Q and A: Danica Patrick, on why she’s not fit for “DWTS,” fried pork rinds or racing a car at 62 … but is just fine with prime-time slime, if the kids are doin’ it

Danica Patrick, center, walks to her car with publicists Wendy Belk and Haley Moore before qualifying Friday for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Fontana. Patrick starts in the 40th spot for Sunday’s Auto Club 400 — far from the pole spot she had at the Daytona 500.(AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

STORY POSTED: 2:30 p.m.
STORY UPDATED: 8 p.m.:

Danica Patrick seems to embrace the idea that, if she doesn’t win Sunday’s Auto Club 400 in Fontana, she’s got a decent chance of getting slimed Saturday night.
That comes with being nominated for the annual Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Awards.
“Does everyone get slimed?” she asked Friday afternoon while sitting on the back of a golf cart on the Auto Club Speedway infield, chilling out near her tour bus just before qualifying in the 40th position for Sunday’s Sprint Cup race.
“If it happens, it’ll be for all the right reasons. I hope.”

www.people.com

After today’s practice run, she’ll race up Interstate 10 — not on a helicopter, mind you — toward USC’s Galen Center for the 5 p.m. live show that the kids’ network puts on each year. No word if she’ll be joined by current boyfriend and fellow NASCAR competitor, Ricky Steinhouse Jr. — he starts 31st in Sunday’s race. But we know who he’d vote for in the category of “Favorite Female Athlete,” with Patrick up against both Serena and Venus Williams, plus Gabby Douglas.
(UPDATE: Patrick won the award — presented by Dwight Howard – and did not have green gooey goop dropped on her. Although she said after giving away a handful of high-fives to kids along the stage as she came up to accept the award: “I always wanted to get slimed, and it sure felt like it coming up here.” Howard then got slimed moments later.)
We noticed that the ballot listing Patrick’s qualifications specifies she is “a spokeswoman, a model and a race car driver! … She’s a champion who deserves a whole lot of praise! Get this babe a blimp!”
Funny, but when we checked Patrick’s Wikipedia page, it seemed like something was backwards.
So we went to the source. Patrick, who celebrates a birthday Monday, was ready for the usual age-old questions:

Q: It says right there on your Wikipedia page that you’re “an American auto racing driver, model and advertising spokeswoman.” Sound pretty accurate, in order of importance?
A:
Isn’t model and ‘advertising spokeswoman’ kinda similar?
Q: No, not at all. We’ve seen pictures of you as a model. You’re selling different things there.

A: So a model is just someone who takes a picture and . . . yeah, I guess . . . and it’s on Wikipedia, so kids, believe what you read – with a grain of salt, OK?
It sounds like they skipped ‘author’ because I did do a little book that came out (“Danica – Crossing the Line” in 2007). Gosh.
Yeah, I’m a race car driver, and everything else is because of that. I’m just lucky enough that I get to do a lot of other neat things. That fact I’m 5-foot-1½ and 110 pounds and could be considered a model – God bless America. And Wikipedia.

Q: Your page also says you’re turning 31 on Monday. How did you end up spending the start of your birthday week in Las Vegas?
A:
I wanted to see a Shania Twain concert, so it ended up being a timing thing when we could go to see her. The dates weren’t working. There were four of us who wanted to do it, and the MGM was really cool in giving us a nice place to stay. And it just happened to start off my birthday celebration.

Q: No reservations about turning 31?
A:
I’m think my 30s are going to be my best decade, and I said that last year.

Danica Patrick checks data as she sits in her car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Fontana on Friday (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Q: Aside from the Nickelodeon TV event, how were you able to come to L.A. and not have to be distracted with doing commercials or photo shoots or whatever else you can get trapped doing?
A:
Again, timing. It’s all in the winter when that stuff happens. Shooting goes in December and January most of the time. Usually the Super Bowl commercials for GoDaddy.com are shot here, and this past year it was in January. I think I also had another photo shoot that didn’t happen. Just relaxing now with a birthday, my girlfriends are coming over from Scottsdale next week and we’re just going to hang out in L.A. for a little while (with the week off in the NASCAR schedule).

Q: Where do you go to hangout in L.A.?
A:
I’ve never really vacationed in L.A. What should I do?
Q: Beaches are nice. Don’t get caught doing ‘Hollywood’ things. Clubbing and all that.
A:
Oh, no, no. I’m too old for that. I think I’m too old to actually get in to those places now. It’s like, ‘I’m sorry, you’re over 25?’
Q: You should go then so they’d still card you.
A:
That’d be fantastic. Well, then, who knows where a girls’ night out might go.
Q: So does that mean if you still feel good about driving cars, you’ll still be doing it for another 31 years?
A:
Good God, no.

