February 15 2014 – Blog By RaceChaser Online Senior Editor Tom Baker – Photo By Getty Images/NASCAR
The wording Richard Petty used when he answered the question at the CME in Toronto about whether he thought Danica Patrick would ever win a Sprint Cup Race was unfortunate. But I don’t think he was entirely wrong.
Even if all Richard had said to the reporters was was “no”, I think he still would have ruffled some feathers. Why? Because he was talking about a female in a “politically incorrect” way. Many already believe he isn’t keen on females racing in NASCAR.
I categorically disagree that females aren’t capable of success in NASCAR. I do believe we’ll see a female win races in ‘Cup eventually, whether it’s Danica or someone else.
With that being said, if you believe that Danica’s popularity and all the TV time she gets is not largely a “female deal”, I’ve got some ocean view property in the middle of the Mojave Desert to sell you.
Now before you call me a bad name, I’m not saying Danica doesn’t have any talent. Of course she does!
She won an IndyCar race, had one pole and finished on the podium 7 times including a third in the Indy 500 in 115 IndyCar starts over 7 years. She had one top five and seven top 10’s in the Nationwide Series and a Daytona pole in 60 Nationwide Series starts over 4 years.
Through her first 40 ‘Cup starts though, Danica’s managed just one top 10 and one pole, both at Daytona in 2013.
Janet Guthrie made a similar leap from Indy Car to the ‘Cup series in the mid 1970’s and finished in the top 10 five times in 33 starts including a sixth at Bristol. Janet was not with a major team.
Make of the comparison what you will.
Danica still struggles on many Sundays. Yet she often gets more TV time than many of her male competitors with better stats including Juan Pablo Montoya, who had much more success in Indy Cars before coming to ‘Cup so you can’t even say it’s because she came from open-wheel racing.
Do you seriously think Danica got into last year’s All-Star race on her finishing record? Do you really believe the magazine covers and Go-Daddy commercials are because of her on-track “stats”?
Much of her publicity is, in fact, a “female deal”. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t have talent and it’s not a chauvinistic statement. It’s just true.
Danica is a driven and determined racer who, because she’s also a female, brings new fans and inspires other female racers to believe they could one day join her at the top of the motorsports ladder. That’s good, isn’t it?
So why is it so bad when Richard Petty says it, even if in a non-politically correct way? The King is a 70+ year-old grandfather. How many 70+ year-old grandfathers do you know who are politically correct?
Danica doesn’t seem to mind all the extra attention. Why should she? I don’t imagine that Go-Daddy and the other supporters of her “marketing machine” mind it too much either.
Let he who is without sin (and didn’t agree with and applaud Kevin Harvick last year for similarly disrespecting his boss’s grandchildren while he was still being fed from the same “spoon”) cast the first stone.