Tony Stewart is one of the most outspoken drivers in NASCAR so it was only a matter of time before he gave his opinion about the recent squabble between Danica Patrick and Richard Petty. He unsurprisingly sided with his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate.
The three-time Sprint Cup champion said the best way for Patrick to prove Petty wrong about his comments that she could only win if nobody else showed up would be to race. Stewart said he would even provide the cars.
I think that (a race) would pretty much settle it once and for all, maybe get him to shut up a little bit, too. I will supply the cars. If he wants to race her, I'll make sure they have exactly the same setup in the car and give him the chance. He can drive one of my 14 cars. I don't care.
Stewart went on to say what Patrick should do if they raced and she won by stating: "If I were her, I'd take (the checkered flag) over there and cram it up his (butt)."
The 76-year-old Petty made waves at the Canadian Motorsports Expo when he said Patrick was only a star because of the female factor, as the ESPN report notes:
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.
To her credit, Patrick has attempted to avoid any type of extended verbal warfare with the NASCAR legend. She knows her results (zero wins, one top-10 finish last season) must improve and battling Petty through the media isn't going to help matters.
Bob Pockrass of the Sporting News provided her remarks from media day, in which she said all she can do is try her best every time out:
You can't try any harder in the car. I think that's something every driver would tell you. When someone questions our effort level, you can't try any harder.
You're doing everything you can. Maybe subconsciously there's some motivation, but I can't tell. I'm giving it my all every single time I get in the car. … It is what it is. People are entitled to their opinions, and that's fine.
As for a race with Petty, it would certainly generate a lot of interest not only among the racing community but throughout the American sports landscape. Perhaps it would also allow Patrick to gain some respect from the Hall of Famer.
ESPN's Buster Olney compares the idea to the Battle of the Sexes tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King:
That said, it's hard to imagine the race actually materializing. Petty has nothing left to prove on the track and wouldn't gain much from beating Patrick. It's an interesting idea, but it probably won't develop into anything more than that.
Moving forward, the best way for Patrick to quiet Petty, and all of the other critics, is starting becoming more competitive on a weekly basis. That doesn't mean she needs to win a bunch of races or contend for the title. Just get in the mix more often.
She enjoyed some success in the Daytona 500 last year, starting on the pole and finishing eighth. If she can have more races like that in 2014, there will be far fewer detractors heading into next season.
It's all about results in the end.