Thursday, July 25, 2013

Girl Talk with Danica Patrick

“Embrace what’s different about you.” This wise advice comes from Danica Patrick, someone who has done just that.
Danica has embraced what makes her different from her competitors instead of letting it stop her from chasing her dreams. The driver of the #10 Go Daddy Sprint Cup Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing is the only female driver in the NASCAR’s top series. Although the 2013 season is Danica’s first full season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, she is no stranger to racing since she has raced against the boys in multiple series since an early age. In the Daytona 500 earlier this year, Danica became the first woman to both win a Sprint Cup Series pole position and lead green flag laps.
Recently, Danica returned to the track where she made history just five months ago and I had the chance to sit down for “girl talk” with her! As a 14 year old passionate NASCAR fan who wants to pursue a career as a NASCAR journalist, this was an amazing opportunity!
During our interview, I talked with Danica about her advice for girls and her life off the track.

Q: As you’ve pursued your dreams in a traditionally male dominated sport, you’ve shown both confidence and courage- two character traits I feel are essential to success. What advice would you give to young girls who may face similar circumstances or obstacles in their way?

DP:  It’s about not feeling different than anyone. It’s about feeling confident that you can accomplish anything. Just believe that you can do it and embrace what’s different about you.

Q: Some girls try to be the person everyone else wants them to be instead of being themselves. With you being in the spotlight, it’s easy for people to be critical of you. How do you stay true to yourself?

DP:  I would imagine you’d probably get a lot of people in general saying that confidence is really the most attractive thing -  that’s about being comfortable with yourself.  It’s just about finding things that make you feel good about yourself and feel confident. So whether it is a talent that you have, or something like that, just focus on those things.

Q: I’m sure there’s times where it feels like it’s you against the rest of the world. Do you have a quote or song you go to when you’re feeling down?

DP:  I have definitely always gone to the saying “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” and I really believe that’s true. No matter how hard things get, if it doesn’t kill you, you’re going to be better for it. I also like the one —“Tough times don’t last, tough people do.”
I like that one!

Q: You are focused on your job and I know you have a busy schedule between racing and sponsor commitments. I have noticed on Twitter that you like to cook.

DP:  (flashes a big smile) I do!

Do you have any other outlets?

DP:  I like to travel. I like to get a pedicure. I like to go shopping. I like to plan vacations. I even like to workout.

When you’re shopping does anyone ever come up to you and say “Hey, you’re Danica Patrick!”

DP:  Only if I stop or if I am by myself.   I suppose it becomes more and more common all the time. If I am by myself, I am a little bit of an easier target.   If I am with other people, I guess I would appear a little less approachable maybe.

But I guess from Twitter, your favorite thing is cooking?

DP:  Yeah, I would say. I like that. It’s fun.

What’s your favorite thing to cook?

DP:  I like anything dinner oriented, but I love breakfast!  If I’m going to make a production of it, I like dinner.

Do you like to experiment or just follow the recipe?

DP:  I think the best way to learn to how to cook is to use a cookbook to learn how to cook things you’ve never cooked before.  That kind of allows you to be able to make it again without the cookbook. I’m not a baker so I feel like you always need a cookbook for that. I like not having a cookbook, but the way you learn how to make good things is with them.

Do you like making desserts?

DP:  No, mostly just dinner. I’m not a dessert person. I will, but let’s see one of the ones I made recently. (pauses to think)  I made a bread pudding with brioche bread and I didn’t follow (the recipe).   I mean, I looked at the recipe, then I just started pouring things in.  I didn’t worry about the exact portions and stuff like that. I didn’t have the right ingredients either.  I was using vanilla creamer for coffee as one of the ingredients to flavor it. (laughs!) I was thinking it would not turn out and I just lapped it all in.  It seemed very wet and like it was just all going to be mush.  Then I made it and it was absolutely delicious!  So sometimes things turn out, but I’m sure there was just as much of a chance of it not.

