NASCAR driver Danica Patrick leaves the garage after her car lost power during the Nationwide Series DRIVE4COPD 300 race at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo : Reuters)
NASCAR Hall of Famer and racing legend Richard Petty said this weekend that Danica Patrick could only win a Sprint Cup Series race "if everybody else stayed home," according to a report by the Associated Press.
The seven-time champ issued the now controversial remark during an appearance at the Canadian Motorsports Expo in Toronto, according to website wheels.ca.
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Petty added that Patrick only gets as much attention and endorsements that she does because she's a woman.
"If she'd have been a male, nobody would ever know if she'd showed up at a racetrack," Petty said, according wheels.ca. "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 preparing for her second full season as a full-time NASCAR driver.
Last season wasn't very memorable for Patrick, but she did become the first woman to win the pole position for Daytona 500. She finished eighth in the actual race however.
The GoDaddy and Stewart-Haas driver finished 27th in the final Sprint Cup standings.
Petty still owns partial control of Richard Petty Motorsports, which produces vehicles for drivers Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose in the Sprint Cup Series.
Just a year ago, Petty's son Kyle, a former driver and current TV analyst, called Patrick a "marketing machine" during a number of media events.
"That's where I have a problem, where fans have bought into the hype of the marketing, to think she's a race car driver," Kyle Petty said, according to AP. "She can go fast, and I've seen her go fast. She drives the wheels off it when she goes fast. She's not a race car driver. There's a difference. The King (Richard Petty) always had that stupid saying, but it's true, 'Lots of drivers can drive fast, but very few drivers can race.' Danica has been the perfect example of somebody who can qualify better than what she runs."
A number of drivers have sided with Patrick however, like Stewart-Haas co-owner Tony Stewart.
Stewart, a three-time champion, said Kyle Petty's comments were "very inappropriate."
"It's true that there are plenty of people who say bad things about me; I read them," Patrick said last year, according to AP. "At the end of the day, you get over that stuff and trust that you are doing a good job."