Rekindling the debate about Danica Patrick’s racing skills, legendary NASCAR champion Richard Petty reportedly said she could win only if she was the sole driver on the track.
While appearing at the Canadian Motorsports Expo in Toronto on Sunday, Petty was asked if she would ever visit Victory Lane in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series.
“If everybody else stayed home,” Petty replied, according to a story on the website Wheels.ca. But Petty, 76, who won a record 200 NASCAR races and co-owns his own Cup team, said Patrick nonetheless was good for stock car racing.
“If she’d been a male, nobody would ever know if she’d showed up at a race track,” Petty said. “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,” he said. “She has helped to draw attention to the sport, which helps everybody in the sport.”
Patrick, 31, is a former IndyCar Series driver who had one victory in seven years in that series, during which she also became one of the nation’s most famous and well-paid sports figures. She then moved to NASCAR and last year completed her first full season in the Cup series.
Driving for the Stewart-Haas Racing team, she finished 27th in the point standings without a victory and one top-10 finish.
Last June, Petty’s son Kyle -- a former Cup driver and now a NASCAR television analyst -- said Patrick was “not a race-car driver.”
“I don’t have a problem with her being a marketing machine,” Kyle Petty said. “She can go fast, but she can’t race.”
Patrick at the time responded by saying, “I don’t really care” about the remarks. “You just get over that kind of stuff.”