Stewart: Danica should challenge Petty to a race
February 19, 2014, Staff report, NASCAR.com
Tony Stewart broke his silence on Wednesday regarding seven-time NASCAR premier series champion Richard Petty’s comments about Stewart’s driver, Danica Patrick.
A guest on a taping of Performance Racing Network’s "Fast Talk" radio show at a Daytona Beach Outback Steakhouse, Stewart told Patrick that "she should challenge Richard to a heads-up race."
"I think that would pretty much settle it once and for all," Stewart continued. "Maybe get him to shut up a little bit, too.
"I think he forgets that, that NASCAR's changed a lot since he was a driver and how hard it really is now."
The three-time champion offered to supply cars for the challenge.
"If he wants to race her, I'll make sure they have exactly the same setup in the car and give him a chance," Stewart said. "He can drive one of my 14 cars."
When host Doug Rice suggested that Patrick have Petty sign her Sunoco checkered flag after her first win, Stewart said, "If I were her, I'd take it over and cram it up his (expletive)."
"That's the first time I've said anything about it. It's like I've tried to steer away from it, but it's like, "Man, did he really think about what he said before he said it?"
Stewart's comments came after NASCAR Hall of Famer Petty's response to a question at the Canadian Motorsports Expo on Feb. 9 when he said that the only way the second-year driver would win a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was "if everybody else stayed home."
At NASCAR Media Day on Feb. 13, Patrick said, "You know, people have said things in the past and they will say things in the future, I still say the same thing and that's that everybody is entitled to their own opinion," Patrick said.
"People are going to judge what he said and I'm just not going to."
Stewart noted that his driver has been "under a microscope" since she began racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2010, moving over from IndyCar.
"Everybody was judging her from Day 1 that she got in a stock car when it was a Nationwide car, when she got in a Cup car," Stewart said. "It takes a little longer than what the media and everybody's giving her time to learn."
"I think that's why it surprised us so much that Richard said what he said because I remember when I was in a Nationwide car and crashed a lot. I remember when Jimmie (Johnson) was there, and he struggled. I remember when Jeff Gordon struggled in a Nationwide car. We all did."
"People didn't pay attention to what we were doing. We got to wreck cars. Nobody cared. Nobody knew who we were. Nobody cared about paying attention to us. There was somebody else that was a bigger name to watch."
"When Danica came in, she's had all the pressure, all the media attention. She can't walk two steps in the garage area without being smothered. How she can even focus on driving a car, I can't comprehend it…so I think she does it better than anybody that I know right now. "
Stewart said Patrick's boyfriend, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., had a steep learning curve while racing for him.
"He drove sprint cars and midgets for me and literally about put me out of the open wheel industry. He crashed everything we had, and then he went to Roush and crashed everything he had."
"And in about a two-week period, all of the sudden, he got the feel. Once he got the feel there then everything switched. That's what happened to me as well."
A former IndyCar champion, Stewart explained the learning curve Patrick faces and reiterated his support for his driver.
"When you go from an IndyCar that's as light a weight and has as much downforce and as much grip as it has to a 3,400-pound stock car, it is a huge change, and it's not something that happens overnight."
"She's learned a lot. She's asked a lot of great questions. She has what it takes to do it."