Danica Patrick has, in recent years, become just as well known for her racy Go Daddy ads as she has for her driving, and veteran racer Kyle Petty thinks that’s a very bad thing.
Petty said recently that he doesn’t think Patrick is a real race car driver and doesn’t believe she has what it takes to be one, despite the attention she gets for being a female driver. Her skills, he says, don’t meet the hype.
“That’s where I have a problem,” he said on SPEED’s “Race Hub”. “Where fans have bought into the hype of the marketing, to think she’s a race car driver. She can go fast, and I’ve seen her go fast. She drives the wheels off it when she goes fast…she’s not a race car driver. There’s a difference. The King always had that stupid saying, but it’s true, ‘Lots of drivers can drive fast, but very few drivers can race.’ 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.”
“The King” Petty is referring to is his own father, driver Richard Petty, who won the NASCAR championship seven times and took first place a record 200 times over the course of his career. His bloodline might lend credibility to his opinions, but fellow driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. disagrees.
“If she was not able to compete,” Earnhardt said, “I think you might be able to say Kyle has an argument. But she’s out there running competitively and running strong on several accounts. I think that she has got a good opportunity and a rightful position in the sport to keep competing and she just might surprise even Kyle Petty.”
In a sport like race car driving–which has been male-dominated since it was invented–it can be frustratingly difficult for women to gain a foothold or be taken seriously; Patrick, therefore, has earned some criticism over the years for putting a spotlight on her looks off the track.