As much as the world has changed over the last decade or so, it is amazing how consistently people will say stupid things about someone who is breaking down barriers. There are many people who have evolved, but expecting that everyone has is a fruitless endeavor. Danica Patrick is the first woman to make serious inroads into the world of NASCAR. She hasn’t lit up the leaderboard, but she has been respectable. Despite that, some people are very quick to discount her. Kyle Petty, a former driver and current commentator, took about as serious a shot at her as he could in an interview this week, saying she “is not a race car driver.”
I find this kind of statement astonishing. Sure, Patrick is having a challenging go of it during her rookie season in the Sprint Cup series, but she has had some good moments and flashes of high level skill. She has been racing since she was a little girl, competing in a variety of different kinds of vehicles. She has been successful at every level. Sure, she came to stock cars at a fairly advanced age compared to most of the guys running in NASCAR, starting her first races at the age of 28, but for Petty to say that she is not a race car driver is absurd. She won the pole position in her first Indy 500 back in 2005 when she was in the Indy Racing League, finishing 4th in that race. She won the Rookie of the Year award that season. She finished 10th in points during her first full season on NASCAR’s Nationwide Series. She moved up to the top level series this season, and while her first 17 races have not shown the results for which she and her team have hoped, she has certainly not been an embarrassment. She won the pole for this year’s Daytona 500, a race in which she led several laps and finished eighth. In the race at Martinsville, a track that is notoriously difficult, especially for people new to it, she finished 12th despite starting at the back of the field due to an engine change after qualifying. These are things that show real promise.
I am not saying that Danica will win a bunch of races or be a champion in NASCAR. There is no way to know what will happen, of course, and even the best young drivers with the best equipment are sometimes unsuccessful. Kyle Petty, the son of seven-time-champion Richard Petty, did not exactly take NASCAR by storm during his career, despite the pedigree and the equipment he had. He was in his eighth season in the Cup series before he won a race, and he won only eight races in 829 career starts, none of which came in the final thirteen years he was racing. If he had said that he didn’t think Patrick would ever contend for championships, I would have had no problem with it. To say she is not a race car driver, though, is insulting, ridiculous, and clearly sexist. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., another rookie who happens to be dating Patrick, is held up as a major up-and-comer in the series, and yet his results are barely better than hers at this point in the season. He is 20th in the standings, while she is 27th. I haven’t heard anyone state that he is not a race car driver.
I am aware that women can not reasonably compete against men in most sports. Racing, though, is not one of those sports. The only reason more women are not competing at the high levels of motorsports is that they are not generally encouraged to race as children. Society does not encourage girls to race go-karts or work on cars. Someone like Danica Patrick can help to change that. Kyle Petty should be ashamed of himself for cheaply and inaccurately trying to undermine that effort.
Bad sports, continued:
2) Roger Federer, who has won seven Wimbledon championships, lost in the second round of this year’s tournament to a player, Sergey Stakhovsky, ranked 116th in the world. This ended an amazing run that saw him make it to the quarterfinals of every Grand Slam event since the French Open in 2004.
3) Justin Miller, a former Major League pitcher who most recently played for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2010, was found dead in Florida on Wednesday. He was 35.
4) D.H. Lee, a golfer competing at the AT&T National this week, was seen flipping the bird at a spectator during Saturday’s third round. Oops.
5) The ridiculous offseason continued this week for the NFL, as yet another player was arrested. Joe Lefeged, a safety for the Indianapolis Colts, was riding in a car that was pulled over on Saturday. The initial stop was for speeding, but officers smelled marijuana, spotted a suspicious looking drink, and found a semi-automatic weapon in the car. Lefeged and the driver tried to run away, but were caught by police.
6) Jason Gilroyed had a rough time at golf’s U.S. Women’s Open this week. He was caddying for Jessica Korda, who fired him halfway through the third round on Saturday.
7) Bryce Brown, a running back for the Philadelphia Eagles who had a good season for the team last year after a very checkered college career, may be mixed up in something that will not sit well with Eagles fans. A pit bull he owns has been seized along with a bunch of others from a kennel in Wisconsin that authorities believe has been involved in dog fighting. With Michael Vick still on this team, I think they have reached their quota of players involved in this crap.
1) Inbee Park, the number one ranked golfer on the LPGA, became the first woman to win the first three majors of the year since 1950 by winning the U.S. Women’s Open on Sunday.
2) This is a very cool goal by Hassoun Camara of MLS’ Montreal Impact. Check it out.
Bad sports, good sports appears every Monday
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