DAYTONA BEACH — Shaking off comments by Hall of Fame driver Richard Petty this past week that questioned her abilities, Danica Patrick said, "Everybody is entitled to their own opinion."
"People have said things in the past, and they're going to say things in the future," Patrick said. "I still say the same thing: that everyone is entitled to their own opinion."
In an interview Sunday, the 76-year-old Petty said was asked if Patrick would ever win a NASCAR Sprint Cup race.
"If everybody else stayed home," the Hall of Fame legend said, adding that Patrick's presence is still good for the sport.
When asked about those comments, Patrick said, "People are going to judge what he said whether they judge it well or not, and I'm just not going to."
"You can't try any harder in the car," she added. "You are doing everything that you can, and maybe subconsciously there is some motivation, but I can't tell.
"I'm giving it my all every single time I'm in the car whether I'm making a simple qualifying run or whether I'm in the race."
Petty's comments, as expected, were a hot topic of discussion Thursday.
"I think you have to respect the King for who he is and what he's done for the sports, and he has the right to an opinion like everyone else and he makes some pretty strong points when you read the transcript," said fellow NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski. "I think it's a long way to go out there and say someone will never win a race."
"I wouldn't want to have my name behind that comment."
Six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson said he thinks it's going to take time for Patrick to learn the ropes.
"You need at least five years over here [Sprint Cup series] to figure out what's going on and to figure out these cars and be competitive," Johnson said. "It's one thing to get within a half second, but those couple of tenths are the hardest thing to find."
For Patrick, who said she hasn't spoken with the Petty since his comments, the only thing that matters is those closest to her.
"The people who matter the most to me are my team, my sponsors and those little 3-year-old kids who run up to you and want a big hug and say they want to grow up to be like you.
"That's the stuff I really focus on."
Return of the No. 3 car
It's been more than a decade since Dale Earnhardt was killed in a crash at Daytona International Speedway and his iconic No. 3 has been absent from the Cup Series.
That changed for this season with the announcement that rookie Austin Dillon will drive the No. 3 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, the team for which Earnhardt raced. It's a huge moment for Dillon, and one the rookie — Childress' grandson — believes he's ready for.
"The biggest thing is being respectful to all the family that is involved and also taking this opportunity and hoping that fans are embracing it the right way," Dillon said Thursday during NASCAR's media event. "We're trying to continue the legacy of the No. 3. I think we've done a good job of it so far."