Earnhardt Jr., Harvick, Johnson defend Danica Patrick

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Getty Images

SPARTA, Ky. — Dale Earnhardt Jr.  on Friday at Kentucky Speedway said he does not agree with Kyle Petty’s comments surrounding Danica Patrick.

“I think she’s a tough competitor,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “She works really hard at what she does. She has run some really good races. On every occasion she’s outrunning several guys out on the circuit.” Earnhardt Jr. said in defense of the up and coming driver.

“If she was not able to compete and not able to run minimum speed or finishing in last place every week, I think you might be able to say Kyle has an argument. But she’s out there running competitively, running strong on several accounts.”

Petty’s comments came from SPEED’s RaceHub on Thursday, he spoke of Patrick saying, “I think she’s come a long way, but she’s still not a race car driver,” he said. “And I don’t think she’s ever going to be a race car driver.”

Patrick drove the No.7 for Earnhardt Jr.’s JR Motorsports team in the Nationwide Series full-time last season, after running a limited schedule with them from 2010-11 while making the transition from IndyCar to NASCAR.

Earnhardt Jr. was not the only one to disagree with Petty’s comments on Friday. Kevin Harvick said, “I don’t know that I would go as far as calling her not a racer because she’s raced her whole life and I think on a continuous learning curve.”

“She’s obviously dedicated at what she does to try to get better and knows she has a lot of hurdles to overcome in a short amount of time.”

Harvick is joining SHR next season and will be teammates with Patrick. He said Patrick was lucky to have a sponsor such as GoDaddy, as it gives her a chance to learn even while she is struggling.

Jimmie Johnson, although was not asked about Patrick specifically, said that he has told friends from other series to have a “five-year plan” since the adjustment into NASCAR is a difficult one. Johnson himself struggled in the Nationwide series, before coming a five time Sprint Cup Champion.

““They’re different cars,” Johnson said. “The racing that takes place on the track, the door-to-door racing and where you position your car to keep the air on it so you don’t make a mistake, how you can affect others around you to get the position, that’s just something that takes laps.”

Patrick is currently 27th in points. She became the first female to start on the pole for a Sprint Cup Series race earlier this year when she qualified on the pole for the season-opening Daytona 500.

“I think she’s got a good opportunity … to keep competing and she just might surprise even Kyle Petty,” Earnhardt Jr. said.