By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer
As Danica Patrick watched the Cup race Sunday at Las Vegas as an analyst for FOX Sports, she had no desire to get in one of the race cars.
When she watches the Cup race this Sunday at Phoenix in her second (and last scheduled) race as an analyst for FOX, she will have no desire to get in one of the cars.
The same is true when she works as an analyst for the Indianapolis 500.
That life is behind her.
“That was a 27-year season of my life, where I sort of strapped on the armor, and I was tough and strong and aggressive and was built for that world,” Patrick said in a phone interview this week.
“And I also enjoy this phase of my life, where I can take some of that armor off, and I don’t have to be so tough, and I don’t have to be so aggressive, and I don’t have to do so much.”
Danica Patrick joins Clint Bowyer for FOX NASCAR duties at Las Vegas
Danica Patrick joins former teammate Clint Bowyer for FOX NASCAR duties during Las Vegas Motor Speedway coverage.
While some athletes have trouble leaving the competition behind and get away from the sport because it’s too painful to watch and not participate, Patrick is the opposite.
“There’s no way I get in a car without expectation levels — my own expectation levels and everyone else’s,” she said. “You never just go out there by yourself—ever.
“There’s no such thing. It’s not like being able to just like go grab a basketball and be at an empty basketball court and shoot around, and you could do that and literally, no one could know that. But there’s no chance you could ever go to a racetrack and have no one know.”
Patrick’s last full Cup season came in 2017, and her final races were in 2018 when she competed in the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500.
Since retiring nearly four years ago, the 39-year-old Patrick has added to her racing résumé from behind the microphone. In the past year, she has served as an analyst for the Indianapolis 500 (NBC) and Formula 1 race in Austin (Sky Sports) and in the booth for a couple of SRX Series (CBS) and Cup events (FOX).
She continues to operate a California vineyard (Somnium) and owns a fledgling candle company (her Voyant candles come in the shape of a wine glass). Then she has her “Pretty Intense” podcast, is now in her third year.
So it’s not like she isn’t busy. But she isn’t doing those things to avoid thinking about racing. She isn’t yearning to get back in a race car.
“Maybe [for others] it hurts to watch it, depending on how the ending came for them or what they’re doing otherwise,” Patrick said.
“I’m plenty busy enough, as busy as I want to be. So I don’t feel like I’m sitting around at home so bored, thinking maybe I shouldn’t have retired. … I really don’t have that desire [to race].”
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Patrick watches races to prepare for broadcast work, but she never was one of those racing junkies who wanted to watch races in her spare time. She has no problem spending a weekend doing what she wants to do, rather than what a racing schedule dictates.
But she does enjoy the broadcasting work she has been able to do the past few years. While being on television does help her brands and keep her name out there, she said she primarily does it for another reason.
“If I wasn’t excited to do it, I wouldn’t do it,” she said. “I enjoy doing it. It’s really fun.”
As far as her first race with FOX, Patrick said she felt at ease, considering that full-time FOX booth broadcasters Mike Joy and Clint Bowyer are expected to carry the broadcast.
“I could literally not talk, and they would be able to fill all the time, so it gives me a little latitude to be able to interject when I feel something strong enough,” Patrick said.
“On the other hand, they keep it going so well that I’m like, ‘I don’t know. Is my point important? Is it worth saying?’ Because they’re just really good.”
Like most things with Patrick, the social media reviews are a full range of love and hate. She said she did take a look at social media after the telecast Sunday.
“I try and take it all with a grain of salt, but it is still information,” she said. “And I always felt social media is a little bit of your finger on the pulse of the story and the pulse of the perspective.
“So, of course, I did [read some]and generally speaking, it seems like it’s been pretty good.”
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As far as her work away from the racetrack, Patrick said the podcast has gone better than she expected. The vineyard, devastated by fire a couple of years ago, should see the damaged areas have their first harvest this year or next. The candle company was inspired by an aroma ecologist Patrick met in Cairo at the end of a trip to Egypt.
But part of her goal is to not work as much, to not keep as demanding a schedule as she did while racing.
“Part of retiring included doing less,” she said. “It’s not about keeping that same energy going. It’s about cultivating other aspects of myself that will help me in other ways.
“Trust me, I can still access that other energy. And I do most of the time. But it’s also fun to kind of be in other spaces and do other things.”
In other words, if Patrick wants to go on a vacation, she can schedule one much more easily than when she had to be at a racetrack. If she wants to go see friends or to a concert or farmers market, the time is there. And she relishes that.
“I’ve been able to explore more sort of science and spirituality and restorative stuff, like taking vacations just in general,” she said.
“I don’t know if I had an idea of what [retirement] was going to look like. But if I were to design what it was going to look like, this is a pretty good design.”
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What to watch for
The big question heading into Phoenix is whether drivers will be able to use the apron going into the dogleg past the start-finish line.
They used to do that all the time with the previous Cup car, but the Next Gen car sits lower to the ground, and the suspension pieces might not be as durable as the ones Cup teams used to bring to Phoenix, knowing they might try to take advantage of the extra asphalt at the expense of a hard transition to the main racing surface.
The other thing to watch for: shifting.
Some drivers were shifting during the Phoenix test in January, and NASCAR hasn’t changed anything to keep them from doing so as they navigate the turns. NASCAR has tried to eliminate shifting on ovals, as it is not viewed to be part of the racing skill needed for ovals.
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Bob Pockrass and Daniel Hemric discuss his final lap from Phoenix last year and what it means to not live in the past.
thinking out loud
NASCAR probably didn’t love Kyle Busch’s comment that the parts and pieces of the cars can be bought at Walmart. Bubba Wallace said a similar thing earlier this year about putting everything in your Amazon cart to purchase the car.
For NASCAR, “spec” apparently is a dirty word when it comes to describing the race car (a spec series is one in which all the cars are the same, meeting all the same specifications). I think that’s because teams still have options on engines and body shape — those are common only by manufacturer — and crews still have some options when it comes to the mounting placement of certain pieces, as well as the shock settings.
But the whole point of the new car is to put it in the driver’s hands (and a little bit the crew chief’s) when it comes to strategy. Fans who bristle when it comes to watching a “spec” series know what they are looking at and will determine whether they watch.
NASCAR shouldn’t worry about the terminology. The racing the first few weeks has been too good.
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They said it
“That’s on us. We have to own that as a sanctioning body.” — NASCAR competition executive Elton Sawyer on not realizing that Spencer Boyd’s truck was stopped against the Turn 3 wall on the final lap at Las Vegas
Bob Pockrass has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 following stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpockrass. Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass!
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