Patrick Has Nothing to Gain by Racing Petty

Patrick Has Nothing to Gain by Racing Petty

by February 28, 2014 0 comments

Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Before completing a single lap in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this year, Danica Patrick had already found herself in a media firestorm.

NASCAR legend Richard Petty landed himself in hot water after making remarks regarding Patrick during the Canadian Motorsports Expo in Toronto, Ontario.

“Only if everybody else stayed home,” Petty commented on Patrick’s likeliness of winning a race in NASCAR. “If she’d have been a male, nobody would ever know if she’d showed up at a race track. This is a female deal that’s driving her.”

What ensued became perhaps one of the most ridiculous off-track story lines in recent years; becoming something more reminiscent of a Will Ferrell movie plot rather than legitimate NASCAR news. While Petty addressed accusations that he was a sexist, NASCAR personalities from Brad Keselowski to Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the time to weigh in on the situation.

The comments made from one of Patrick’s team-owners, Tony Stewart, however, is what swelled this story to gargantuan proportions. Stewart suggested that both Patrick and Petty have a one-on-one race in similar race cars.

“I think that would pretty much settle it once and for all, maybe get him to shut up a little bit too,” Stewart stated. However, Stewart’s comments did not stop there as he suggested what Patrick should do should she win – “If I were her, I’d take it [the checkered flag] over there and cram it up his a**.”

Petty was quick to accept Stewart’s challenge. Fans and sports personalities outside of NASCAR circles started to push for Patrick to accept the challenge as well. After all, she wasn’t going to stand idly by and let a NASCAR legend talk smack about her existence as a race car driver, was she? ESPN’s Rick Reilly produced an opinion piece for on whether Patrick should race against Petty.

“Hey, Danica: Do it!”, Reilly titled his piece.

Hey Danica, here’s a novel idea: don’t.

If Patrick were to enter this non-sanctioned competition against Petty, she would be entering a lose-lose situation. On one hand, she would beat a 76-year-old who hasn’t competed in auto racing since 1992. On the other hand, she would lose to a 76-year-old who hasn’t competed in auto racing since 1992. What sort of validation would be gained by winning this race? None, none at all.

Publicly, Patrick does not appear to be incensed with the legend’s comments. In fact, her response to the remarks could not have been handled any better.

“People have said things in the past, they’re going to say things in the future,” she said. “I still say the same thing: Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion.”

The way for Patrick to prove Petty wrong is to produce strong results on track. While she only has one Top-10 to her name in the Sprint Cup Series, she has proven that she is a competent race car driver with her success in the IZOD IndyCar Series. It is not easy to jump from open-wheel racers to full-body stock cars with a snap of the fingers. Open-wheel superstars Dario Franchitti, Jacques Villeneuve, and Patrick Carpentier proved this as they all made forays into NASCAR but did not find much success.

At the end of the day, Patrick must pay no mind to the stigma of being a female in a male-dominated sport. She must channel Petty’s criticisms into her greatest motivation to succeed in NASCAR yet. Don’t go out there to prove that as a driver, you’re great for a girl; go out there to prove that as a driver, you’re great period.

Kyle Pokrefky
Follow Kyle Pokrefky on Twitter at @KPokrefky

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