CHARLOTTE, NC - MAY 23: Hall of Fame inductee Richard Petty walks around the NASCAR Hall of Fame on May 23, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Last week, Kyle Petty made some harsh comments about competitor Danica Patrick, saying NASCAR’s only woman is “not a race car driver,” but instead simply a “marketing machine.” Some noted the irony in the fact that Petty was born with the NASCAR equivalent of a silver spoon in his mouth, being the son of Richard Petty.
Other drivers, however, are giving a more detailed analysis in defending Patrick.
“I have to disagree with Kyle,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said Friday at Kentucky Speedway. “I think she’s a tough competitor. She works really hard at what she does and she has run some really good races. On every occasion, she’s outrunning several guys on the circuit.
“If she was not able to compete or not able to run minimum speed or finishing in last place every week, I think you might be able to say Kyle has an argument. But she’s out there running competitively and running strong on several accounts.”
Kevin Harvick, Patrick’s future teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing, specifically noted the learning curve in making the transition from the IndyCar circuit to NASCAR.
“To drive them fast is something that is just not going to happen overnight,” Harvick said. “I don’t know that I would go as far as calling her not a racer because she’s raced her whole life and I think on a continuous learning curve. She’s obviously dedicated at what she does to try to get better and knows she has a lot of hurdles to overcome in a short amount of time.”
Jimmie Johnson, while not commenting on Patrick, specifically, noted the years that it takes drivers to truly adjust to the environment on a NASCAR track.
“IndyCar guys and girls don’t have a lot of side-by-side racing,” Johnson said. “It takes awhile to figure it out. They’re different cars and the racing that takes place on the track — the door-to-door racing. … That’s just something that takes laps.”