By Dustin Albino

Danica Patrick isn’t shy of public speaking. After all, she hosted the 2018 ESPY awards.

A few months back, as she recalled, Fox Sports reached out to Patrick about broadcasting select NASCAR Cup Series races during its portion of the 2022 schedule. The company elected to go with a rotating third analyst to be paired with play-by-play analyst Mike Joy and a returning Clint Bowyer. Tony Stewart was up first for the Busch Light Clash and Daytona 500, while Matt Kenseth gave his insight at Auto Club Speedway.

Last weekend, Patrick took over for her first of consecutive weeks in the broadcast booth, as she’ll rejoin Joy and Bowyer this weekend at Phoenix Raceway.

Earlier this week, Patrick spoke to about her Cup Series broadcasting debut at Las Vegas, how current she’s remained with NASCAR since retiring in 2018, if she’d consider a return to racing and what exactly she’s been up to over the past four years.

How did the opportunity come about to broadcast these two races at Las Vegas and Phoenix for Fox Sports?

I‘m guessing at its core, Jeff [Gordon] is not around (laughs). It was all about who was going to fill in. I don‘t know if [Fox] was curious about going through people and trying things out, if their plan all together was to have a rotating booth.

It‘s a cool idea because it gives people a taste of some different perspectives. It‘s almost like marketing, having so many people in there. Or maybe they‘re trying to figure out who should be in the booth all the time. At the end of the day, it‘s good for me. Clint is amazing, and so is Mike and Chris [Myers]. And Jeff, I actually had dinner with Jeff the night before. Jeff and Clint get along so well and have a good camaraderie. It‘s big shoes to fill.

You were teammates with Clint in 2017, and he‘s taken to the broadcast world. How did that prior relationship help you last weekend?

I think he looks out for me. Clint‘s a really nice guy and we have a rapport and we‘re friends. There were times in the booth where he would give me some advice about ways to do things better, ways to say things or the length of time to go for. Also, just pausing to give me opportunities to do some of the commentary.

Those guys are so good at play-by-play; play-by-play is not my expertise. But I do love contemplating on-track experience with moves, strategies, what to look out for and giving people more of a perspective of the on-track. That‘s how it plays out in the booth, he‘s a friend and he‘s looking out for me.

You‘ve done a few Xfinity race broadcasts in the past with Fox. How did that familiarity help you for this past weekend?

Just at least knowing the environment you‘ll be in and the resources you have in front of you with the [monitors]. One thing that I didn‘t know that‘s awesome up there is the stat team. The stats are awesome. They‘re so funny too, they put funny things on the boards. Throughout the race, they‘ll write an interesting stat on the board and they‘ll hold it up so someone can say it, maybe nobody says it. But it‘s a cool way to add more details and statistics into the broadcast without having to be so well-versed. I don‘t think it‘s possible to know all of those statistics.

Going into Las Vegas, how did you prepare for the broadcast?

Just catching up with the races, watching reviews on them. Just familiarization with the drivers. There‘s drivers in the field that I didn‘t race against. They do a great job of giving you notes before, but it‘s very on the fly.

I feel like being integrated in the sport and being there all the time and doing the competition calls on Tuesday to hear about what‘s going on, getting a lot of perspectives as well as being at the track, that‘s really how it rolls off the tongue up there because you just know it. It‘s hard to go into a scenario where you‘re meant to know about everything when you‘re not so integrated anymore. That‘s where Mike and Clint pick up the slack. They‘re the ones that know more of the details about what‘s going on and make sure that people understand that.

The rest of the booth, being me, is just trying to add interesting points and relate things to the audience that might be interesting from my perspective and experience that maybe isn‘t being talked about. It‘s getting a little familiar.

You‘re a few years out of competing in NASCAR now, so how current do you stay with the NASCAR product?

Medium. I don‘t know every detail. You can hear it in the booth, I‘m like, ‘Why would they do that?‘ Sometimes I ask questions during the commercial breaks, and Larry McReynolds is such a great resource for information on the details of the car, technical aspects. So are the other guys, too.

The thing is, I‘ve never been really technical. I‘ve never been someone that knows every last detail about the car, knows where everything is and how it works. That‘s never been my area of knowledge, so I don‘t try and pretend.

What has been the feedback you‘ve gotten, or do you even check how people think you did?

I do a little bit. It can be dangerous, but it‘s information. There‘s a certain level of looking at perspectives where it gives you information, even if it‘s bad. It‘s been pretty good so far. I was relieved. I got a message from Mike Tirico (NBC Sports analyst) where I was like, ‘Well if you think I did a good job then OK, maybe I can exhale.‘ Given the fact, he was the OG of giving me advice when I was Indy broadcasting the Indy 500.