Q:  There’d been some talk that you’d been approached to be on “Dancing With the Stars.” Is that something you even want to try, or it’s just a scheduling problem?

Danica Patrick shows her game face during practice for the Food City 500 last week in Bristol, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

A: That’s really not something I’m into. It’s a huge time commitment. Shoot, if I can get a week or two off between Christmas and New Year’s, that’s usually a good accomplishment for me. So that, and I don’t think . . . I have a really bad game face. My game face is not nice, not friendly, not warm or inviting. I don’t think I’d win over a lot of fans. I don’t think I have the right smile for it.
Q: Wow. But if time is a factor, you could just get in there for a show or two and tank, so that you said you did it.
A:
I don’t like to lose, so that’s the other problem. I try to do only things that I can actually do.

Q: Speaking of the kids’ awards, I have a sister-in-law who teaches at a school in Huntsville, Ala., and since I have a little IQ as to what to ask about anything NASCAR related, I figured the kids there would have better questions so I asked her to help me get some things to ask you about.
A:
Oh, yeah? Cool.
Q: So the first one they asked was: What are the pros and cons of having a love interest in the same field? Aren’t there going to be problems with that?
A:
All the kids know about that? Oh, dear. Well, with kids, then you’ve got your finger on the pulse there.
Q: Well, maybe they’re not all talking about it. Maybe my sister in law would be more interested in the answer.
A:
Ohhhhh. Well then, tell them all it’s good. It’s easy, actually. We talk about our cars, what’s going on out there. I’m trying to get advice from him because he’s really good (laughs) but the rest of the time we really only recap races when we get back to the bus. After that, we move along to many other things. I made some comment recently to him: I mean, am I not hot when I suck out there? That’s not attractive when I’m terrible out there, right? And he said: I’m not with you because you’re a race car driver.

Q: So with your relationship all big deal and all, you must have an opinion about how this new Tiger Woods-Lindsay Vonn thing came together.
A:
They are an item. Good for them, I guess. I know Lindsay from the ESPY Awards, she’s a nice girl. I’ve never met Tiger before but obviously he’s got a past to report on. If they’ve worked all that out, then let ‘er rip.
Q: Tiger also said he came out to the media with the news because he was tired of what he called the “stalkerazzi and all those sleazy websites that are out there following us.” Are those the kinds of things you have to deal with?
A:
No. No, no, no, no, no, no. That’s one nice thing . . . usually it only works well (for me) on the really positive side of things like a table at a restaurant, or tickets for a show. I’ve been able to stay right in that sweet spot for a long time.

Danica Patrick smiles as she walks past fans during driver introductions before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on March 3 in Avondale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Q: When you go to visit kids in school, what kind of message do you like to leave them with?
A:
It’d be similar for them as it would be for adults: You need to find something that you really love to do so that you put in the amount of effort it takes to be really good at it. It’s tough enough to be good at anything, and if you’re doing something you don’t enjoy, then you’re not starting off on the right foot. Imagine if you could do any job in the whole world, what would it be? Always dream big. You can make a great career out of anything you truly enjoy.

Q: The kids were also curious: The more you hang out with male drivers, either in Indy car or with NASCAR, do you eventually get treated nicer when they get to know you? Do some still have a hard time being nice to you?
A:
Here’s the thing: Since I was 10 I’ve hung around guys in racing – hung around guys, period – so I don’t know any different. Other than when I was racing in England. They weren’t very nice to me there. But they’ve always been fine here, always the same. So if they’re all the same and bad, so be it. And if they’re all good, then all right.
Q: You must have gotten punched on the playground just like everyone else, but you didn’t know if that was because a boy really liked you or was being mean.
A:
Well, I would always punch back, playground or anywhere. I got a temper.

