One day after retired driver and television analyst Kyle Petty made derogatory remarks about her, NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Danica Patrick responded Friday afternoon at Kentucky Speedway.
“Thanks, Kyle. Thanks for motivating me,” Patrick said after Petty called her a “marketing machine” before adding “she’s not a race car driver” on the SPEED show “NASCAR Race Hub.”
The 31-year-old Patrick, who will start 29th in the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet in tonight’s Quaker State 400, is in her first full season in the Sprint Cup series and sits 27th in the standings.
In 26 career starts she owns an average finish of 26.8, including a career-best eighth at this year’s Daytona 500. Patrick’s average starting position has been 33.6.
“I just think that it’s funny how (Petty) said that I can qualify but I can’t race,” Patrick said. “Because those of you who actually watch what I do would know that I can’t qualify for crap, and that in the race things go much better.
“The most important thing to me is I keep my team happy, we’re moving in the right direction, that GoDaddy is happy and that when you walk out of the garage or walk around the track and you meet a little girl who wants to grow up to be like you, you’re doing something right,” she added. “So those are the things that feel right.”
A couple of Patrick’s competitors, including former boss Dale Earnhardt Jr., came to her defense after hearing about Petty’s comments.
“I have to disagree with Kyle,” said Earnhardt Jr., for whom Patrick drove in the Nationwide Series from 2010-12. “I think she is a tough competitor, and she works really hard at what she does.
“If she was not able to compete and not able to run minimum speed or finish in last place every week, I think you might be able to say Kyle has an argument,” Earnhardt Jr. continued. “But she’s out there running competitively and running strong on several accounts. I think that she has got a good opportunity and a rightful position in the sport to keep competing, and she just might surprise even Kyle Petty.”
Kevin Harvick also came to Patrick’s defense, citing her years of racing experience, including seven in the Indy Car Series, before switching to stock cars.
“I don’t know that I would go as far as calling her not a racer because she has raced her whole life, and on a continuous learning curve,” Harvick said. “There is really no good training ground for it anymore in the Nationwide and Truck Series because of the lack of horsepower. It is really hard to understand what you need to drive these cars, and to be able to drive them fast.”
The impetus for Petty’s comments presumably was Wednesday’s release of Forbes’ annual Celebrity 100 list, which ranks the world’s power celebrities. Patrick came in at No. 91.
Patrick said Petty’s comments didn’t bother her because it’s nothing she hasn’t heard before.
“There are plenty of people that say really bad things about me,” she said. “I hear about them or I read them or I read them on Twitter. People want me to die. I mean, at the end of the day you just get over that kind of stuff and all you can do is trust that you’re doing a good job and that’s all that matters and the people around you believe in you.”