Danica Patrick's former boss, Dale Earnhardt Jr., is coming to her defense as analyst Kyle Petty continues to criticize her driving ability.
Petty, like many people, is critical of the hype Patrick gets compared with her accomplishments on the track. Though she did become the first woman to win an IndyCar race and capture a Sprint Cup pole position, when she finished eighth at the Daytona 500 in February, Petty said during a Fox Sports program that it's "too late" for the 30-year-old Patrick to become a contender.
“That's where I have a problem,” Petty said on "Racing Hub" Thursday. “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.”
Critics such as Petty can point to the fact that Patrick, who now drives for Steward-Haas Racing, has on average started in 32nd place and finished 26th in Sprint Cup races this season.
Petty, an eight-time Sprint Cup winner and son of legendary NASCAR champion Richard "The King" Petty, quoted his father when describing Patrick's efforts.
“She's not a race car driver," he said. "There's a difference. The King 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.”
Earnhardt, who gave Patrick her start on the second-tier Nationwide Series more than three years ago, said Friday that he disagrees with Petty's assessment.
“If she was not able to compete, I think you might be able to say Kyle has an argument," Earnhardt said. "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.”
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