But while she may be a "marketing machine," according to former driver Kyle Petty, she is not, he said, "a race car driver."
In an interview that aired Thursday on SPEED's "NASCAR Race Hub," Petty said that Patrick "is a hot commodity and rightfully so.
"In a market where everybody that crawls into a race car on a Sunday afternoon in Cup racing is male; she's the female," Petty said. "I don't have a problem with her being a marketing machine -- more power to her."
Asked where he felt Patrick currently stood as a driver, Petty said fans have bought into the marketing hype. "She can go fast, and I've seen her go fast," he said. "She drives the wheels off it when she goes fast."
But, he said, "she's not a race car driver. There's a difference.
" ? 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. And I don't think she's ever going to be a race car driver."
She won't ever be, he said, "because I think it's too late to learn."
Patrick was recently named to the Forbes Celebrity 100, a listing of the 100 most powerful celebrities of 2013 as determined by the magazine. She is in her first full season competing in the Cup series, driving the GoDaddy.com No. 10 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing.
She is 27th in the points standings. Earlier this year, she became the first female to capture the pole for the season-opening Daytona 500. Her eighth-place finish in that race has been her only top-10 result to date.
Petty is the son of seven-time champion Richard Petty and the grandson of Lee Petty, a three-time series champion. Both Richard and Lee Petty are members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
An eight-time winner in Cup, Kyle Petty said he didn't know what determines good and great drivers.
"If I knew," he said, "I'd be a great driver.
"I was not a great driver, and I'll be the first to admit it. I was a journeyman driver. Just like in the NFL or any sport, there are journeyman players."
Patrick, who wrapped up a two-day test session at New Hampshire Motor Speedway earlier this week, was unavailable for comment. She is scheduled to meet with the media here at Kentucky Speedway on Friday.
FULL SERIES COVERAGE
- Motor Racing
- Sports & Recreation
- Kyle Petty
- race car driver
- Richard Petty