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The King Is Close In His Assessment Of Danica

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, February 12 2014

Richard Petty says Danica Patrick won't be winning Sprint Cup races anytime soon. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Erik J. Perel)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Last weekend, Richard Petty had some interesting things to say about Danica Patrick, the current state of racing in NASCAR, and how those two entities connect. None of it was very flattering to Patrick as a race car driver nor NASCAR as racing series driven by actual racing.

After giving it all a good read, one is left to wonder if it was grumpy old-dude talk or the must-be-considered views by one of the sport’s all-time greats.

The vote here is for the latter.

The setting was a visit to Toronto, Canada. Petty, the winner of a record 200 Cup races as a driver, was there to be part of the Canadian Motorsports Expo. He fielded questions from the media about Patrick and NASCAR and his answers were published on the Wheels.ca website.

It was the Patrick stuff that got the most attention.

Petty said that Patrick, who will be competing in her second full season as a Sprint Cup driver this year, would win a Cup race only “if everybody else stayed home.”

Not buying that.

Patrick would have a reasonable chance to win a race if others were on the track; as long as the others were driving equipment fielded by the likes of Front Row Motorsports, Tommy Baldwin Racing or JTG Daugherty Racing. She might even win a race at which everybody shows up – if that race is of the restrictor plate variety.

See, perhaps the most telling thing about Patrick and her rookie-year foray into Cup was not where she finished races, but who ran near her during the races and who finished behind her. That is, who she was beating. And that would be drivers like David Stremme, David Gilliland, Casey Mears, J.J. Yeley and top tier drivers who either wrecked or had mechanical problems. That is, she was running with and finishing ahead of merely decent drivers from third-tier teams.

Patrick ran with and finished near those folks even though she herself was driving top-tier Stewart-Haas/Hendrick Motorsports equipment that was being tuned by the best engineers and wrenches in the garages.

And the rookie excuse got thinner with each race.

Week after week, fans would hear people employed by NASCAR television partners say what a great job Patrick was doing for a rookie. What a great move that was or what a wonderful move this was.

The thing is, this is The Show. Even rookies are expected to be racy commensurate with the level of their resources. And when those rookies come in to the sounds of trumpets and drums, there had better be a payoff in performance (See: Joey Logano).

Patrick is not some teen-ager coming up from quarter midgets. She is a 30-something, well-seasoned pro who started over 100 races in the extremely competitive and professional IndyCar Series.

No, Indycars are not stock cars but, racing is racing. The good ones figure out how to translate and cross-pollinate – especially when inserted into top equipment.

Patrick may be a totally different driver in 2014. The light in the head my flick on and flick on brightly she may prove the negatoids – even Petty – wrong.

And if she does suddenly get it, her story will be even more noteworthy because during 2013, as Petty alluded to, Patrick looked lost behind he wheel.

With NASCAR’s blessing, Patrick was The Story a year ago. She continued to be that through the summer and fall. The smallest signs of life in her game were seized upon and bannered. The media was still doing her PR for her work well into the autumn.

Why? Petty offered up his answer in Toronto. Race time, he told Wheels.ca, has become show time.

“When NASCAR Cup racing first started, it was racing,” he said. “Over a period of years, with our sponsorships, what we had to do for TV, to get the fans to come, the first thing you know is that the race is secondary, because all the rest of it is buildup, buildup, buildup.”

And Patrick, he says, is little more than a star of the show.

Nothing wrong with that, Petty quickly adds. It helps everybody in modern NASCAR. It even helps Petty, a team owner himself.

Petty didn’t say he doesn’t want Patrick to win a race simply because she is a female or even because she is more about packaging than content. He didn’t say anything that could remotely be called sexist in Canada.

And he wasn’t ripping the buildup, buildup, buildup or show time. On the contrary.

No, Petty was not being disrespectful in his remarks on Patrick and NASCAR in the 2000s. He was simply being honest and how refreshing is that?

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, February 12 2014


  • Michael says:

    Danica will probably win a restrictor plate race this year…of course those aren’t real races either but she will have three teammates pushing and blocking for her in the July Daytona and Spring Dega race. Getting her to victory lane in one of those two races will be the only reason the other three team cars are out there. BET ON IT.

    And speaking of the Show, if you want to win all but guaranteed money bet on the 3 being on the pole next week for the 500. BET ON IT.

    Don’t forget that Parker Kliegerman outran Danica in his first cup start driving start and park equipment. If she didn’t look good in a bikini she would still be driving go-karts on her own dime. FACT.

