Tony Stewart picks the wrong person to get petty with over Danica Patrick
FEB 20, 2014 3:00p ET
That's the number of laps in the Daytona 500. It's the number of wins Petty had in his career. And oddly enough, it's approximately the number of photo shoots Patrick has done.
That makes her a great attraction, but it doesn't make her a great driver. That's all Petty was saying when asked last week about Patrick's chances of winning a Sprint Cup race.
“(Only) if everybody else stayed home,” he said.
The War-on-Women alarm bells quickly started clanging. Petty was called a sexist, a hypocrite, a fuddy-duddy and an angry old man.
It's the standard Danica defense. When you can't answer the criticism, you attack the critic.
Stewart, however, put it in another gear on Wednesday. He questioned if Petty knows what he's talking about.
Hey, Tony: Wanna check the respective resumes?
It is one thing to call people like me morons for thinking Patrick isn't exactly the next David Pearson. It's another to say a seven-time NASCAR champ, a driver who has 95 more wins than the next guy on the list, needs to get a clue.
Stewart said a good way to prove it would be for Patrick to race Petty. As if beating a 76-year-old who hasn't raced in 22 years would invalidate Petty's views.
Look, Karrie Webb could probably beat Jack Nicklaus these days. Would that mean Nicklaus isn't qualified to offer an opinion on golf?
To cap off his Danica defense, Stewart suggested what she should do if she wins a checkered flag.
“If I were her, I'd take it over and cram it up his (expletive),” Stewart said.
Patrick works for Stewart and he must defend her. He's invested millions of dollars in the fleeting hope she'll have more top-20 finishes this year than any other woman driver. But did he really need to play the Cram-It-Up-His-Bleep card on the King?
The guy has signed more autographs (estimates are in the millions), chatted with more fans and done more to promote NASCAR than 10,000 saucy pictures ever could. Racing royalty deserves a little more respect.
“I've tried to steer away from it,” Stewart said, “but it's like, 'Man, did he really think about what he said before he said it?'”
How much thinking does it take?
Patrick's average finish last year was 26th. Despite having some of the best equipment and backing, she got worse as the season progressed.
If Petty had said the same thing about Ricky Stenhouse Jr. or some other rookie, it would be seen as fair comment. But say it about Patrick and the knives come out.
“If her name had been Danny, OK, nobody would have said anything about it,” Petty said.
Danica's fans say she's a NASCAR novice who needs time. If you check career stats, you'll see that good drivers accomplish a lot more in less time. None of them took a selfie of themselves topless for Sports Illustrated.
Have you heard the latest on the Danica front? A 2008 topless photo was posted Jan. 23, but it showed too much nipple and was taken down. Since nothing disappears on the Internet, the picture has gone viral.
Cale Yarbrough sure never brought the kind of attention to NASCAR during Speedweeks at Daytona.
“This is a female deal that's driving her,” Petty said. “There's nothing wrong with that, because it's good PR for me. More fans come out (and) people are more interested in it. She has helped draw attention to the sport, which helps everybody in the sport.”
In other words, there's nothing wrong with being a marketing machine. Just don't get offended when somebody sees your career accomplishments and questions whether that's all you are.
Especially when that somebody is Richard Petty.
“If he wants to race her, I'll make sure they have the exact same setup in the car and give him a chance,” Stewart said. “He can drive one of my 14 cars.”
Heck, why not fill the other 13 with Pearson, Yarbrough, Bobby Allison, Junior Johnson, the ghost of Fireball Roberts and any other 76-year-old they can find? By Stewart's logic, beating them would really prove how crazy it is to criticize Patrick.
Since it's all about creating a buzz with Danica, a match race is probably the way to go.
Bring on Battle of the Sexes II!
“I think that would pretty much settle it once and for all,” Stewart said. “Maybe get him to shut up a little bit, too.”
Then again, what if Petty won?
One thing he wouldn't do is take the checkered flag and tell Stewart where to cram it.
Besides the 200 wins, that's what separates royalty from everybody else.