Danica unfazed by Petty’s criticism

On Friday, Danica Patrick brushed off the comments made by former Sprint Cup driver and current FOX/SPEED commentator Kyle Petty with a laugh.

“It’s funny how he said I can qualify but can’t race,” said Patrick, who is preparing for Saturday night’s Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway. “Those of you that actually watch what I do would know that I can’t qualify worth a crap, and in the race things go much better. So it’s a little bit funny, but the most important thing to me is that I can keep my team happy. We’re moving in the right direction. GoDaddy is happy.

“When you walk out into the garage or walk around the track and meet a little girl who wants to grow up to be like you, you’re doing something right.”

Petty offered his opinions during a three-part interview with Matt Clark on SPEED’s “Race Hub” this week.

After establishing his opinion that the driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevy was “a marketing machine,” Petty was asked, “Where’s (Patrick) at as a driver?”

He replied, “That’s where I have a problem. 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.”

When Clark followed up with, “Has she learned to race?” Petty insisted, “She’s not a race car driver. There’s a difference.

“The King (Richard Petty) 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. I think she’s come a long way, but she’s still not a race car driver. And I don’t think she’s ever going to be a race car driver.”

When asked why, Petty responded, “Because I think it’s too late to learn.”

Patrick, 31, is 27th in points during her rookie season in the Sprint Cup Series. She earned the pole for the season-opening Daytona 500 and finished a career-high eighth, the best result for a female in the Great American Race. Patrick, who competes for Stewart-Haas Racing, also became the first female to lead a green-flag lap on NASCAR’s top tour. Patrick finished 10th in the 2012 Nationwide Series standings.

Petty’s comments are nothing new. Patrick has heard the negative banter before.

“There are plenty of people that say really bad things about me,” Patrick said. “I hear about or I read them or read them on Twitter. People want me to die. At the end of the day, you just get over the kind of stuff and trust that you’re doing a good job — and that’s all that matters, and the people around you believe in you.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was Patrick’s team owner in the Nationwide Series at JR Motorsports and has competed with her in Nationwide and Cup, said Friday that he has “to disagree with Kyle.”

“I think she is a tough competitor, and she works really hard at what she does,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “She has run some really good races. On every occasion, she is out running several guys out on the circuit.

“If she was not able to compete and not able to run minimum speed or finish in last place every week, 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."

Petty took to Twitter on Friday afternoon to defend his remarks: “The general argument against my opinions today are as follows … 1-I’m a never was 2- I have a ponytail 3- I ride the Kings coat tails and my favorite 4 – I just plain S@$K! NONE of which I might add is a intelligent argument for a opposing point of view…”

Having already raced for the past two decades, Patrick doesn’t expect to ever “silence the naysayers.”

“You don’t,” she said. “I’m sure every driver has them on some level. There are going to be people that believe in you and people that don’t. You try to surround yourself with people that believe in you. That’s what matters.”