Richard Petty, Danica Patrick

Richard Petty was all smiles at Daytona International Raceway while Danica Patrick was all business in the garage. (John Raoux / Associated Press; Jamie Squire / Getty Images)

Danica Patrick is trying to avoid the debris field while Richard Petty is holding his ground following his critical comments last week that many have deemed sexist when he said Patrick could win a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race only "if everybody else stayed home."

Patrick responded with the obligatory "everyone's entitled to their opinion" during media day at Daytona International Raceway. In comments to the Orlando Sentinel's George Diaz this weekend, she continued to maintain an even keel.

“There are people who like me, who really don't like me, believe in me, will never believe in me,” Patrick said. “I think everybody deals with it on some level.”

Petty, on the other hand, was on the defensive Saturday night before the running of the Sprint Unlimited exhibition race at Daytona.

“If her name had been Danny, OK, nobody would have said anything about it," Petty said in reference to discussing a male stock-car driver. "So, y'all are bringing up the sexist part of it, not me.”

Except Petty, the original "king" of NASCAR, kept mentioning he wasn't a sexist.

“It was definitely not sexist, OK?" Petty retorted. "Hey, look, I've been married 55 years to the same woman. So I am not a sexist by any ways. I love women.”

Another Orlando Sentinel columnist, Mike Bianchi, went so far as to write that Petty was a hypocrite because his son, Kyle, "was a pedestrian driver who went the final 13 years of his career without ever winning a race but still managed to get paid handsomely." Bianchi pointed out that other offspring and relatives of NASCAR stars have had their tickets to a ride punched because of nepotism.

"Richard Petty is a hypocrite," wrote Bianchi. "He seems to believe Danica Patrick only has a big-time NASCAR ride because she is an attractive female with vast marketing potential. And you know what? He's mostly right. But here's the hypocritical part Petty and so many of the other good ol' boys in racing never tell you: A lot of their own kids wouldn't have had big-time NASCAR rides if they weren't related to famous fathers or grandfathers."

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