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Patrick vs Petty: gender issues in NASCAR

NASCAR, a very popular sport among today’s American men and women, is not something I have ever really watched or paid attention to until recently. I started talking to this guy and he is an avid racecar driver and loves watching the race every Sunday. We turned out to be better friends than anything else (not because of racing haha) but his passion did draw my attention to a recent story involving Danica Patrick (the only professional female driver in Sprint Cup Series) and Richard Petty (a 76 year old, retired NASCAR driver). Let’s just say the words “She could even win the race here – if somebody gets behind her and pushes her through the crowd…” really sparked my interest…

danica patrick

Tony Stewart challenged Richard Petty to race Danica Patrick after Petty made some negative remarks about Patrick’s driving. (Shocking, a man doesn’t think a woman is a good driver!) Petty told Fox News that he was 76 years old and “it’s been 25 years since I’ve been in a race car. But I’ll take that challenge.” He also went on to say that “Patrick can’t win unless no one else is on the track.”

Richard Petty

Stewart believes that a race would finally settle once and for all whether Patrick was a good driver and would get Petty to shut up (yea, I’m sure that is all it would take to get a man to stop talking crap about a woman driver). Stewart even wanted to supply the cars. Now, this race will probably never happen but what I found particularly interesting is the way Danica Patrick responded to all of this. She was not angry and did not say “hell, yea let’s race” instead, she took the high road and responded with

“At the end of the day, the most important thing is my team owner believes in me.”

Petty continued and said that Patrick could win the Daytona 500 since “anything can happen” at a restrictor-plate track (yea I don’t know what that means but I do know that was another jab at Patrick).

I mostly wanted to draw attention to this story because while it shows the classic debate over whether or not women are good drivers, it also shows how tough it is to be a woman in the sport of NASCAR (hell, how tough it is to be a woman in a man’s world period). I also really loved the way Danica Patrick responded to all of it. She handled it with grace and I think it says so much about her that she continues to go out to every race and try her hardest, no matter how many people are against her. She seems to love what she does and I found myself rooting for her on Sunday’s races (which my male friend highly disapproved of). In fact, when asked by this guy’s friend who was my favorite driver and I responded with Danica Patrick, my guy friend was quick to laugh and say “shut up no it’s not!” I can only imagine the amount of male fans Patrick has (probably not many who like her for her driving, maybe for her looks) and it is sad because she is not a horrible driver and it would be awesome if she had more support so that maybe, eventually, the whole “women are bad drivers” bull-crap would be put to rest.

What do you think of Petty’s challenge to race Patrick and her response??

4 Responses to “Patrick vs Petty: gender issues in NASCAR”

  1. lfleetwood

    The very fact Petty was on FOX shows how pointed the old NASCAR drivers are in both their followers and also their past. Petty’s age (and considering he’s been retired since I was born) leaves him the good graces that he sees NASCAR as a man’s sport only, and that he is choosing to judge her racing on her sex, and not her talent. Not everyone can be “The King” that Petty was referred to, or another Dale Earnhardt “The Intimidator.” Everyone gets better with age, and quite frankly, Petty’s sexism is expected, but I’d rather see him out there pointing out the actual bad drivers (J.J. Yeley anyone?) and leave his sexism at the door.


    • cpowell92

      I totally agree! Thank you for the comment! I loved your last line that was great! I seriously do not understand why certain people from that generation can’t let go of the classic sexist thoughts about women. Times have changed, and if you are going to pick on a bad driver, don’t do it just because of their sex, do it because they have bad sportsmanship or have a bad attitude. It even said in the article that Patrick “qualified third Friday for the Nationwide race.” Soooo she can’t be that bad!


  2. SarahStar77

    This was both a very intriguing and insightful post. I really like how you addressed that in everyday life many women are stereotyped as bad drivers. In reality a majority of companies have young men pay higher insurance rates compared to women. Again some males are better drivers then females and vice versa. Bottom line is one’s driving skills just depends on the person and not his or her sex. Regardless it does not surprise me that Patrick (who it appears to seem in your article is the only woman driver in NASCAR) has had a hard time from her competitors due to her being a woman. However, I think she is making a breakthrough as she is holding herself with poise and grace as when she was insulted by the 25-year-retired, Petty, she responded that her team believes in her and that is all that matters. Although the race is very unlikely to happen between the two, I doubt Petty would have a chance. How do you think Patrick can get more women involved in the sport of NASCAR? Nice job!


    • cpowell92

      Thank you so much for your comment, it was great! I think that Patrick should keep doing what she is doing. The first time she lashes out or tries to fight back, she loses all the work she has put in. Taking the high road is probably the best way to continue to get support and get more women (and men) to respect her and back her up. I know that before I read this I was indifferent but now, Go Danica!! 🙂



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