates all year and we ran up front,” she said. “That’s all there is to it. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to get there again. We just need to adjust our mind frame a little.”