Woody: Sounding A Sour Note In Nashville
By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
Nashville – The record cold spell that hit Nashville last week was interrupted by a blast of hot air from Kyle Petty.
Petty, a driver-turned-TV commentator, was among the lineup of luminaries at the annual Sound & Speed Fan Festival, and he stole the headlines with a swipe at Danica Patrick.
Kyle criticized Patrick’s impending move to NASCAR. That’s OK – he’s entitled to his opinion – but I thought he put an unnecessarily mean-spirited spin on it.
Petty called Patrick “just a marketing machine. Let’s look at the facts and be blunt about it.”
Talk about the kettle taking a cheap shot at the pot.
There’s never been a “marketing machine” in the history of NASCAR to parallel the Petty’s. Kyle got his ride because of his family name and the influence of his famous father.
Danica got no similar career break because her name is “Patrick.”
I say this as a longtime admirer of the Petty family. Over the years I interviewed and wrote about Lee, Richard, Kyle and Adam, and even the Petty women; Linda, Pattie and Kyle’s daughter Montgomery Lee who attended college in Nashville. I was fond of them all, and Richard remains my all-time favorite.
I don’t want to be unkind to Kyle but since he brought up the subject of winning, he didn’t exactly set the woods on fire during his driving days: eight wins, the last coming in 1995. When Kyle parked it last year, Danica had won more recently than had he.
I realize that Petty is now a commentator and it’s fair to question whether Patrick can make the transition to stock cars. But what’s not fair is to point out that some, like Dario Franchitti, failed, while failing to note all those who succeeded: Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Tony Stewart and – at least promisingly – Juan Pablo Montoya.
Petty is not the only one to take unfair swipes at Danica. For some reason an anti-Patrick bias exists among many fans, drivers and media members.
I don’t know why. Fans should welcome Patrick; a fresh face and a lively personality amid a stale lineup of drivers that has grown increasingly dull and predictable.
Ditto for the media: Don’t they tire of reporting about the same handful of PR-programmed drivers week after week, race after race? Danica is a major news-maker and Kyle as a member of the media should recognize – and welcome – that fact.
As for drivers, in case they haven’t been paying attention, their sport is about to dry up and blow away due to dwindling interest. NASCAR is approaching the moribund point where the Indy Racing League was a few years ago when Patrick arrived and single-handedly revived it.
I suspect that most of the Danica backlash among drivers is pure jealousy. They have worked long and hard to build a career and resent a swimsuit model getting breaks only because of (they claim) her looks and personality. They should be smart enough to realize that her presence will benefit them by benefiting their sport.
Critics should at least give Patrick credit for what she’s already accomplished in NASCAR: Even before she runs her first race she has generated more interest and attention than Jimmie Johnson did by winning his fourth championship.
As a member of the media, Kyle should ask himself these questions: Would he rather get a sit-down interview with Danica Patrick or Jimmie Johnson? Which would be the most compelling? Which would attract the most viewers?
I know the answer. You know the answer. Kyle knows the answer.
Nobody knows if Patrick will succeed in NASCAR. Not even Danica, and certainly not her critics. They should take a deep breath, ease off, and give her a chance.
If she flops, there will be plenty of time for them to gleefully pile on later.
– Larry Woody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments