The cold spell that recently numbed Nashville was interrupted by a blast of hot air from Kyle Petty who was in town for the Sound & Speed Fan Festival.
Petty, a driver-turned-TV commentator, took a swipe at Danica Patrick. He criticized the open-wheel diva’s move to NASCAR. He called Patrick “just a marketing machine. Let’s look at the facts and be blunt about it.”
Talk about the pot taking a shot at the kettle.
There’s never been a “marketing machine” in the history of racing to parallel the Petty’s. Kyle got his ride purely because of his family name and the influence of his famous father. Danica got no similar career break because her name is Patrick.
And since Petty brought up the subject of winning, he didn’t exactly set the forest on fire during his driving days: 8 wins, the last coming in 1995. When he parked it last year, Danica had won more recently than he.
Petty also suggested that Patrick is destined for a NASCAR flop just like Dario Franchitti, while ignoring the stock car success of such open-wheel aces as Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt and Tony Stewart.
But Petty is not alone in taking digs at Danica. For some reason an anti-Patrick bias exists among many fans, drivers and media members. And that’s odd. Fans should welcome Patrick — a fresh face and a lively personality amid a droll lineup of drivers that has grown increasingly stale and predictable.
As for the media, surely they tire of writing about the same handful of PR-programmed drivers week after week. Patrick is a major news-maker and the media should welcome her freshness. For drivers, perhaps they haven’t noticed that their sport is about to dry up and blow away due to dwindling interest. NASCAR is approaching the moribund point where the Indy Racing League was a few years ago when Patrick arrived and single-handedly revived it.
I can understand how drivers might resent a swimsuit model getting breaks only because of (they claim) her looks and personality. But they should be smart enough to realize that her presence will benefit them by re-energizing their sport.
Critics could at least give Patrick credit for what she’s already accomplished: Before she runs her first race, she has generated more interest and attention than Jimmie Johnson did by winning his fourth championship.
Nobody knows if Patrick will succeed in NASCAR. Not even she does, and certainly not her critics. They ought to ease off and give her a chance. If she flops, Petty and the boys will have plenty of time later to gleefully pile on.