Danica Patrick responds to Kyle Petty's criticism
June 28, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
“I really don’t care,” the diminutive Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing, said during a scheduled media appearance.
“I don’t. It’s true that there are plenty of people who say really bad things about me; I hear about them or I read about them or I read them on Twitter. People want me to die.
“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.”
Petty, an eight-time winner in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series, currently works as an analyst with NASCAR on FOX/SPEED. During an interview that aired June 27, Petty commended Patrick for her marketing success, but said the former open-wheel competitor was “not a race car driver.”
“Danica has been the perfect example of somebody who can qualify better than what she runs,” Petty said. “She can go fast, but she can’t race.”
Patrick said she thought “it was funny how (Petty) said that I could qualify, but I can’t race, because those … that actually watch what I do would know that I can’t qualify for crap. In the race things go much better.”
Patrick, one of three Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series this season, became the first female to qualify No. 1 for a Cup race when she captured the pole for the season-opening Daytona 500.
Her qualifying average through the season’s first 16 events is 32.0; her average finishing position is 25.8
“The most important thing to me is that I can keep my team happy, we’re moving in the right direction, that (primary sponsor) Go Daddy is happy and that when you walk out of the garage or walk around the track and meet a little girl that wants to grow up to be like you then you’re doing something right -- those are the things that feel right,” she said.
Following a fulltime career in IndyCar, Patrick began the transition into NASCAR in 2010 when she drove a limited Nationwide Series schedule for JR Motorsports. She did the same in 2011 before running a full Nationwide schedule in 2012 while also running 10 Cup races for Stewart-Haas.
She finished 10th in the Nationwide Series points standings last year while her best Cup finish came in the fall at Phoenix where she was 17th.
An eighth-place finish at Daytona has been her best finish to date in Cup competition, and her only top 10. She is 27th in points heading into Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky (8 p.m. ET, TNT).
Four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon said expectations for what Patrick might accomplish were “way too high, especially after Daytona.”
“I think she’s a good race car driver and she’s with a good team but unfortunately she’s under an incredible microscope to live up to higher expectations than I think are realistic,” he said.
“Based on that I would say that everybody puts too much pressure on her, including herself. But then she goes to Michigan and has a great result on a very difficult track; Martinsville, does very well on a very difficult track.
“She’s impressed me at times, but at the same time, any time I see anybody come from open wheel I always feel like they’re going to struggle. And it’s going to take them a while.”
Fellow driver Kevin Harvick said he “couldn’t imagine” attempting to compete in Cup with less than three years of stock car experience.
“It’s hard. And it’s not going to get easier,” the Richard Childress Racing driver said.
“I don’t know that I would go as far as calling her not a racer because she has raced her whole life, and I think 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.”
Patrick said the move into Cup was “definitely jumping into the deep end on some level,” but noted that the learning curve “is different for everybody.”
“At times on some level I think I am ahead of it and at times I feel like I am behind it. … And I don’t know at what time it flattens out and you are where you are.”