Q: When you were at Daytona a couple of weeks ago, Ronda Rousey was also in the spotlight as a female athlete making headway in a male-dominated sport. That was kind of your big weekend. Have you ever considered what it’d be like to try to be like Rousey and go UFC on someone?
A:
You’ve seen my size, right? I don’t think it’d go over real well. I’m like a bug. I’d be squished.
Q: But you’re a fitness freak, right?
A: I am.
Q: How do you manage to stay healthy and eat right when you’re going through all these NASCAR towns that serve up fried chicken and who-knows-what at every food stop?
A:
Oh, my gosh. Ricky asked me the other day if I’d ever had fried pork rinds.
Q: They’re pretty good.
A: I haven’t tried them, and I really don’t think that’s a good idea. No. It’s going to be really hard for a girl to look after her figure in this NASCAR world – especially with a NASCAR boyfriend now.
Q: At least in L.A. you can find a sushi place worth stopping by.
A:
Yeah, but when we go for sushi, Ricky will order the chicken-fried rice with sweet and sour something or other – not really sushi. He’ll say, “Let’s go out for sushi,” and I’m like, “Naw, you’re not really eating sushi.”
Q: You and the girls, when you’re going around L.A. looking for something to do, you’ll find sushi.
A:
For sure. When we went out to lunch in Scottsdale right after the Phoenix race (three weeks ago), every single girl at the table ordered quinoa salad. Literally, every one.

Q: Growing up near Chicago, and also still with a home near there, you’ve got to be a big Bears fan?
A: Yeah, but we lost (Brian) Urlacher. What the heck is up with that? I feel like they could have kept him on a retainer just for being a good cheerleader. You know what? He’s got a couple of years left, maybe, and he needs to do as much as he can to do make money at the end of his career and go somewhere where they’ll honor that.
Q: So you’re OK seeing him playing for the Vikings?
A:
Or for the Packers? Don’t even say that. Ouch.

Q: As for college basketball – not a big fan, I gather? Not at all in the Ashley Judd universe.
A:
No, I don’t get it. Ricky said that Ole Miss won their opener and I was like, “Oh, wow! How exciting.” You know, really sarcastic. And then I decided that it was a good thing because I’m going to be watching basketball anyway, so it might as well be for someone who it’s important for, rather than whole bunch of random teams from cities and states that I don’t know about.

Q: By the way, I was also checking out Men’s Fitness magazine’s website, and there you were – a link to some other site that had the “20 Hottest Photos of Danica Patrick.” By the way, thank you for that. I guess the thing I couldn’t figure out was how you get into character for all those different poses, pushing up this and pulling down that? That doesn’t even look like you in half those photos, but more like an actress playing the role of “hot chick.”
A:
And I’m usually starving myself, gosh, four weeks before so I’m looking good in that swimsuit. And by the photo shoot happens, I’m sure I’m just a raging . . . female dog.
You know what, I only do things that I’m comfortable with and would be fun and extensions of my personality. It’s like when I was young, I went out and bought furniture that I liked. Now it’s 10, 12 years later, it still fits into the kind of style of house that I like. When you buy things you like, it all goes together. It’s just like clothes. Wow, why does everything seem to go together? Because you keep buying the styles you like. Same thing for photo shoots. The brand still works as long as you’re doing things that you feel good about.

Q: Because you seem to be so many things to do many different people, how do you compartmentalize everything? You can be a role model for kids to look up to, something for other men to look at, for women to cheer for. Even now, we’re talking after you just had practice, but then you’re going for qualifying. And then to events, and finally to race. What’s the mindset for that?
A: After we’re done talking, I’m going to forget everything I’ve said. I’m just glazing over it all. (Laughing) Just kidding. I mean, one of the challenges of this sport, it’s just competing on the track, it’s about so many other elements. It takes a multidimensional athlete to do them all and still have longevity in the sport.

Q: Having been through a few NASCAR events now, how does stamina play into being there at the end?
A:
The only thing really different I’ve found is the heat. At the end of last year (in the Nationwide circuit), hydration starts a day or two earlier. Then it seems fine. The physical turning of the car thing – other than being so repetitive and needing to move your hands a lot, which I need to work on doing better and keep it more smooth – is really the same. Really, you’re turning left one thousand times.
Q: How is your bladder affected if you’re so hydrated?
A
: It all stays over to the right side of my bladder (because of gravity). Seriously.
Q: And then your right arm must be much stronger now.
A:
It actually is. I’m much better now pushing with my right arm and pulling with my left arm than I would be pushing with my left and pulling with my right. There is a imbalance. So if you notice me looking like this by the end of my career (a huge hunched up right shoulder), you’ll know why.
Q: I believe that’s also a great UFC technique to use in the octagon. You pull with the left and push with the right and you keep flipping your opponent over and over.
A: Can I pull hair?
Q: I believe you can do just about anything.
A: Hmmm. I’m going to use my imagination for that.

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