Even grandma Barb would have to be impressed with the universality of Bev and TJ's race-car-driving daughter.
If Barb's (Danica Patrick's father's mother) life hadn't been cut short at age 61 by COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), she'd likely be fielding a stream of questions from friends and relatives about what her famous granddaughter has been up to. Essentially, what Danica Patrick has been up to is becoming a household name in America.
This weekend Danica heads to Daytona to drive in both the NASCAR Nationwide Drive4COPD 300 (Feb. 25) and Cup Daytona 500 (Feb. 26). I talked to Woman of pressdog® Danica on Valenetine's Day about her charitable work, differences in driving an IndyCar and NASCAR, the upcoming Daytona 500, her willingness to talk about some of her personal life, her fondness for eggs and oatmeal, and how she deals with the Festival of Hate.
Thanks to Danica's most excellent confidant, anger manager, crowd controller and personal assistant Haley Moore for assistance with this interview.
An Interview with Danica Patrick, 2/14/12 ..
pressdog: First question I got for you is about COPD. I've heard about your grandma suffering from the disorder and that connection; but I never really have read how you got involved with this whole campaign and why you did it.
Danica: Well, the opportunity came about -- I suppose it was -- the first year was 2010. So the end of 2009, my manager made me aware that there was a campaign coming together to raise awareness for COPD, and my grandma had COPD, so just thought it would be a good fit, and be a good place to use my platform, and to be able to do something good in honor of my grandma and raise awareness. So, it came about at the end of '09, and we hit the ground running in '10, and we've accomplished a lot of really cool things.
pressdog: So have you -- since then, have you had warm fuzzy moments where fans or somebody lets you know that the screening helped them out, or caused them to get help or anything like that?
Danica: Yeah. I think that what I hear a lot is how people are appreciative of the campaign because someone that they know has it, and usually it's someone close to them, and how they're appreciative that the word is getting out because they feel -- it makes them sad that someone that they know has it, but they're glad that someone's doing something about it. And so I can't wait until the people start to say how appreciative they are of finding out about the disease early because they found out they had it, and then doing great now. That's the kind of stuff that's going to be the success story stuff; but it's probably not going to happen for a while because the disease moves pretty slowly,and it's not like you just go out and take a tumor out and it's gone -- you know, what's there is there.
But being able to detect that you have some early signs, and then working with your doctor on how to deal with that and the rest of your life, because if you don't do anything about it, it just continues to take away your lung function and makes your life uncomfortable eventually. In my grandma's case, she passed away at 61. We've screened over 2 million people, so we've done a good job. Of the 24 million people that have it, only half know it. So that kind of says a lot about the awareness out there about it. And hopefully, it will encourage doctors to perhaps then be proactive about it, and start talking to their patients about it, especially if they can see the signs.
More Facts about COPD:
- There are two main forms of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Most people with COPD have some combination of both.
- COPD kills by very gradually destroying the lungs' ability to function.
- More people die annually from COPD than diabetes and breast cancer combined.
- Most of those afflicted are not diagnosed until they have lost half their lung capacity.
- To see if you are at risk for COPD, go to DRIVE4COPD.COM and take the five-question screener.
pressdog: So to transition a little bit to racing, as you know, I followed you in IndyCar, and now into NASCAR and Nationwide. I noticed when I listen on the scanner during races, especially at Kansas last year, there seems to be more that you can do as a driver with a car; you're talking to your spotter and your crew about driving it in deeper or braking here, or taking this line in (turn) 1 and 2, and this line in 3 and 4. Is that accurate; is there just more driver input in general in a stock car?
Danica: You're right on. There are more things that you can do with the car to control it. If the car is loose getting into the corner, then just turn in early and get some wheel into it, so that it gets on the -- it binds the coil up and get the coil down, and you're bottoming out on the right front and you push up the track. Without getting technical, there is more than you can do with it. You know, the car travels more and it has more options for some different handling based on the driver inputs. And there's also more lines on the racetrack. In NASCAR, usually it fills in from apex to wall; I mean, you can drive any of those lines.
And also, with a stock car, unlike an IndyCar, let's say you go to Chicago, in an IndyCar, you're flat out -- you do not lift; and in a stock car, you're lifting both ends. So, you might even need to brake sometimes, every now and again. So, when you have those kinds of driver inputs that you need to put into the car, you can change how you do them, and that changes how the car feels.
pressdog: Is that something that you've had to develop a racing brain for, that you've found challenging or stimulating, or how have you reacted to that as a driver?
Danica: I think for me, I feel like I do well in situations where you need to plan and be smart and think ahead. For me (in IndyCar), those were short oval races, where you can go balls-to-the-wall and get out there and push really hard, but you might pay for it later in the run; whereas, in the stock car, that's every weekend, other than the big ovals like Daytona and Talladega and places like that. And then my mile-and-a-half experience really comes in, because it's just a high speed chess match in slightly closer quarters in a stock car than an IndyCar; but it's basically about weaving your way through things.
