Richard Petty: Danica Patrick would only win if she was only one racing

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I’m not sure exactly what Danica Patrick ever did to the Pettys that has led to their critiques of her, but apparently, it runs in the family.

You may remember in June of last year, Kyle Petty said of Danica that “she’s not a race car driver.” He tempered that by saying she could run fast, but not “race” in the traditional sense. Patrick responded to the criticism shortly thereafter, saying the reverse was true – she couldn’t qualify well at all, but seemed to improve in the races.

Now, “King” Richard Petty has chimed in. He’s gone with the “she’ll never win” argument.

Asked whether he thinks she ever could, Petty deadpanned, “(Only) if everybody else stayed home.” Petty made the comments at the Canadian Motorsports Expo this weekend, in a story via Wheels.ca.

Petty elaborated on the point by again stating that NASCAR has moved from pure racing only to buildup, hype and marketing first, with the racing secondary. To that end, Petty said Patrick has succeeded because it draws in more people to the sport.

As for the “she’ll never win” point, on a conventional circuit, Petty may have a case.

But on restrictor plate tracks, where the field is wide open and it’s a greater lottery – David Ragan for Front Row Motorsports and Trevor Bayne for the Wood Brothers have won at Talladega and Daytona in the last few years – he could very likely be wrong.

For all her detractors, Patrick has often excelled at the restrictor plate races. She got her first and thus far only top-10 finish at the Daytona 500 last year, with eighth place after pole, and has often run well within the top-10 in both Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series events before getting either shuffled back or caught up in the inevitable “big one.”

Put simply, a win for Patrick at Daytona or Talladega would not surprise. A win elsewhere would. A win anywhere would make the “King’s” point a moot one.

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry. Time just published a brief piece by Wallace saluting Hamilton as a trailblazer.

The idea of Hamilton attending the NASCAR season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it would seem right for Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — to spend some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).