|"I don't think she's ever going to be a race car driver."|
Speaking on Thursday’s NASCAR Race Hub on SPEED, Petty said of Patrick, "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. I think she's come a long way, but she's still not a race car driver. I don't think she's ever going to be a race car driver, (it’s) too late to learn."
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. took issue with Petty’s statements, saying, “I have to disagree with Kyle. I think she is a tough competitor and she works really hard at what she does. She has run some really good races.
“On every occasion she is out running several guys out on the circuit,” Earnhardt said. “If she was not able to compete and run minimum speed, or finished in last place every week, I think you might be able to say Kyle has an argument. But she’s out there running competitively and running strong on several accounts.
“I think she has got a good opportunity and a rightful position in the sport to keep competing. She just might surprise even Kyle Petty.”
Patrick has struggled in her first full season of Sprint Cup competition, currently ranking 27th in points with a single Top-10 finish. Her only Top-10 of the season came in the 11th of her 26 starts to date. By comparison, Petty claimed a Top-10 finish in his first career start at Talladega in 1979, and managed 21 Top-10 finishes in first 80 starts. His first win did not come until his 149th career Winston Cup Series start, in his sixth season of full-time competition and his eighth overall.
Kevin Harvick called Petty’s comments, “a loaded gun,” adding, “This is hard to do.
|Patrick is a target again|
“There is really no good training ground for it anymore in the Nationwide and Truck Series because of the lack of horsepower,” he said. “It is really hard to understand what you need to drive these cars, and to be able to drive them fast. It is not something that is going to happen overnight.
“I don’t know that I would go as far as calling her `not a racer,’ because she has raced her whole life… on a continuous learning curve. She’s obviously dedicated at what she does to try and get better, and knows she has a lot of hurdles to overcome in a short amount of time.”
Five-time series champion Jimmie Johnson also defended Patrick, saying a Sprint Cup car has little or nothing in common with Indy Cars, where Patrick competed before moving to NASCAR.
“When I look at the vehicles, the way you make them handle, the downforce numbers and the mechanical grip… the Cup car has a lot of mechanical grip and very little downforce,” he said. “It’s just the opposite for an IndyCar."
He also said the style of competition is dramatically different between the two series.
“IndyCar guys and girls don’t (do) a lot of side-by-side racing. It’s like a restrictor plate track, running wide-open. It’s not the competitive passing and racing and fighting for position like you see in NASCAR, and it takes a while to figure it out."
Harvick said Patrick is “fortunate to have a sponsor that is willing to back her and take those learning experiences with her. Hopefully as the weeks progress, she’ll get better and better.
“I couldn’t imagine coming in here having two-and-a-half years of stock car experience, and expect to be competitive knowing what all this entails. It’s hard, and it’s not going to get easier. There’s nowhere to figure out how to drive them, other than on the race track on Sunday or Saturday.
“They are just hard to drive.”
Harvick called criticism like Petty’s “the unfair part of being really popular. In (Danica’s) case, she obviously has a lot of attention and things that come with it. She seems to have become kind of immune to it. I think she is realistic with her goals and understands that she has a lot to learn."
He also offered her some unsolicited advice on how to deal with critics, saying, “It is easier just to turn it all off, not read it, not listen to it. At some point, whether it is her, myself, Dale, Jr. or Tony Stewart; you are going to be criticized and you are not going to like it if you read.
"It is easier to just not pay attention to it.”