(DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.) — NASCAR driver Danica Patrick has dealt with her fair share of criticism since entering the sport, and now she finds herself defending herself against comments made by Hall of Famer Richard Petty that Patrick is popular merely because of her gender.
Patrick joined the Sprint Cut circuit last year, and struggled in her first season. Among other things, Petty said Patrick could win a Sprint Cup race “if everybody else stayed home.”
“If she’d have been a male, nobody would ever know if she’d showed up at the racetrack,” Petty also said. “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 felt the need to defend herself.
“It has nothing to do with where it comes from,” Patrick said. “The people that matter the most to me are my team, my sponsors, and those little 3-year-old kids that run up to you and want a great big hug and they want to grow up to be like you. That’s the stuff I really focus on.”
Patrick averaged a 26th-place finish last season.
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio
John Newsome and Anne Woolsey, CNN