Danica Patrick: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Defends Racing Driver After Critic Attack

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Nickelodeon's 26th Annual Kids' Choice Awards - ArrivalsDANICA Patrick is being defended by her former boss, Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dale has spoken out after analyst Kyle Petty criticized Patrick’s driving ability.

Petty is critical of the hype Patrick gets compared with her accomplishments on the track. Though she did become the first woman to win an IndyCar race and capture a Sprint Cup pole position, when she finished eighth at the Daytona 500 in February, Petty said during a Fox Sports program that it’s “too late” for the 30-year-old Patrick to become a contender.

“That’s where I have a problem,” Petty said Thursday. “Where fans have bought into the hype of the marketing, to think she’s a race car driver. 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 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. She can go fast, but she can’t race.”

Earnhardt, who gave Patrick her start on the second-tier Nationwide Series more than three years ago, said Friday that he disagrees with Petty’s assessment.

“If she was not able to compete, I think you might be able to say Kyle has an argument,” Earnhardt said.

“But she’s out there running competitively and running strong on several accounts. I think that she has got a good opportunity and a rightful position in the sport to keep competing, and she just might surprise even Kyle Petty.”

Meanwhile, Danica’s romance with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is reportedly on the rocks.

Patrick isn’t happy that Stenhouse made her crash on the race track, say sources.

Patrick, 31, who began dating the six-years-younger racer on the heels of her split from husband Paul Hospenthal last November, was running strong May 26 at the Coca Cola 600 in Charlotte, N.C.

But Stenhouse clipped the side of her No. 10 Chevrolet, shoving her into NASCAR champ Brad Keselowski and sending both smashing into the wall. Patrick continued racing – as Ricky roared past scot-free – but limped to a 29th place finish.

Later, Patrick said the accident was “unfortunate,” but a source says it may be only the tip of the iceberg for problems between the couple.

“Ricky had hell to pay when they met up after the race. There’s no sport more fiercely competitive or where tempers get raised more than NASCAR – and Danica is famous for having a short fuse,” the source says.

“Ricky and Danica are going to run into each other again and again, and racing veterans are taking bets this relationship doesn’t reach the finish line.

“She’s trying to keep her professional and personal lives separate, but it gets harder to do when you’re competing against your boyfriend.

“Ricky helped her get over the end of her marriage to Paul and is great to her when they’re not strapped into their race cars.

“But they’re competing against each other in a highly volatile sport, and Danica worries that the dog-eat-dog world of racing will destroy her chance of lasting love with Ricky.”