Tomas Tales. February 12, 2014
There used to be an old staying in radio news and sports, “There’s no such thing as a slow news day!”
So we must have been dead asleep during the final day of the Canadian Motorsports Expo in Toronto.
Why else would an appearance by The “King” of NASCAR stock car racing, Richard Petty create such an un-expected fire-storm of protest and criticism?
Petty, who has deep racing roots that reach up into Canada, was brought in by The Motorsports Expo as a special guest attraction for the fans.
Line-ups out the door for his autograph attest to the man’s legend and status.
Before Richard’s meet-and-greet and autograph session with his fans, the media were allowed a few minutes with the always charming and engaging NASCAR figurehead.
To maximize the limited time, we usually form a round-table, where yours truly with recorder and microphone in the middle, records the proceedings for Raceline Radio, moderating the Q and A session with other members of the media, print and electronic.
The session sailed along with Petty remembering his first NASCAR race at the old CNE stadium in Toronto in 1958, his memorable scraps in the 60’s and 70’s with David Pearson, and how much a driver needs to do these days when he or she is out of the car.
After close to 15 minutes with Petty, and time with him drawing to a close, friend and colleague Norris McDonald of Toronto Star Wheels innocently asked Richard if Danica Patrick will ever win a race in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series.
Petty, from under that legendary big cowboy hat and behind those ever-present sunglasses drawled deadpan, “If everybody else stays home!”
After peals of laughter from all, and with that equally famous wide toothy grin, Richard tempered his comment by paying Danica a compliment, declaring her popularity and image has helped increase NASCAR’s fan base, and that’s good for him too!
It’s taken for granted Richard can say just about anything he wants. He’s earned the right. Such straight from the lip honesty is fully expected and nothing new for the “King”.
7 NASCAR championships, 7 Daytona 500 wins, 200 career wins over more than eleven hundred races makes the now 76 year old Petty still the undisputed KING of the sport.
And nobody will argue that distinction because Richard and his famous # 43 was cool in NASCAR long before NASCAR became cool and main stream!
But it had to be the slowest news/sports day of the winter, because Petty’s comment about Danica not winning a Sprint Cup race unless everybody else stayed home, created an alarming and highly over-blown tornado of controversy!
It created moans and howls of protest across the racing landscape and other mediums that likely don’t even know what NASCAR is!
Judging by the bleating, condemnation and headlines asking if Petty was sexist, the story hit the papers, radio and TV like an angry nest of hornets. It even made The NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams!
You would have thought Petty shot Patrick with a bullet instead of words!
Everybody needs to take a pill and calm down!
Petty has always spoken his mind and he did it again, and it has nothing to do with Patrick’s gender.
She’s not competitive right now in NASCAR, unlike her tenure in IndyCars, and I have stated that on the air on Raceline Radio many times, even though Danica is an international sports ambassador for a major Raceline sponsor we are in the process of re-signing, Tissot Swiss Watches.
Raceline, Danica and Tissot work together, but you have to call it like you see it.
If your average season finish is outside the top 10, you have some improving to do, and Danica agrees.
Of course a great deal of Danica’s popularity is based on the fact she’s a very attractive young woman in a male dominated sport, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
I do however think she can and will win a race eventually, so I, like Norris McDonald, disagree with Petty.
But to those media types who went way over the top criticizing The “King” Richard Petty for stating his opinion on Danica Patrick, I can name quite a few fringe male drivers in Sprint Cup who haven’t won a race, and will never win a race.
All I can guarantee, is that they are nowhere near as attractive and valuable to NASCAR’s image as Ms. Patrick.