I‘ve gotten quite a few nice messages, and it seems like there‘s been good feedback on social media. I‘ll try to do my best this weekend at Phoenix and hopefully it should be a little easier. When you‘re stepping into a space where Clint and Mike have rapport and a rhythm, finding your way into that takes a little bit of time. I think this weekend we‘ll pick up where we left off and laugh a little, call a great race and I‘m sure exciting things will happen.

I noticed that you brought up your experience from IndyCar a few times. Two drastic differences. Why does that apply to NASCAR?

It‘s just a different perspective and gives people a reference point. NASCAR fans watch IndyCar, IndyCar fans watch NASCAR to some degree. I don‘t think just because you‘re talking to a NASCAR audience means there‘s nobody that‘s watched IndyCar before.

On top of that, interesting enough, the cars are leaning a lot more towards IndyCar with the technical changes. Seemingly, on-track it‘s acting a little more like an IndyCar, too. It‘s a good time, I suppose, to be in the booth and have that experience.

How much do you enjoy discussing racing on television?

I do. I think about it like, especially with drivers and some past drivers listening, there‘s probably some differing opinions, but I would disagree with Clint and Jeff sometimes when I would be watching. I‘d be like, ‘No, that‘s not right.‘

As far as giving my opinion, I do my best to give it from my perspective. Even when I raced and someone asked my opinion of something, I can really only give it from my perspective. That‘s the safest way to give it, as opposed to giving a blanket statement about something being a certain way or somebody thinking a certain thing. That‘s a more dangerous territory, so whenever I‘m going a little stronger down the line on things I just own it as my perspective. I think that‘s what is important in broadcasting is there are differing opinions at times and not everybody agrees. [Companies] have made sports shows just about differing opinions, so that‘s a good way to make it interesting. You‘re always going to have fans out there looking at it one way or another. There‘s somebody listening that agrees with you.

I do think about it from an expert standpoint of those people out there watching and I‘m like, ‘Do I know my stuff well enough?‘ Especially if I get a little technical. On the Fox Tuesday meeting call, side-drafting came up and Jamie McMurray was like, ‘Somebody was talking about side-drafting not really working, not really being the same‘ and I was like, ‘I did.‘ I‘m like, ‘Am I right on this or not? I‘m just reporting what I saw. It didn‘t look like anyone could get away from each other, whether one slows down or one doesn‘t slow down enough and they‘re stuck.‘ I though, ‘Man, am I sounding stupid up there?‘ For the most part, the fans aren‘t going to necessarily know what an ex-driver would do.

It‘s been four years since you‘ve competed in NASCAR. I know you started the podcast, but what else have you been up to in your life?

I have two wines, I have the podcast and I just launched a candle company. I also do speaking engagements.

Somnium is one of the wines, and it‘s in Napa Valley. The other is Danica Rosé and that‘s made in France. The candeline is called Voyant, which is made in wine glasses so you have a wine glass when you‘re done. That was inspired by my trip to Egypt and learning about aromas and they‘re physical effects, mental effects, and so I curated four different ones. The speaking engagements is where I speak to groups, sometimes like [Tuesday], it‘s International Woman‘s Day, so I had a couple of things to do. Last week, I was at a Walmart event with Dale Earnhardt Jr. It just varies from week-to-week, but I enjoy doing those.

Do you miss the competition aspect at all?

I think as I get more removed, I can look back fondly and feel like that is pretty hard to recreate, the competition part of it. I think the fulfillment part of it is, setting a goal and achieving it, seeing progress, growing, learning and expanding.

There are some new things I‘m doing that I didn‘t get to do while I was racing. It‘s not really fair to say, but it‘s just less of some and more of other things. Two weeks ago, I was at a retreat in Mexico for nine days. That would not have happened if I was still racing. Nine days of anything doesn‘t happen if I‘m still racing. Being able to do those things and learn, grow in new ways, that‘s stuff I never had time for.

I think it is hard to recreate the competition part of it, but it‘s OK. That was a season of my life and it‘s time to soften up now and realize I don‘t have to put on the armor every weekend and be tough.

Would you ever consider coming back and competing in any form of motorsport?

No, I‘m good. I‘m smart enough to never say never, but I have no desire.

It looks like you‘ll be at some IndyCar and F1 races this year. What other races will you be broadcasting?

I don‘t know what everyone‘s release program is, but it‘s looking like the Indy 500 and the North America F1 races. Ole Danica has a racing schedule again.

I think enough time has gone by where it‘s a fun place to be again.

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