Q: Since we’re at Daytona we have to take a spin around the track. It’s a fun Then and Now question for each turn. Think back to your high school days!

Turn1: What was your favorite junk food then and what is it now?

DP: I’ll just go back to what comes to mind first. It wasn’t high school that I ate this because in high school I was eating a little bit more healthy. I remember coming home, getting dropped off at 3:00 from the bus, grabbing a soda, and making a microwavable pizza. That’s probably not the best snack!  I also loved to cut up a whole box of strawberries and pour some white sugar on the side and dip each one in.

That’s what I like to take to lunch at school! It’s so good!

DP: Oh it’s delicious!

Turn 2: What was your favorite TV show then and what is your favorite TV now?

DP: When I was a kid, let’s go like mid-years, I liked 90210. Awesome. My parents let me watch it. Now, my favorite show? Probably Dexter. That’s a great show. I missed last season so I have to catch up on that one, but I’ve watched every other season. It’s a great show.

Turn 3: What was your favorite song or group then and what is it now?

DP: Let’s see, my boy band back then was  Backstreet Boys, because they were to me the first boy band. ‘N Sync came after them, but I was loyal to the originals-- the Backstreet Boys. (looks at PR rep, Joe Crowley) Right? Do I have this all right? Who played in the Backstreet Boys? Who were the singers?

JC: Nick Carter was the lead singer.

DP:  Nick Carter? Yeah, that’s right! Good job! Aww, that was awesome! (big smile)

JC:  I cannot believe I just answered that! (shakes head)

DP:  I’m definitely going to tweet that Joe’s favorite band growing up was the Backstreet Boys! My favorite band now? I’ve been listening to a lot of country lately…so probably Miranda (Lambert).  I love her music. She’s great. All time favorite-- I love Alanis Morissette, always have since I was a kid. But I’d say Miranda is a new favorite.

What is your favorite song by her?

DP:  The House That Built Me. It’s a pretty good song. I was in her music video for Fastest Girl in Town.

Oh I didn’t know that! I’ll have to go watch it!

DP: Oh yeah, go watch it. It’s cool.

Turn 4: What was your favorite fashion trend then and what is it now?

DP: Oh my gosh! (smiles) With socks, I used to roll them and scrunch them, but we’ll go with the rolling. I would wear white (socks) and then I would wear a color that matched my outfit and I’d roll them down.  It had to be absolutely perfect! So that was my favorite fashion trend then. And now, (thinks for a while) I wear a lot of t-shirts and jeans. Let’s see—a fashion trend? I don’t know. What do I wear that’s trendy? I guess in the moment you don’t feel like anything is all that trendy, you just kind of feel like it’s you.

JC: All I see you in is firesuits and golf shirts.

I like skinny jeans!

DP:  Yeah, I always wear skinny jeans. I suppose that’s it…between skinny jeans, Havaiana flip flops, and my James Perse t-shirts…that’s pretty much what I wear most of the time.

I guess you don’t really get a chance to dress up that much.

DP: I do, but I don’t really feel like I’m being trendy. You know what?! (slaps leg as thought comes to mind) Colored jeans!  I wear a lot of colored jeans. I love your red jeans. I had some blue ones on yesterday. Colored jeans-- I’m into them! I have just as many colored jeans as I do regular jeans.

Yeah, I love colored skinny jeans!

DP: I feel like I’m dressing up without actually dressing up. You wear colored jeans and a tshirt you’re like, “Woah! I look different!’

Thank you so much!

DP:  No problem! I had fun!

Danica Patrick is embracing what makes her different, but she is also similar to many girls and young women. She likes good food and good music. She’s fun to be around.  She has her own sense of style. Most of all, she’s not just following her dreams…she’s chasing them.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Getting to Know Brad Sweet

Brad Sweet drives the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet for JR Motorsports in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. While waiting for qualifying for the Firecracker 250 at Daytona, he was nice enough to grant me an interview. Hope you enjoy getting to know him as much as I did!