So, I found that IndyCar training to be very helpful in certain places, but I've also -- I feel like it just plays into my style of driving stock cars. I just think that it's the style and traits that I like in racing, which are being smart, thinking ahead, and being patient, and using your brain to get ahead of them sometimes.
Danica: (Laughter) Love it, I love it! I can't tell you how many times I wish I could have used a bumper in an IndCar. And unfortunately, you know, when you -- look, I don't want anything bad to happen, so in IndyCars, you're forced to just drive away from them or stay away from them, or you can somewhat sort of show them how you feel by chopping them in the middle of a corner -- but you can't hit them. And so, the great thing about stock cars, because they're very self-policing: If you don't like someone and they screwed you over out there, and if they hit you and took you out the week before, you've got all the time in the world and all the room in the world and all the bumper in the world to hit them back and make them know it. And so, what should be allowed, you know, you're really likely to get bashed. And so that kind of reduces the amount of silly driving that can happen.
pressdog: Yeah, I notice that also when I listen to you. In the early races, that you're sort of asking the etiquette questions, like should I apologize and should I hip-check him? Is that something you're still sorting through, or do you have a pretty good feel for the rules of the road now, do you think?
Danica: I would say I'm getting there, but I think there's still a lot to learn. I think there's going to be another level of it in Cup. I think that in Nationwide, I'm starting to get a feel for the rhythm, and what is etiquette, what's what you can and should do in certain situations, because respect doesn't come from hitting people or not hitting them at all -- it comes from being tough, but being smart and building that respect through driving fair, and then giving them a hard time every now and again when they deserve it, or going for a position in the last lap of the race -- it's very much a balance. So, I think that I'm getting the swing of it -- I'm definitely not there, but I think there's going to be another level of it in Cup cars.
pressdog: Drivers seem to know -- they sort of have an unspoken or universal knowledge of what is good, and what's acceptable and what's not acceptable. Do you find that to be true?
Danica: Yeah, I do. I think that while things happen on the track and you might not even tell anyone about them, because guess what -- you'll just go out and fix it the next weekend. I mean, it's just as easy as that. And I think that probably happens within stock car racing quite a bit, and you kind of deal with it out on the track yourself, and that's the best way. Sometimes, it's also what feels the best, too, as a driver is to be able to take it into your own hands.
pressdog: So speaking of Cup, what are you looking forward to about Daytona the most?
Danica: Well, I'm looking forward to racing with some guys that I haven't had the opportunity to race with yet in Nationwide. It was cool in testing a few weeks ago to be able to run out there with Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon and guys like that, that I haven't raced with yet. But it's a big, exciting platform. So for me, it's just that I'm looking forward to it. I'm also curious to see if -- you know, there are stories of drivers that have done very mediocre in Nationwide, and then really drive in Cup. And so, I'm curious to see if I'll catch on with the cars better, maybe even -- maybe it'll be worse, but let's not even think about that. Hopefully, that the extra horsepower will be a help for me.
pressdog: Do you think you'll find yourself comparing Daytona to Indianapolis?
Danica: No, I don't think there's comparing the two. They're both very big races, and that's the way that you can compare them, but they're different styles of racing and they're different tracks, and nothing will ever replace either of them. I grew up with IndyCar racing and wanting to win the Indy 500, so that will always be the top of my list of favorite tracks, and also best memories so far for me. And then, there are people that grew up watching stock cars and Daytona is their top. So, it's cool that I'm being able to race at both of those tracks in both the top forms of those racing series and, hopefully, not just race in the Daytona 500, but also to have a chance to do well. I know the car is fast and Stewart-Haas has built me a good car; but hopefully, I can do well and there's still a chance to be able to win at Indy; unfortunately, it's not going to happen this year, it's still a dream of mine.
pressdog: Some drivers, they don't like to talk about personal stuff -- but when you were asked about things like your Thanksgiving day meal and plans you talked about your moonshine and your stock car. Do you like to talk about that kind of stuff, that element of your life?
Danica: Yeah. I think people are curious, and I'm happy to tell them. I also think that it creates -- it gives them depth to me, and it shows that I'm just -- we're all regular people and we're all doing regular things. For Superbowl, I sat on my couch in my pajamas, which is cool -- with the flu. People are just curious. Now, will I talk about where I live or what restaurants I go to, or about my personal life necessarily, about my relationships and my husband? I mean, that's not really a place that I think you need to go to get to know me better; but I'm happy to tell you about my interests and the things that I like to do outside of the race car, and be able to give you a glimpse into some other things that I enjoy doing in my life.
pressdog: So having said all that, why do you like cooking breakfast so much?
Danica: (Laughter) Oh my God, I love breakfast. I mean, eggs, oatmeal. I wouldn't even have anything else even if I could. Like, let's say, there was no calories in waffles or pancakes or French toast -- well, maybe if I put an egg on the French toast -- I just love them, they are so tasty, you can manipulate your oatmeal in so many ways. It's just great; I just love breakfast, and I want to eat in the morning, I like to eat -- I work out so that I can eat -- and look good, too, it's important. I am a GoDaddy girl, after all.
pressdog: That's true, that's very true, it's part of the brand.
