Please, Danica Patrick, riddle me this
INDIANAPOLIS -- One of the perks of being a journalist is getting the opportunity to interview people you admire, respect, fear, loathe, agree/disagree with or sometimes just plain don't care about.
I've been a car racing enthusiast since I was 9 years old, so having the chance to talk to drivers, engineers, crew members, team principals, series officials and fans on a regular basis is a privilege. We've had some great conversations on and off the record over the years, and I'm lucky that a few people I once considered heroes I can now call friends.
There are exceptions, of course. My favorite race car driver when I was a kid was three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda, and when I finally got the chance to spend a few minutes with "The Rat" in 1999 he lived up to his reputation as a bit of a well, rat. But for every less-than-stellar experience like that, there have been positive encounters with the likes of Mario Andretti and Rick Mears that more than made up for it.
One of the challenges of interviewing is being able to ask all the questions you want, mainly because of time constraints. If you have 15 minutes scheduled with somebody and a list of 15 questions, you're not going to get them all in, especially with interview subjects who stray off topic or launch into their own agenda and effectively seize control of the interview.
With that in mind, here are some questions that I've never been able to ask key characters in the Izod IndyCar Series, whether because of lack of time, lack of opportunity or just plain professional decorum. Some are serious, some are tongue-in-cheek and some are just plain cheeky
Since USAC racing has proved to be an effective path to NASCAR over the last 20 years, do you really believe that USAC drivers still care about racing Indy cars?
Would you rather ride a rodeo bull into the ring or strap into a race car for some hot laps at Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
• To their legendary team owner, Roger Penske: When was the last time you got eight consecutive hours of sleep?
Are you really the most powerful man in Detroit?
• To Penske's chief rival, Chip Ganassi: Do the constant comparisons between you and Penske piss you off?
Is there a nice side to you that most of us don't know about?
• To fellow team owner Kevin Kalkhoven: What was the tab for KV Racing Technology's 40-odd crashes in 2010?
How many air miles do you rack up on your Gulfstream in an average year?
When was the last time you flew commercial?
• To Indy Racing League founder Tony George: How much of your family's fortune did you really spend on forming and sustaining the IRL?
Was it worth it?
How did you celebrate hammering that final nail into the coffin of CART/Champ Car?
Why did you walk away from leadership of the IRL after you won the war?
• To Danica Patrick: Are you really enjoying the NASCAR experience, or is it just a calculated cash-grab?
If it wasn't your fault, who was to blame for your poor qualifying performance at Indianapolis in 2010?
Are you really happy with the risqué image that sponsor GoDaddy.com has bestowed upon you?
• To Tony Kanaan: After eight years with the four-car Andretti Autosport mega-team, will it be a relief to downsize to de Ferran Dragon Racing's single-car operation?
Was Danica really as bad a teammate at AA as it looked like from the outside?
• To Milka Duno: Are you aware of the amount of scorn and ridicule you receive from the media and your fellow drivers?
With your dismal track record, do you really think you deserve to be allowed to compete in a top-level racing series?
• To Marco Andretti: If you lost your ride with your dad's team, would you be willing or able to put in the amount of work that Graham Rahal did in 2010 to continue his Indy car career?
• To Michael Andretti: Do you think that the environment between the drivers on your team is as toxic as it appears to outsiders?
Will that culture improve in 2011 without Kanaan in the mix, or will it take another year to clear up because it's actually Patrick's fault?
• To Dario Franchitti: Are you mad because you aren't as big a mainstream star as a driver with your record deserves to be?
• To Dan Wheldon: Do you wish the IndyCar Series would revert to running exclusively on ovals?
• To Justin Wilson: How the heck do you fit that 6-foot-4 frame into the tiny cockpit of an Indy car?
I'm sure if any of the above people read this story, they'll have some questions for me. So I'd best start getting ready to come up with some good answers. See you at the track in 2011!
John Oreovicz covers open-wheel racing for ESPN.com.