Q: NASCAR is a sport that is full of tradition. Do you have a favorite NASCAR tradition?

I grew up racing dirt cars, but everyone always dreamed of making it to NASCAR so some of my first memories were getting up every year in the morning to watch the Daytona 500 in February. That’s something that was always like a party. Seeing Jeff Gordon win Indy was cool, because I was always a fan of his. I was just always really in to NASCAR and watched it grow.

Q: Have you gotten the chance to meet Jeff Gordon? What was it like?

Yeah I’ve met Jeff Gordon. I think I’ve met just about every driver now. It was pretty neat. As you grow up as a kid, you watch them all, then you’re able to come in here and actually become friends a lot of them.

Q: Do you have a favorite quote or song you go to when you’re feeling down?

Not really, but I’m a pretty positive person, so when I do get down, I always think positive and think ‘there’s always another race’. I always think there’s a lot worse things in the world than having a bad race or getting in a wreck. So as long as I’m okay and my family is around me, I’m happy.

Q: You have a busy schedule with sponsor commitments and your race schedule. What do you do as an outlet when you have time to get away?

The weekend when you come to the track, you’re at work. Sundays and Mondays mostly I go out on the lake, that’s kind of like my weekend. That’s when I hang out with friends and other drivers. I think that’s why a lot of the drivers end up hanging out, because we’re all on the same schedule. It’s different than everybody else that has a normal job, but it works out.

Q: Since we’re at Daytona we have to take a spin around the track. It’s a fun Then and Now question for each turn. Think back to your high school days!

Turn 1: What was your favorite junk food then and what is it now?

I remember a lot of days, at lunchtime, they’d have a slab of beef jerky and I’d get a Cherry Coke. That was just something I’d pretty much have every day. It’s so bad for you! (laughs) I would never do that now, but that was my favorite junk food. And now, I try to to eat better, the older you get the healthier you try to eat. I still end up having a ton of my mom’s cookies because she’s always making them. We’ve actually got some over there (points to cookies on the counter)

Turn 2: What was your favorite TV show then and what is it now?

I’ve always watched so much racing stuff so I’m trying to think. (thinks for a while) I was always just in to watching racing and I’m still into watching racing. I’m a little more into watching movies and stuff now. Back then, I’d just turn on SPEED channel or whatever channel racing was on. That’s all I can really remember watching all the time. Otherwise, I was doing sports. I was really active so I didn’t watch a ton of TV

Q: What other sports did you play?

In high school, at one point I wrestled and at one point I played basketball. We were kind of into farming and I raised an animal one year! I kind of had a lot of different things that I was into in high school. I always went to every football game to watch. I went to almost every basketball game to watch. I was just really into all the sports. I was racing in high school, too, so a lot of weekends I was at go-kart races early in high school.  Later in high school, I was at sprint car races.

Q: Did you have anything in high school that you missed out on because of racing?

I didn’t go to a lot of dances. I did some of them when I could in the winter time. I didn’t go to prom, so I missed all that stuff. I probably just missed out on college. Right out of high school, this was what I wanted to do. I hear a lot of good stories about college and I think you learn a lot of good life lessons in college, but I think I’m just going through my college years in a different way, at the racetrack.

Turn 3: What was your favorite song or group then and what is it now?

I’m really in to country music so a lot of my favorite singers are 90s country singers or modern day country singers. I really like Blake Shelton. I’ve met Blake. He was really cool and that just made me like him even more. I’m pretty into everything that he sings right now.

Turn 4: What was your dream car then and what is it now?

