A day after Speed and TNT announcer Kyle Petty raised eyebrows with his comments about Danica Patrick being more of a "marketing machine" than race car driver - a claim he has made on many occasions to be honest - some of Patrick's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competitors came to her defense.
Said Dale Earnhardt Jr.: I have to disagree with Kyle (Petty). I think she is a tough competitor and she works really hard at what she does. 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 shes 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.
And from Kevin Harvick:
That is a loaded gun right there. I think this is hard to do. You see there is really no good training ground for it anymore in the Nationwide and Truck Series because of the lack of horsepower. It is really hard to understand what you need to drive these cars, and to be able to drive them fast. It is just not something that is going to happen overnight. I dont know that I would go as far as calling her not a racer because she has raced her whole life, and I think on a continuous learning curve. Shes obviously dedicated at what she does to try and get better, and knows she has a lot of hurdles to overcome in a short amount of time.
"Shes fortunate to have a sponsor that is willing to back her, and take those learning experiences with her. Hopefully as the weeks progress, she gets better and better. In that aspect, I think you look at that, and you try to put all that in perspective. I couldnt imagine just coming in here and having two-and-a-half years of stock car experience, and expect to come here and be competitive knowing what all this entails. Its hard. And its not going to get easier. I think that is why over the years youve seen less and less new drivers come into the sport because the cars have become harder to drive. Theres just nowhere to figure out how to drive them other than being on the race track on a Cup Sunday or Saturday that we race. Because they are just hard to drive.
Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter