DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Richard Petty said he is no sexist and defended his right to express his opinions a week after comments about Sprint Cup driver Danica Patrick unleashed a backlash against the Hall of Fame driver and current team owner.
At a trade show in Canada, Petty said Patrick, a second-year driver at NASCAR's highest level, could only win "if everybody else stayed home."
Before the Sprint Unlimited on Saturday at Daytona International Speedway, Petty expressed his opinion on the firestorm.
"What I said is what I said, and that's what I believe, OK?" he said. "What's unfair is the sexist part. If her name had been Danny, OK, nobody would have said anything about it. So y'all are bringing up the sexist part of it, not me."
NASCAR's career victory leader, Petty added, "It was definitely not sexist, OK? Hey look, I've been married 55 years to the same woman. So I am not a sexist by any ways. I love women."
Petty's wide-ranging interview in Canada included other potentially controversial subjects, but he was blasted for his thoughts on Patrick, the first woman to win a pole, lead laps and finish as high as eighth (last year) in the Daytona 500.
Said Petty at the Canadian Motorsports Expo: "If she'd have been a male, nobody would ever know if she'd showed up at a racetrack. ... This is a female deal that's driving her. There's nothing wrong with that, because that's good PR for me. More fans come out, people are more interested in it. She has helped to draw attention to the sport, which helps everybody in the sport."
Petty said Saturday he wouldn't hesitate to express his opinions in the future. He noted that his comments generated a national NASCAR news cycle in the lull before SpeedWeeks, oddly verifying Patrick's ability to generate publicity even while being critiqued.
"There was nothing going on NASCAR racing. Nobody was talking about Daytona," he said. "Nobody was talking about nothing. Look at all the publicity NASCAR got and she got just for one little comment."