Kyle Petty is not a fan of Danica Patrick. During an appearance on the Speed channel’s “NASCAR Race Hub,” the former NASCAR driver was on with host Matt Clarke when he said that Patrick’s success is due to clever marketing rather than her actual skills as a driver.
“That’s where I have a problem,” Petty said. “Where fans have bought into the hype of the marketing, to think she’s a race-car driver. She can go fast, and I’ve seen her go fast. She drives the wheels off it when she goes fast.”
As USA Today points out, Patrick finished eighth at the Daytona 500 in February, after winning the pole at the event. She is the first woman to qualify first at a NASCAR Sprint Cup race. However, she hasn’t placed higher than 12th at any race since then. She’s competed in 26 Sprint Cup races so far.
“She’s not a race-car driver,” Petty said. “There’s a difference. The King [Kyle Petty's father, Richard Petty] always had that stupid saying, but it’s true: ‘Lots of drivers can drive fast, but very few drivers can race.’ Danica has been the perfect example of somebody who can qualify better than what she runs. She can go fast, but she can’t race. I think she’s come a long way, but she’s still not a race-car driver. And I don’t think she’s ever going to be a race-car driver.”
When asked what makes a great driver, Petty replied: “If I knew, I’d be a great driver. I was not a great driver, and I’ll be the first to admit it. I was a journeyman driver. Just like in the NFL or any sport, there are journeyman players.”
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Petty won eight Sprint Cup races during his 30-year career. However, he didn’t win his first race until 1986. He compiled 173 top 10 finishes in 829 races, and also won 8 poles. He also has 11 top-10 finishes in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Dale Earnhardt Jr, Patrick’s former boss, does not agree with Petty’s criticisms of Patrick. “If she was not able to compete, I think you might be able to say Kyle has an argument,” Earnhardt said at the Kentucky Speedway, according to the Associated Press. “But she’s out there running competitively and running strong on several accounts. I think that she has got a good opportunity and a rightful position in the sport to keep competing, and she just might surprise even Kyle Petty.”
Patrick, who is only in her second year in NASCAR, maintained she isn’t bothered by Petty’s critique. “I just think that it’s funny how he said that I can qualify, but I can’t race, because those of you who actually watch what I do would know that I can’t qualify for crap,” Patrick said Friday at the Kentucky Speedway, according to the NASCAR Wire Service via Yahoo Sports. “So it’s a little bit funny.”
“I really don’t care,” she continued. “I don’t. There are plenty of people that say really bad things about me. I hear about them or I read them or I read them on Twitter. People want me to die. I mean, at the end of the day, you just get over that stuff, and all you can do is trust that you’re doing a good job, and that’s all that matters and the people around you believe in you.”