Richard Petty says Danica Patrick can only win ‘if everybody else stayed home’
The King also said she only gets attention because she’s a woman, but added that publicity is good for NASCAR.
This story was originally published on Norris McDonald’s Racing Blog on Wheels.ca on Feb. 9, 2014.
The only way Danica Patrick will win a NASCAR Sprint Cup race is if she’s the only driver on the track, says the legendary ‘King’ of stock car racing, Richard Petty.
Petty, who visited Toronto on Sunday for an appearance at the Canadian Motorsports Expo, answered quickly and decisively when asked if the former IndyCar star who’s now a second-year driver for Stewart-Haas Racing would ever visit Victory Lane in the Cup series.
“(Only) if everybody else stayed home,” said Petty, who started his NASCAR career in 1958 in a race at the long-gone Canadian National Exhibition Speedway in downtown Toronto.
Petty spent much of the time in a media scrum discussing how NASCAR has evolved over the years from “race time” to “show time” and he acknowledged that Patrick has been good for the sport in that respect.
“If she’d have been a male, nobody would ever know if she’d showed up at a race track,” said the seven-time Daytona 500 champion. “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.”
Petty said NASCAR has grown so big that much of the attention paid to the series and the drivers these days has moved the actual racing into the back seat.
“When NASCAR Cup racing first started, it was racing,” he said. “Over a period of years, with our sponsorships, what we had to do for TV, to get the fans to come, the first thing you know is that the race is secondary, because all the rest of it is buildup, buildup, buildup.
“It’s sort of like watching the Super Bowl — it was a lot more exciting watching the buildup than the game. The game just happened to break out in the middle of a good party. We’re not quite that far along, but in order for us to do what we need to do on race day, the sponsorship and the fan stuff, we have to do all this other stuff.
“It’s like us coming up here. There’s no racing around here right now, but we can go out and start advertising our sponsors. We can come to Canada and say our next race is Daytona, come on down and see us. It takes all of that to really make it work.
“Like I say, it’s become a show-time deal.”