Danica: Negative spawns positive

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Danica Patrick has brushed off Hall of Famer Richard Petty's criticism.

Speaking at Daytona 500 media day Thursday, Patrick said the seven-time series champion is entitled to his opinion, adding that good things could come from it.

"As I said the last time somebody said something that was not so positive for me, it spawns so many positive articles," Patrick said. "I love the conversation that it creates in sport, and across the board it makes sports interesting. It makes life interesting when people have different perspectives, and that's fine with me."

Petty said last week that Patrick can win a Sprint Cup race only "if everybody else stayed home."

Petty, speaking at the Canadian Motorsports Expo in Toronto, also said Patrick gets attention because she's a woman, but he added that the publicity is good for NASCAR.

"If she'd have been a male, nobody would ever know if she'd showed up at a racetrack," Petty said. "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."

Patrick is at Daytona International Speedway this week to begin her second full season at NASCAR's top level. A year ago, she became the first woman to win the top starting spot for the Daytona 500 and finished eighth.

It was Patrick's best result during a rough rookie year in which she averaged a 26th-place finish. Patrick was 27th in the final Sprint Cup standings.

Still, she refused to fire back at the former driver known as The King.

"It has nothing to do with where it comes from," Patrick said. "The people that matter the most to me are my team, my sponsors and those little 3-year-old kids that run up to you and want a great big hug and say they want to grow up to be like you. That's the stuff I really focus on."

Dale Earnhardt Jr., long NASCAR's most popular driver, said Petty was a "little rough" on Patrick.

"Danica deals with more criticism than anybody else has ever faced in the sport," Earnhardt said. "She goes by a different set of rules because of her gender, and that's unfortunate. It seems like she's always having to answer to something like that, and that's a pain in her butt.

"And frankly it's just got to get old."

Patrick said in an interview with ESPN's "SportsCenter" on Thursday that she had no plans to seek out Petty to talk with him about his comments.

"I won't seek him out for any reason," she said. "Never have in any situations in the past where somebody has said something about me."

Patrick also knows contending for wins at Stewart-Haas Racing can silence the doubters who believe she'll never be a factor in NASCAR.

"There's a lot I have to learn, and I know that," she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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