Kyle Petty Was Not Wrong About Danica Patrick...And Yet He Was Wrong

Jim FolsomContributorJune 30, 2013

Danica Patrick is a lightning rod of commentary in 2013
Danica Patrick is a lightning rod of commentary in 2013Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

How can Kyle Petty be both right and wrong at the same time? Well, it's not easy, but somehow he managed to pull it off with his critical analysis of Danica Patrick this past week.

Petty made the comment that Patrick can drive fast when qualifying but she is not a race car driver. Perhaps had he been more clear about his definition of what a race car driver is, it may have helped.

What Petty was perhaps trying to say is that Sprint Cup is the "Major Leagues" of racing. Everybody at this level is a great driver. But just like in baseball, there are stars and there are the rest of the players. The talent difference between Miguel Cabrera and a .220 hitter is not all that much when you are including the general population. The .220 hitter is still among the greatest players in the world.

Patrick is still among the best race car drivers in the world. If you put her at a local half-mile dirt track in Anywhere, USA on a Saturday night, she would smoke the competition. But put her among the best drivers in the world, and she has trouble keeping up. I don't think anyone is denying this.

So what? Does that mean she should not show up? Are there better drivers in the Nationwide or Truck Series that should be in her seat?

Does anyone really think that if Tony Stewart finds a better driver that he won't hesitate to put him (or her) in the car?

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

Yes, Petty is right that there is an upper echelon of Sprint Cup drivers. There is a place where those drivers end up. It's called the Hall of Fame. Only a select few make it there. Does that mean the rest of the drivers who raced in NASCAR in the past were wasting their time and ours?

If NASCAR is going to put 43 cars on the track every week, she only has to be among the best 43 drivers in the sport. If she gets to the point she is not, then take her spot. If she is, then she has every right to be out there.

Petty also criticized her for being a marketing machine. What's wrong with that? If she was just a really attractive female that makes a lot of money having her picture taken, would that be a problem? If GoDaddy waves a big check in front of her for wearing a bathing suit, should she turn it down? Look at her as a spokesperson who drives a race car if that makes you feel better.

Some are put off by a driver who has a tough time finishing in the top 25 each week getting so much attention. But consider that no matter where she finishes, she is the top of her gender each week, which makes her numero uno among half the planet's population. So what is the media to do, ignore that?

Danica was the first female ever to win a pole. Sorry, but that is big news. When something happens that never has before, it's a big deal. The fact that she did it in the "Super Bowl" of the sport only made it that much bigger. If you have a problem with that, suck it up.

Fans are going to be curious about Patrick. It's only natural. If there was an African American driver, a driver with a disability, a driver in his 70s, or any other unusual circumstance, people would be interested in how he did every week, too.

Kyle Petty should know this better than most, because he was always under the microscope despite being a back-of-the-pack driver because of his last name.

My question to Petty would be: "So what do you want? Do you want her to get off the track? Or do you want the media to ignore her?" If either of those are your answer then, why?

I agree, there is Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and the guys who are contenders and then there is David Reutimann, Eric Almirola, David Stremme, Joe Nemecheck, Juan Pablo Montoya and Danica. He is right about that.