Published May 23, 2010
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Tony Kanaan's advice to Danica Patrick is simple: Have fun and change the attitude.
After Sunday's Indianapolis 500 qualifications ended, the Brazilian driver said he spent part of Saturday night in a closed-door meeting with his glamorous teammate to talk about her reaction to her poor qualifying run for the Indianapolis 500.
"The best advice to her: Look, start having fun again," the 2004 IndyCar champion said. "When you wake up in the morning in your bus, and you can't wait go to the racetrack and see your guys, it's the best feeling. But when you wake up in the morning and say 'My God, I've got to drive a race car again,' that's not good."
Patrick has struggled all season — her first driving full-time in IndyCars and part-time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. While she ranks 16th in IndyCar points and has had only one top-10 finish in five races, she continues to be the center of attention in both series.
But Kanaan did more than just talk about things. The Brazilian used his own emotional struggle Sunday afternoon as an example, too.
After crashing for the second time in less than 24 hours and racing against the clock to qualify a car rebuilt with parts from thee other Andretti Autosport cars, Kanaan kept his composure and put the No. 11 car in the race. He didn't speak to reporters until everything was over, and then thanked his team for building three cars in 24 hours — even though none of the five Andretti drivers qualified higher than 16th for next week's race.
"I knew I was going to have a long day," Kanaan said. "I knew I had to keep people around me calm because it's easy to lose it when you go out and you can't drive around. So I tried to calm my guys down and my engineer, and they're trying to calm me down because it was like 'It's not the car.'"
Patrick reacted differently after posting Saturday's four-lap qualifying average of 224.217. She'll start 23rd, the middle of Row 8 next week, her worst start ever at Indy.
She climbed out of the car and in a post-qualifying interview played over the track's public address system blamed the car's setup for her problems. Fans reacted by booing and in a later interview Patrick questioned the fans' reaction.
"Shoot, I say one confident thing out there and everybody boos me. I'm blown away," said Patrick, who never started worse than 10th in five previous Indy starts. "These people, I mean, I don't know, maybe they all booed me before. I would think that some of them cheered for me before, and I'm not a different driver than I was five years ago."
Patrick returned to the track with a different tone Sunday.
During a television interview, the series' most marketable personality said: "I was a little emotional yesterday. I was still shaking when I did the interview because we were on a very, very ragged edge out there."
But Kanaan thinks Patrick needs to do a better job holding her emotions in check in the future.
"I think she realized what she did, and sometimes we say things that we don't want to say and regret," Kanaan said. "The same guys that she finished fifth in the championship with last year and won her first race, they're still there. Those are the same people.
"In racing, besides having a good setup and a good car, I believe that your attitude counts a lot, and she definitely needs to change her attitude," Kanaan added. "Not against the public or the fans — in herself. She's not happy with herself right now."