Richard Petty is a living legend when it comes to auto racing, but he did not mince words when discussing one of today’s most popular drivers, Danica Patrick.
While making an appearance at the Canadian Motorsports Expo, Petty was asked if Patrick would ever win in the Sprint Cup Series. Wheels.ca passed along Petty's response:
If everybody else stayed home…If she'd have been a male, nobody would ever know if she'd showed up at a racetrack…This is a female deal that's driving her. There's nothing wrong with that, because that's good PR for me. More fans come out, people are more interested in it. She has helped to draw attention to the sport, which helps everybody in the sport.
Despite Petty’s comments, Patrick is the only woman to ever win a major open-wheel race. She finished first in a 2008 IndyCar Series race in Japan and counts six top-10 finishes in the Indy 500 to her resume.
She finished in 27th place in the Sprint Cup standings in 2013 in a season that was highlighted by an eighth-place finish in the Daytona 500 after becoming the first woman to win the pole at the event.
This isn’t the first time a Petty has felt it necessary to comment on Patrick’s presence in the sport. Richard’s son Kyle recently called her a “marketing machine” and “not a race car driver,” per ESPN.
Jim Dunaway of CBS-Birmingham was quick to share his thoughts on Petty's latest comments regarding Patrick:
While Patrick may only have one top-10 finish in 46 races at NASCAR’s highest level, her resume as an overall driver speaks for itself. She may not be an auto-racing legend, but she has proven herself as a capable driver throughout her career despite the increased attention she receives from others involved in the sport.
It will be interesting to see if these comments hover over Patrick as she prepares for the upcoming Daytona 500, which will kick off the 2014 season on Sunday, Feb. 23.
Considering her success there the last time around, another impressive finish would certainly go a long way toward diminishing any merit to Petty's comments about her racing abilities.