Petty fans flames with Danica critique

Jun. 29, 2013 @ 08:44 PM

Kyle Petty isn’t afraid to voice his opinion.

And so it was on Thursday when the Randleman native let fly his critique of Danica Patrick.
He pontificated views of the anti-Danica crowd, that she can speed around the track but doesn’t really know how to drive a race car, that she has reached racing’s highest levels because she is a “marketing machine” — which is a new way to say she’s there because she can bring money — and that fans follow her because of publicity generated by her being the only female on the Sprint Cup circuit..
To say that she isn’t a race-car driver might be a stretch. She did win in IndyCar and lead laps in the Indianapolis 500. What she hasn’t done so far is gotten the hang of stock-car racing as she plows through her first full season of Cup after getting a little experience in the Nationwide Series.
And, that’s not unusual. Only a handful of open-wheel drivers have been able to make the transition from the lighter IndyCars to the heavier, less-powerful stock cars successfully. One of them is Patrick’s boss Tony Stewart, who has said that Patrick will be brought along methodically.
Patrick isn’t much different than a lot of inexperienced drivers who come along, able to go fast at Daytona and Talladega (tracks where driving ability doesn’t come to play as much) and then not able to go fast on tracks where drivers need skill to go fast.
Petty doesn’t think that she will ever get the hang of things. That’s to be seen. After all, the race at Kentucky Speedway was just her 27th start at the top level.
She does have a long way to go. In her 26 starts she has just one top 10 finish, that in the Daytona 500 this season after starting from the pole. She has been slow most everywhere else, with just two more finishes above 20th.
Petty can relate to being thrown in the deep end also, although he didn’t have to bring sponsorship to do it. He got the opportunity to start his career and the opportunity to extend his career at the end because he was born into a family that fielded race cars and featured a seven-time champion (his father, Richard) and a three-time champ (his grandfather, Lee).
Petty admits that he wasn’t the racer that his father and grandfather were. But he wasn’t slow at the start, finishing in the top 10 ten times in the 13 races he finished in his first full season, 1981.
He admits that he was nothing more than a journeyman driver during his career. He eventually won in his sixth season and went on to eight wins. But, he spent the last decade of his career riding around and finishing outside the top 20 while the Petty team failed to keep up.
But, he did learn what it took to win. It’s too early to tell if Patrick will or won’t get to that level and become something more than a novelty. She said she wasn’t bothered by Petty’s criticism. She still has a lot of time to match Petty’s rate of success.