Kyle Petty says NASCAR driver Danica Patrick, known by millions for her beauty as well as her talent behind the wheel, is more racy than race car driver.
In an appearance on SPEED's NASCAR RaceHub program
, the former driver turned FOX Sports/TNT analyst Petty referred to Patrick a "marketing machine," but questioned her ability to race effectively.
"Danica has been the perfect example of somebody who can qualify better than what she runs," Petty said on the program.
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"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 a follow-up question as to why, Petty, an eight-time race winner said, "because I think it's too late to learn," according to a transcript on ThatsRacin Lucky Dog blog
In a male-dominated business, Patrick stands out as the most successful woman in racing history. Her victory at the 2008 Indy Japan 300 is the only women's win in an IndyCar Series. She also finished third in the 2009 Indy 500, the highest finish ever there by a woman.
This year, she became the first female NASCAR driver to win the pole in a NASCAR Sprint Cup race, when she turned in the fastest qualifying lap since 1990 in qualifying for the Daytona 500. She finished eighth at Daytona, and also has seven Top 10 finishes in 60 career Nationwide Series races.
Does that prove Petty's point?
"She can go fast, and I've seen her go fast," Petty said on RaceHub. "She drives the wheels off it when she goes fast. She's not a race car driver. There's a difference. The King (Richard Petty, Kyle's dad) always had that stupid saying, but it's true: 'Lots of drivers can drive fast, but very few drivers can race.'"
Petty won eight races and totaled 173 Top 10 finishes in 829 races during a 30-year run in NASCAR's premier series. He won his first race in 1986.
Not everyone agreed with Petty's assessment, including sports blogger Nick Bromberg.
"While Petty is certainly entitled to think what he wants about Patrick as a race car driver, using her qualifying position relative to her racing position isn't necessarily the best argument," Bromberg wrote on his blog, From the Marbles
. "Through 26 races in the Sprint Cup Series, Patrick's average finish of 26.8 is 6.8 positions better than her average starting position. Yes, part of that reason is because Patrick has qualified poorly — her average starting position is 32nd this season — but that still runs counter to Petty's argument."
No one can deny was Patrick's wide-ranging appeal. The GoDaddy spokesperson and model has brought legions of new fans to the sport, whether to watch her race or just watch her.
When interviewer Matt Clark said Patrick was "hot" during the exchange, Petty answered with, "Yeah, she's hot. She's a hot commodity and rightfully so. In a market where everybody that crawls into a race car on a Sunday afternoon in Cup racing is male, she's the female. I don't have a problem with her being a marketing machine — more power to her."
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