    If you want to see a talented female get a ride based on merit instead of looks pressure the team owners to give Johanna Long a chance is halfway decent equipment. Too bad it won’t happen because she isn’t a size 2.

  • Steven says:

    Richard Petty was a great driver and team owner. All the Petty people say stupid stuff in public. That is just their way. Danica Patrick is extremely talented in sensitive open wheel racer car. She came very close to being the first woman to win the Indy 500. Nascar is not going to be her best chance at winning races. She will never beat Jimmie Johnson for the championship. Danica Patrick is great for all forms of racing and getting people to buy tickets and to bring their children and family to the racetracks. Danica Patrick makes a ton of money now and is very happy. I am sure she will win at least one race in 2014, but she does not have to. Ask Juan Pablo Montoya how that feels. I would guess Danica Patrick could buy Petty Enterprises if she wanted to, but she is much to smart to do something foolish like that.

  • kelly says:

    Sad times, the man was asked his opinion and he gave it, his opinion happens also to be fact. It is indeed the sad state of affairs that Nascar has become. Nascars paid media still promotes, talks, praises everything Danica..(soon to be the return of the Why? Danica is insulting to the sport, it cheapens the top tier series by having basically a bikini model run laps in the back. What does that say to what our sport has become? She has no business posing with the team pictures of SHR, she should be in the background just handing them the check from Go Daddy. What a joke. And millions know she is a joke, only her and Brian France don’t get it. She is shameless. As for the barage of putdowns at Kyle Petty, what does that have to do with an honest fact stated by a family that really do know racing. Kyle has won 8 and that is 8 more than Sparkle Pony, so when she gets win 9, then start with the jokes. I never robbed a store, so does that mean I cannot comment on dumb it is?

  • Rita Jean says:

    As an informed fan of RACING and smart individual, I found the entire Petty interview online. Only a few sentences were posted in the standard Nascar media format. The interview in itself was entirely IN context and he said nothing wrong.
    I appreciate Racin’ Today and their reporting.

  • Philip James says:

    Okay, you moron… how about this… if Danica wins a race, then both you and that fossil named Richard Petty should have to put on a dress, a wig, lipstick and high heels and have to walk across the finish line at the next track after she wins.
    Do you have the balls to agree to that?
    As for your logic in the article, it is juvenile and pretty damn stupid. If we take your logic, then Amirola (who has not won and has way more experience in stock cars) should be let go from RPM as he appears to be a useless driver under Petty’s expectations. How about just dumping all the drivers who finished 25th or worse in points last year? Who needs them?
    I know Petty liked his woman to be barefoot, pregnant, keeping her mouth shut and staying in the kitchen while he went out racing, having a good time, drinking and screwing other women but that is a little 1950’s isn’t it?

    • Jim McLaurin says:

      Morons should be careful about calling others “moron.”

    • Count Culo says:

      You obviously know NOTHING about Richard Petty… out drinking &screwing while his wife stayed home??.. not hardly.. Linda had her station wagon for the kids & their gear.. they were usually to be found in the infield anywhere Richard was competing if the kids weren’t in school.. Drinking??.. Richard Petty??.. so clueless.. this is the man who refused to put a Busch sticker on ANY of his cars due to his TOTAL abstinence from alcohol.. even though at the time that meant giving up both the ole money (posted by Busch) AND a slot to tun in the Busch clash… that’s why the ALCOHOL FREE grandstand at Atlanta is known as The Richard Petty Grandstand…so next time you feel like flapping your jaws.. ya MIGHT want to stick with something you have SOME information on…

      • NASCAR Nutered Fords says:

        You are wrong about why Petty never put the Busch decal on his cars. The reason he did not put them on was because his own mother was against it. He honored his mother and never put the decals on his cars.

        Petty is correct in what he says about Patrick.

    • scott william says:

      Is Philip the kind of na$car fan they want to attract….?
      One that has nothing but insults and no facts as to why Richard is wrong….? because he’s not…

  • Bob Kirby says:

    Petty should easily be able to point out a substandard driver. He is the father of one. Kyle comments are as stupid as the one made by his father. His pony tailed has been pulled up to tight for too many years.

    • NASCAR Nutered Fords says:

      Kyle has always been up front in admitting he is not a great driver and was pretty much average. But he did win some races something Dastink up the show Patrick does not do. She lucked out in her only Indy car win due to fuel mileage.

      So for all her years in pro level racing she has one luck out fuel mileage win to her name.

      Patrick is a joke plain and simple.

  • Russ says:

    It does speak volumes IMHO that in a sport desperate to get any kind of attention she consistently is one of the most hotly debated subjects. Far more so than the racing itself.
    Tells a lot about the state of the sport.