To NASCAR superstar Danica Patrick, seeing herself digitized into video game form is one of the coolest perks to come with fame.
“This is something you can’t just pay to do. You can’t just be a character in a video game,” Patrick told me from the E3 show floor in Los Angeles after Sega announced she would not only star in the upcoming “Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed” but that the famous hedgehog would appear on her hood for her race at the Texas Motor Speedway Nov. 3.
And while the game pits Patrick in races against the likes of Sonic and the Sega All-Stars on road tracks, through the air and on water, the GoDaddy girl admits to being her best on land. “I’ve only driven (in real life), so maybe that’s why I wasn’t so good at the other two in the game,” she said. “That’s why it’s a challenge for gamers. But when you pick me as a character, of course I’m going to be really fast.
“Every character has special 'All-Star' moves, so for mine, I shoot fireballs out from my car, and it sets my opponents' wheels on fire and disables them for a couple of seconds. Very valuable seconds.”
Sounds like that would come in handy at Daytona.
“It sure would,” Patrick said with a laugh. “Can’t beat shooting fireballs.”
Jon Robinson: Besides simply being in the game, did you help at all with the creation of your character?
Danica Patrick: I did voice-over, so there’s a little bit of trash talking in the game. The hardest part was probably all of the grunting and the noises. They told me: “When you start to break a sweat, you know you’re doing it right.” And sure enough, I was like: “Man, it’s getting hot in here.” But the grunts need to come from your stomach, so the cleverest trick I heard was to sound out all of the vowels in the alphabet. I was out there grunting: “A! E! I! O! U!” So you’ll hear that in the game.
Are you a big gamer?
It’s something I did in the past, but I don’t have as much time to play video games anymore. I get to play the real thing. People get to sit at home and race cars, fly planes and drive boats, but I do it for real every weekend. I say now I get to do the cool thing, and that’s to actually be in the game as an adult.
So if I’m racing against you in the game, are you going to drive me into the wall?
If you’re ahead of me, I’m going to disable you with my All-Star powers, so you better be wise and choose me so you don’t have your wheels set on fire.
Switching things up to racing in real life, what’s the transition been like for you going from Indy to NASCAR?
It’s been definitely difficult but fun at the same time. I’ve really enjoyed the challenge. There are times when I feel like I know what I’m doing, and there are times where I feel like I’ve just begun. It’s a learning process. There are a lot of new tracks on the NASCAR circuit for me to get used to, and every one of them is unique.
What’s the biggest difference when it comes to driving the Indy cars versus a stock car?
In an Indy car, you have downforce that is produced by the wings on the front and back of the car, and they keep the car stuck to the ground pretty well, where in a stock car, there’s much less of that, so you’re relying on the tire to grip the track. Once the tire finally lets up, which it will, you start sliding around. So in an Indy car, the car is very consistent throughout your run, but in NASCAR, it changes a lot. And also, the fuel load is in the rear of the car, so the weight is all back there, and then once that fuel burns off, the car doesn’t want to turn quite as well, and you’ve also worn the front tires out from using them, so you really have to balance out how the car runs the first five laps with how it will be the last five laps.
At least nobody is shooting fireballs at your tires like the game.
Tires don’t catch on fire, but sometimes they feel like they do.
How about the fans? Is there a difference between Indy fans and NASCAR fans?
I’ve found the fans great all around. I’ve been really blessed to have great fans who cheer for me no matter what car I drive. There’s a little more camping that goes on in NASCAR, a little more barbecuing, a little more horseshoes being played.
What’s the strangest autograph request you’ve ever received?
I always find it a little bit unsettling when somebody wants me to sign their body, and then they tell me that they are going to go get it tattooed. I usually tell them to wait a year. If you still feel the same way after a year, then I’ll do it, but you wait a year and think this through. Is this really what you want to do?
So you drive fast in the game. You drive fast for your job. What’s it like driving to the mall? How hard is it to drive the speed limit in your everyday life?
I find myself very frustrated on the road. I have a large comfort zone, and that usually means faster than everybody. But I don’t like getting tickets, and I get them still.
Still? I always figured they let NASCAR drivers off with a warning since they know you’re used to going triple digits.
I know. It’s a bummer.