Here we go again.
Seven-time NASCAR champion Richard Petty said Sunday that Danica Patrick would win in the Sprint Cup Series “(Only) if everybody else stayed home."
He made the comments to Wheels.ca, a Canadian automotive site. Petty was in Toronto for the Canadian Motorsports Expo. However, he also talked about how Patrick's presence in NASCAR was good for the sport because of the attention that she brings. Petty is the owner of Richard Petty Motorsports
“If she’d have been a male, nobody would ever know if she’d showed up at a race track,” Petty said. “This is a female deal that’s driving her. There’s nothing wrong with that, because that’s good PR for me. More fans come out, people are more interested in it. She has helped to draw attention to the sport, which helps everybody in the sport.”
That part is undeniable. The Danica Patrick phenomenon is fueled largely by the fact that she's a photogenic woman in a male-dominated sport. And it's also undeniable that Patrick has won one major-series race in her career; the 2008 Indy Japan 300.
Last year, Petty's son Kyle, said that Patrick was "not a race car driver." After winning the pole for the season-opening Daytona 500 and finishing 8th, Patrick didn't finish in the top 10 again in 2013, her first full Sprint Cup Series season. She was 27th in the standings.
Is the criticism of Patrick fair? Well, she's certainly not the only person in the Sprint Cup Series field who has a small chance of winning this season. She's just an easy target because of her high profile.
But the Sprint Cup Series is a unique blend of capitalism and talent. Because of the costs associated with NASCAR's top level and the sponsorship that's needed to survive, it's not the 43 most talented drivers in stock car racing competing each week. It's 43 who have varying combinations of talent, luck and financial power.
Patrick is currently one of those 43. And who knows how small those chances are of winning anyway. With the current randomness of NASCAR restrictor plate racing -- hello David Ragan at Talladega -- Patrick could end up in victory lane sooner than people think.
But until she does, comments like these will remain.
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