I’ve never been like I need a Corvette or anything like that, because I always just had my racecar. I definitely started out in a piece of junk van when I started driving.  Actually about three years ago,  I was able to buy my first brand new truck. That was really nice for me because I always kind of had “whatever.”  It was never a big deal to me to have a nice car so it was nice to finally be able to get to that point where I was having something brand new.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Daytona Days

My four days at Daytona International Speedway last week were incredible! From Having my own desk in the media center to sitting on James Buescher’s pit box during the Firecracker 250 to being in Victory Lane while Matt Kenseth celebrated his win to seeing the view from the press box, my trip was filled with experiences that most fans only dream about! I also got to tour the NASCAR headquarters, meet many of the talented people who make the sport so enjoyable, attend the Daytona Rising groundbreaking, and even interview several drivers!

Nationwide Dash for Cash Kickoff: Between rain showers Wednesday, three of the Dash for Cash drivers-Brian Vickers, Elliot Sadler, and Austin Dillon- painted their numbers in the grass of the Daytona infield. Afterwards, everyone gathered at the backstretch to see each driver shoot off fireworks just like the ones that are shot off after the race! (see Fast Cars and Fireworks for more!)

Austin Dillon painting his number in the grass

Learning about fireworks 

Interviewing Austin Dillon

NASCAR Headquarters: The Daytona NASCAR headquarters building is an AMAZING! Each floor has an racing related item to go with it. The 5th floor has pit crew gloves on a wall because they have 5 fingers. The 6th floor has lugnuts on a wall because each lugnut has 6 sides. There are also lots of pictures from NASCAR history on the wall that were fun to look at! I even got to meet Mike Helton while I was there!

View from the 8th floor--not a bad view huh? :)

Gloves on the 5th floor

NASCAR headquarters building

Media Center:  The media center was where I spent a lot of my time-it was a busy place! This is where the drivers do their press conferences and the media can ask them questions. Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Carl Edwards, Elliott Sadler, Tony Stewart, and Kyle Busch were some of the drivers who had press conferences in Daytona. I even asked Matt Kenseth a question during his press conference!

Dale Earnhardt Jr's press conference

Daytona Rising Groundbreaking: We know NASCAR drivers can drive race cars, but can they race tractors? That was put to the test Friday morning! Three pairs of drivers- Jeff Burton and Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle and Trevor Bayne ad Darrell Waltrip and Larry McRynolds- raced tractors for a chance to break ground on Daytona Rising. The race was just like a real NASCAR race complete with driver introductions, the National Anthem, and even a Victory Lane celebration for the winners! I even snagged some dirt from the event (hey NASCAR Hall of Fame! Call me if you want some historic dirt!)

2 of the tractors that were raced

Greg Biffle and Trevor Bayne holding up their trophies

Brad Sweet: My first one on one interview of the weekend was with Brad Sweet, one of the drivers for JR Motorsports. He was really nice! I was nervous beforehand but I had fun! We did the interview inside his hauler. I’d never realized how small there are! There’s not that much room to move around! (Did you know his favorite junk food used to be beef jerky and cherry Coke?! Check back in a few days for the full interview!) Thanks Kelly Lumsden for setting that up for me!

Interviewing Brad Sweet

Danica Patrick Interview: I was a little nervous before but there wasn’t any reason for me to be! She was so nice! I had hoped for a good way to break the ice with her and it came the day before at her press conference! You may have seen that Danica started her press conference off with “Happy 4th of July!” but what you didn’t read is she also said, “First off, the 4th of July attire award goes to you.” And guess who she pointed at! Me! So on Friday before we started the interview, I gave her the Best Dressed Driver Award!

Yesterday during your press conference I was the one-
DP: Oh yeah! You had the outfit on! And you have the next best outfit on! Girl you got it going on!
So I brought you an award for the Best Dressed Driver! ( I gave her a little pink card with Best Dressed Driver written on it)
DP: Ohhh! (laughs and sticks it on her shirt) Thank you! (talking to photographer) You tell me when you have enough pictures of the Best Dressed Driver!
The rest of the interview was so easy and I loved every minute of it!
Photo Credit: Chris Graythen, NASCAR via Getty Images

