Kyle Petty is wrong about Danica Patrick, and here's why
"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."
Many have already condemned Petty for those comments, but mostly by invoking his own career, essentially saying that because of Petty’s modest career and family connection, he has no room to talk. That isn’t fair to Kyle, who did win eight times on the Cup circuit and twice finished 5th in the championship. His comments though are still wrong.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Is Danica overhyped? Of course. There’s almost nothing she could do to not be. Is Danica having a good year in Sprint Cup? Of course not. 27th in points and just one top ten can’t be spun as good or even adequate. There is a difference though between a race car driver not having a good season, and not being a race car driver at all.
The first problem with Petty’s comments is that the qualifying better than she runs thing. I’m guessing that comes from Danica’s Daytona 500 pole. However, in 12 of the 16 races so far this year, Danica has finished better than she qualified. Yes, that’s mostly because she’s qualified very poorly outside of Daytona, but the stats are what they are.
The other problem with saying Danica is not a race car driver is that it completely ignores her entire career prior to this year. It ignores her going to England as a teenager to drive junior formula. It ignores her seven years in IndyCar, where she finished in the top ten in points every year but her rookie season. Above all else, it ignores her Indianapolis 500 record. In seven starts, she finished in the top ten six times, twice in the top five. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a track record is a race that big means you don’t suck. You can't fluke your way into results like that.
That’s what burned me up about Petty’s comments. It’s the perception that certain people in NASCAR seem to have that a driver’s stock car career is the only thing that matters, and that any accomplishments elsewhere are meaningless. That’s an insult to anyone who dared to go into NASCAR via other means, and it’s specially an insult to Danica. No, she’s not particularly good at it yet, but she’s not a menace by any means. If she were doing things like this, I might be able to see it, but being towards the back while learning things on the fly? Get real.
The book on Danica Patrick’s NASCAR career is far from written. Yes, she’s always be overhyped, some of it her fault, most of it not, but she’s a race car driver. She’s been a race car driver since she was a teenager. No matter what the likes of Kyle Petty say.
(Photo Credit: UPI)