There were no exotic vacations for Danica Patrick this winter. No Australia, no safaris, just hearth-and-home Thanksgiving and Christmas with her parents in wonderfully snowy Indianapolis. An offseason of filming Super Bowl ads and tending to other business obligations kept her sufficiently in transit otherwise. It was enough to make a person forget where she was when she woke up in the middle of the night.
espnW: How did the shooting of the Super Bowl ads go this year?
Danica Patrick: Really good. I'm in two. The one I'm in for .CO, I'm just a little blurb, a small part in it, a little punch line in it. The GoDaddy one I'm in, basically, the whole thing. It depends if they punch in for close-ups or whatever, of course, but that's going to be really great. That's the one with Bar Refaeli.
espnW: That's how you pronounce her name?
DP: I asked her. I said it and I always feel like I've heard it pronounced Ra-fael-i. But it's Reff-ae-eli.
She was really nice and very sweet, and so pretty. You're like ... you have to look away for a second. So pretty, you know, one of those naturally beautiful women without makeup. She has great hair, and she's really cool. She's nice. She was a real trooper. She did a good job.
espnW: Do you ever get starstruck meeting or working with other famous people? I think there's a misperception that the famous all know each other and are comfortable around each other.
DP: I was a little starstruck with Bar at the shoot. I love fashion and pretty models. I just love to look at those magazines. And she was in the [Sports Illustrated] swimsuit issue the same time that I was.
I remember she did an interview, it was when IndyCar came to get a couple of sound bites from people, and they said, "What do you think of Danica being in the issue? How did she do as a rookie and not a swimsuit model necessarily?'' And she said, "Oh, I thought she was a model. I didn't realize she was an athlete or race car driver'' or whatever. I told her that story and told her it was the best compliment she could give me.
Sometimes you do [get starstruck]. Yeah, of course. It was a big deal to meet Jay-Z and Beyoncé when I did the video. Miranda [Lambert] was a huge deal, but she's Southern, so you feel comfortable right away. I think any time you meet someone who is a real popular person, there's a little bit of me trying not to geek out.
espnW: Traveling as much as you do, have you ever forgotten where you are?
DP: Absolutely. Actually, I woke up the very first night in L.A. [during the Super Bowl ad shoot], and I didn't know where I was. That happens a lot. I was surprised that happened the first night of the year on a trip. … If there's a lot of different nights in different hotels, I can forget where I am. It's usually in the middle of the night, and you wake up in the dark. I don't know if it's because I'm old or I drink more water than I did when I was younger, but I always have to pee in the middle of the night, and so I get up. It's that time when you get up and you think, "How ... do ... I ... get to the bathroom right now?'' Because I am not turning the light on. It's usually that point in time when I'm really thinking about where I am.
I have definitely walked the wrong way. I have not put my face into a wall yet, but I have hit my shins against things. And I walk very slow, and I shuffle and my hands are way out in front of me and beside me.
espnW: Your eyesight is pretty bad anyway, right, so it must be even worse without your contacts?
DP: So when they're out at night, it makes it even harder to see in the dark, because you don't pick up any dots of light anywhere. It's just a blur, so you have like no reference. And I am really blind, like über-blind.
espnW: If you took your contacts out right now, what would you see?
DP: You'd be blurry, until I got to about right here [puts finger about a foot away].
espnW: Do racing sanctioning bodies have any concerns about a driver losing a contact during a race, going rather fast rather unsafely?
DP: I feel like that could happen, I suppose. Thank God you have another one. I remember the only time it ever happened to me was my very first race I did in England, when I was 16. It was the very first winter series race I did. I was up at a racetrack called Croft [Circuit]. And I lost two contacts that weekend. That was 1998.
espnW: The Bears' season couldn't have turned out as you hoped. Did coach Lovie Smith get a fair deal?
DP: My dad thought it was time for him to go. My dad is like me in a sense that our temperament is the same, and we're really passionate. He's even more extreme than me, so he didn't like that [Smith] didn't really get animated at all, so he read that as, like, not caring. That's one fan's perspective, and I thought there were a lot of people that probably like [Smith], too.
They did win a lot of games. They just didn't win at the right time, or win quite enough. They've been good the last few years, which is nice. I suppose the organization is that close to getting to the playoffs or Super Bowl every year, and they want to get there.
espnW: Any fun vacations this winter?
DP: No, I went to see my folks in Indy for Thanksgiving, and I went back for Christmas. That was kind of my travel over the winter. I took the time to spend time with family this year, which was nice.
espnW: Your last name is Patrick, but neither you nor your father, T.J., exudes much Irish-ness, if that's a word. What's going on here? I've heard you describe your father to a security guard at Daytona as a "Mexican-looking guy."
DP: He totally is, I think. His nickname is Pablo. I don't look Irish, either. I guess the mustache is what made him look kind of Mexican. Maybe his coloring. He missed the Italian we got and went to sort of more of a Mexican look. I'm half Norwegian, a quarter Irish and the last part is French-Canadian, American Indian and Italian. I think I look more American Indian and Italian than anything, and that's the smallest parts of me.