Danica: You know, we love to cook, and breakfast is just so damn tasty -- start the day off right, and it's so healthy, it's perfect -- my breakfast is perfect.
pressdog: It's always the same, right? It's an egg and oatmeal, or something like that.
Danica: Yeah. It's one egg -- three whites; serving of oatmeal with flax, cinnamon, and maybe a little brown sugar, and a little bit of peanut butter on the side -- it's the same every day.
pressdog: That's kind of OCD, isn't it?
Danica: It's kind of perfect; it's just perfect. It's perfect for health, perfect nutrition, perfect taste. And yes, it might be, maybe I have a slight -- maybe I don't like uneven numbers, I don't know.
pressdog: I wanted to ask you this question; I've been wondering for a while: How do you deal with the haters, Danica? I mean, I've talked to drivers, and especially female drivers, and they say the more popular they get, the more haters they get. We both know, and I've talked to Haley (Moore), that you've got your share. How do you deal with some of the awful things they say about you?
Danica: Well, the more haters, the more lovers too. I think that, for me, I recognize how the world of media works, and I know that there's a lot of attention generated by people who say negative things. And so some of it's not even really real. I mean, some people just say it just to say it, and get a reaction. And I also think that it creates a really interesting platform for somebody like you to maybe defend it, or someone else, and you know -- or not defend it. But it allows for opinions, and there to be a back-and-forth with what people think; okay, when you think that, this is what I think of you saying that -- so it creates kind of a storyline.
I just, I know that I'm doing everything I can to be successful and do a good job. And so, with that peace of mind, I just don't care what anyone says; it's just not important, it's not going to help me. And I do have to be a little bit cautious of what I read on Twitter, but if somebody says that I wish I'd die in an accident, I can't imagine they're really serious. I mean, these are people that -- I almost feel bad for them, I feel bad that they take the time to say these bad things, that their life must be so consumed with negativity and it sucks -- they're probably not very happy. At the end of the day, though, I work really hard, I'm happy with who I am, happy with what I do. If I wasn't working hard, I would feel insecure about what people said, because I would think to myself, well, maybe I could be doing a better job or do something else if I was to think more about it or try a little harder, but I don't. I'm doing everything I can. I keep that in mind, and I'm not affected.
pressdog: That's quite generous of you, Danica. I don't think I'd be able to do that in your spot.
Danica: It's all part of business. Everybody's entitled to their own opinion, and that's what makes this country great and interesting, and better to be talked about than not at all -- better to be talked about in all the different ways than not at all. So, I don't know, I guess I'm lucky, I just don't really care.
pressdog: I read a story about you and your Nationwide Family Feud team (here) -- "Danica, and the Other Guys" -- that Ricky Stenhouse picked the name, and you were like, no, no. Do you find yourself defending -- and I think that's the wrong word -- defending the publicity you get; but do you find yourself trying to guide people to other drivers, or are you worried about it being too much about Danica? How do you approach that whole Danica mania, in terms of other drivers?
Danica: I do. I find myself -- sometimes over the years, everything back to my first year in racing, I remember doing an ESPN interview, and I said: Look, I'm going to do it, but you've got to have the rest of my teammates on there, too, with me. And I remember doing that from the first year. There are times that I'll be at a NASCAR race, I'm hanging out and a journalist walks up or TV walks up and want to do an interview, and maybe I'm talking to Ricky Stenhouse, and I'm look, okay, let's do it together, let's both do it. Because you know, it's more fun to do it that way sometimes, and I respect these guys, and they're all interesting as well. They just need to get a following going to make them more popular, and I kind of get how it works. So the more popular they get, the more popular they get -- if that makes sense.
Sometimes, I feel uncomfortable, too, if somebody walks up and they don't want to talk to someone else around me. So I try and help. Ricky came up with the idea to -- well, he wanted to call it us the Honey Badgers at the Nationwide Night, but the media took it, they took the name.
So, I was trying to help him come up with another alternative, and I didn't think that it would be so great to call us "Danica and the Other Guys", or whatever he called it. So I was trying really hard to come up with some other names, and unfortunately, he ended up using that name; but he did it playfully, and I really think that sometimes you can tell when people are bitter and jealous, and then you can tell when other people are just using it and saying, the heck with it, let's roll with it, this is what they want, let's just give them that, and let's have fun with it, let's laugh. I think that's what Ricky was doing. But I can't control what the public wants to see, and that's all the media is reacting to initially. So I'm fortunate, and every now and again, you've got to spread a little wealth.
Update: COPD patients can share their story or advice about living with the disease at: http://www.healthline.com/health/copd/inspirational-stories. For every submitted story, Healthline will donate $10 to the COPD Foundation.