IndyCar: more equal competition than NASCAR; potentially less authenticity in the paddock.
That was Danica Patrick’s take when asked about her career in North America’s two biggest racing series in an interview for this weekend’s episode of In Depth with Graham Bensinger.
“There’s definitely a lot of posing [in IndyCar],” she said. “I always felt like in IndyCar everybody was like, who could go to the hauler earlier to show they were more committed… People would not have a drink the entire season because it was the season.
“And then you go to NASCAR and… people are rolling in on helicopters an hour before practice starts, and out crushing beers the night before. OK, I’m exaggerating a little bit, but maybe some people crush beers, I don’t know. But definitely [NASCAR was] so much more friendly… and less posing; less faking it, fronting.”
IndyCar’s substance abuse policy prohibits alcohol consumption by drivers and officials in the 12-hour window prior to any on-track activity, and has a blood alcohol threshold of 0.02%.
While underwhelmed by IndyCar’s paddock culture, Patrick acknowledged that it was a more level playing field from a competitive standpoint. Speaking about her transition to NASCAR, she said that one of the biggest shocks was the disparity between cars, even within the same team.
“The teams [in NASCAR] always make a really big difference,” she said. “And not just the team itself, but the individual cars within the teams. I think that’s why you see the drivers thanking the guys at the shop – the guys working on the cars – because it’s a big deal. It makes a big difference. So that goes back to the whole, getting people to believe in me and what I could do, and putting in the amount of effort to get there. And how, if one believes in you, that’s just not enough. That one person can’t build the whole car. That was the hardest part; just that there was so much that was out of my control. I look back, and IndyCar was much more even than stock cars.”
Patrick also questioned how motivated Stewart-Haas Racing, her final Cup team, had been to find the necessary funding to keep her on the grid full-time beyond 2017.
“A lot of times I had brought the sponsors because they liked me, and they were there because of me,” she said. “But at some point in time most drivers… the team finds them money and so, I think I was [the] easy road for most teams where I brought it and it was full sponsorship. And so, they had to be motivated to go find me sponsors, and motivation varied.
“Maybe they just wanted something new… Maybe they didn’t believe in me and they wanted something new. Maybe they just wanted to take the easy money. I think there were some people along the way that worked [to find backing], but a lot of the time it was… easy money.”
After signing off from full-time competition at the end of last year, Patrick made one-off NASCAR and IndyCar swansongs at this year’s Daytona and Indianapolis 500s before retiring for good. Both appearances ended early; Daytona as the result of a multi-car accident, and Indianapolis with a crash into the wall at Turn 2.
To watch the interview in full, click here for broadcast information.