DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Danica Patrick has brushed off Hall Famer Richard Petty’s criticism.
Speaking at Daytona 500 media day Thursday, Patrick said the seven-time champion is entitled to his opinion. She added that good things could come from it.
“As I said the last time somebody said something that was not so positive for me, it spawns so many positive articles,” she said. “I love the conversation that it creates in sport, and across the board it makes sports interesting. It makes life interesting when people have different perspectives, and that’s fine with me.”
Petty said last week that Patrick can only win a Sprint Cup race “if everybody else stayed home.”
Petty, speaking at the Canadian Motorsports Expo in Toronto, also said Patrick gets attention because she’s a woman, but added that publicity is good for NASCAR.
“If she’d have been a male, nobody would ever know if she’d showed up at a racetrack,” Petty said. “This is a female deal that’s driving her. There’s nothing wrong with that, because that’s good PR for me. More fans come out, people are more interested in it. She has helped to draw attention to the sport, which helps everybody in the sport.”
Patrick is back at Daytona International Speedway this week to begin her second full season at NASCAR’s top level. She became the first woman to win the top starting spot for the Daytona 500 a year ago, when she finished eighth.
It was Patrick’s best finish during a rough rookie year in which she averaged a 26th-place finish. Patrick was 27th in the final Sprint Cup standings.
She refused to fire back at the former driver known as The King.
“It has nothing to do with where it comes from,” Patrick said. “The people that matter the most to me are my team, my sponsors and those little 3-year-old kids that run up to you and want a great big hug and say they want to grow up to be like you. That’s the stuff I really focus on.”
Patrick also knows contending for wins at Stewart-Haas Racing can silence the doubters who believe she’ll never be a factor in NASCAR.
“There’s a lot I have to learn, and I know that,” she said.