"Bummer" is how Danica Patrick described her Friday night as she finished 31st in the Nationwide race at Daytona International Speedway.
She had reason to be upset, too. In one of her best chances to win a NASCAR race, Patrick slammed headfirst into an inside retaining wall with 16 laps remaining and finished in the back of the pack.
"It's just frustrating when that's the case," she said. "What are you going to do?"
Well, she's going to spend Saturday as Coke Zero's digital correspondent. She'll be tweeting live tonight's 400-mile race around the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway.
Playbook chatted with Patrick on Friday afternoon before the Nationwide race to talk about her digital gig and life in the fast lane.
You have already won an IndyCar event. How different will it be to win a NASCAR event?
It takes a lot of hard work. It takes some good luck. It takes being fast and it takes being near the front all the time. That’s how you get your best shot at winning.
How close do you feel you are to winning a NASCAR event?
I have no idea. Back in IndyCar, before I won, I felt like I had a great shot to win on my third IndyCar race or my fourth one, but it took a couple more years than that.
How about comparing a digital correspondent to racing.
Being a digital correspondent for Coke Zero is definitely something that’s new to me. But, at the same time, there’s no pressure, right? I just kind of have fun and be myself and make some funny videos, take some funny pictures. But driving the race car is where the real pressure is, and that’s where the payday is and where the payoff is for all your hard work. So that’s tough to do. And I don’t think I have any competition being the digital correspondent either, right? There’s no race against anyone else. So I win.
Do you spend more time on Facebook or Twitter?
I don’t spend any time on Facebook. We do have a Facebook fan page, but I don’t really spend any time on that. I spend all my time on Twitter. And I’m going to be working double duty this weekend because I’m taking over Coke Zero's Twitter account. So be sure to follow me and follow Coke Zero and check out what I post.
With more than 600,000 followers on Twitter, how social-media savvy are you?
Well, I think social media is a tough one, because everyone gets their own opinion on it all. But I try to just be myself. The only thing is you can’t have too many opinions. That doesn’t mean I can’t post pictures and say what I’m doing; I just can’t express my opinion too much. I won’t say I’m super-savvy, but I don’t think you’re supposed to be. It’s supposed to be natural.
Do you interact with your followers?
Yeah, that’s a slippery slope. I’ve definitely answered a few people for sure here and there -- some really big fans, the people that follow me and write a lot of things. But there are so many of them that I try to not do much with interaction. I figure it easier so people won’t get mad that they didn’t get their question answered but someone else did. So I do try to keep that at a minimum. I am very appreciative of all the people who send in their questions and comments, and I read a lot of them -- even the mean ones. So don’t be mean.
Do you feel like you have to show your toughness more than a man has to?
No, I just think that it comes from within. I think it comes from my parents. My dad is pretty tough, and I know that’s where I get it. With people, what you see is their personality, you know? It’s hard to hide it or change it or be somebody totally different when you’re put on the spot and you’re in an adrenaline moment where you’re just working off reflexes and instincts. There’s not a lot of time to think about how you should act, even though sometimes I should.
Are you sick of sports journalists talking about your looks, as I am guilty of now?
Well, I feel like it’s a broad enough question that I could say if they’re saying nice things about me, then that never gets old. I’m very flattered by it; it’s OK. I know that it’s part of who I am. I know that it’s part of what has allowed me the opportunities that I’ve had and allowed me great sponsors like Coke and like Go Daddy and all the other partners on the way. So I don’t mind it at all. If you’re talking about me in a nice way, go ahead.
What are your goals and expectations for the remainder of the 2012 season?
I would love to get to Victory Lane, of course. I think things are going well in the Nationwide Series. I’m getting faster every weekend and especially on some of the kinds of tracks I struggled on, like short tracks. But, again, it’s a process. While I don’t think our results have necessarily been exactly what I feel like we should have had along the way, I’m definitely faster throughout the whole weekend -- every weekend -- than I ever have been. Qualifying is going better, and we just need to catch a break here and win the race.