Danica and me

Interviewing Danica

Pit Box: Ever wondered what the view from a pit box looks like? I got to see on Friday night! I sat on James Buescher’s pit box for the whole race. Being so close to the pit stops was really cool! It was a different view than I had ever had before and it was one of my favorites! Thanks so much to James Buescher and his crew for letting me sit up there!
Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton, NASCAR via Getty Images

Watching the race

View from the pit box

Victory Lane: After the Nationwide race I got to take a trip to Victory Lane! Matt Kenseth almost over me when he was driving into Victory Lane, but I got out of the way just in time! Victory Lane was cool! I watched Matt Kenseth climb from his car and get a Gatorade shower before he did interviews and started his hat dance!

Matt Kenseth celebrating in Victory Lane

Press Box: I think the press box at Daytona and the pit box are tied for the best view I’ve ever had at a NASCAR race! In the stands, it’s hard to find a seat where you can see every part of the track, but that’s not a problem from the press box! You can see all four turns, the backstretch and the tri-oval all from one seat!  I could also see the two boxes next to the press box. One was where MRN called the race from and the other was race control!

View from the press box

Daytona has been one of my favorite racetracks since my first race there in 2010. Not only is there lots of action on the track, there’s lots of activities to do off the track! Just like every other track the merchandise trailers are parked outside the track, but unlike any other track, Daytona has a place where fans can go to get closer to the action! In the infield, there is a Sprint Fan Zone where you can look through windows and watch what happens in the garage, see the cars go through both inspection stations, and  even watch the race from on top of the garages on the fan deck! There is a stage where drivers make appearences and music groups perform. You can even go out on the infield grass for driver introductions, sit on the track, and sign your name on the Start-Finish line! There’s so much to see and do and it makes your race experience so much fun! If you ever get the chance to go to Daytona, GO! You won’t regret it!

This experience would not have been possible for me without some special people in NASCAR. I would like to thank them for all the opportunities and supporting me in my dream to work in NASCAR!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Fast Cars and Fireworks

(Note: I had the opportunity to attend the Dash for Cash event in Daytona on Wednesday as a guest media of NASCAR.) 

July 5th fireworks?! There are sure to be plenty of fireworks this weekend at Daytona International Speedway-both on the track and off! The Nationwide Series is bringing back the name “Firecracker 250”, which was the name used for the July Grand National (now Sprint Cup) Series race from July 1959-1962. Not only is there a race for the win, but there is actually a four person race inside of the Firecracker 250. In the Nationwide Dash for Cash, the top 4 finishing Nationwide series drivers from the Kentucky race-Austin Dillon, Elliott Sadler, Brian Vickers, and Kyle Larson- will compete for $100,000, with the highest finisher winning the money.

Wednesday morning, Dillon, Sadler, and Vickers (Larson already had a commitment to his sprint car team) participated in a Nationwide event to kick off the first 2013 Dash for Cash. All three drivers painted their numbers on the infield grass, then shot off fireworks on the backstretch as part of the celebration.

The biggest question of the day was which driver painted his number the best?

“I feel like I did,” Brian Vickers answered, “Coloring was my thing in school, like staying in the lines.” While it drew a laugh from the other 2 drivers, they agreed. 

Vickers and Sadler joked that Dillon only had one digit (3) to paint while they had 2 digits, but Dillon still took the longest. Vickers said it was because Dillon was thinking about fireworks the whole time.

“I did two layers on mine, so you can see it when the TV camera goes across it, so it’s really bright,” Dillon defended.

All 3 drivers commented on the difficulties of Daytona, but each hope to leave Daytona with a extra $100,000. 

The drivers seemed to really enjoy their fireworks lesson and Dillon even joked about getting a fireworks license for himself. 

So if Sadler, Vickers, or Dillon can’t be found after the race to collect their money, be sure to check who is lighting the fuses for the fireworks!

Brian Vickers and Elliott Sadler painting their numbers

Austin Dillon setting off his round of fireworks

Austin Dillon painting his number in the grass