Danica Patrick was more relieved than thrilled after her first day back in an IndyCar.
“I was just looking forward to get today over with so I could get on with the job,” said Patrick after being asked about her excitement level on returning to a single-seater for the first time in seven years. “Indy is a special place, but I wanted to get through the refresher test and then try and get comfortable.
“The steering felt so heavy, and I’m stronger than I was when I was here before but stock cars have power steering and it was hard to be aggressive.”
The only woman to ever win an IndyCar race turned 52 laps in her Ed Carpenter Racing Chevy and reached a top speed of 218.5 mph. She’ll get to run again Wednesday in the manufacturers test, but most of the questions in her press conference centered around being back at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to end her career.
“I can’t think of a better place to end it than here,” said the 36-year-old veteran who vaulted into the headlines back in 2005 when she led the Indianapolis 500 in the closing stages. “It’s where it all started, and and it’s come full-circle.”
Carpenter, a two-time pole-sitter at Indy, was with Patrick all day, and she was also reunited with engineer Matt Barnes.
“I wanted to have a fun May, and I’m so glad this team is easy to work with -– it’s a good group,” she said. But after she left open-wheel for NASCAR full-time, Patrick admitted that she wasn’t sure the Indy 500 would ever be on her radar again.
“I tried to [run Indy] the second year I was in NASCAR, until two managers said that people questioned my commitment [to NASCAR], so I didn’t do it. I really did believe that I was never going to do it again. After that point in time, I was like, the further I get away from it, the more I don’t want to do it. But there was no wavering in my decision to come back.
“Since last fall I’ve been wondering what in the hell it’s going to feel like, and now I know. Tomorrow I’ll start running flat out and start making changes to the car and then we’ll be back in two weeks. That’s when it really starts.”