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The Backstretch Blog: NASCAR is not a popularity contest, it's a RACE

By HEATHER WILLIAMS

Eyewitness Sports

11:10 PM EDT, June 28, 2013

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So I promised myself I wouldn't write about Danica Partick anymore this season unless she actually did something. I feel like if you want to race with the boys, you should be treated like them and none of the others hanging around 27th place in the points is getting much publicity. At least not the good kind.

But Kyle Petty called Patrick out on Thursday night, saying on the SPEED Channel show NASCAR Race Hub, "Danica has been the perfect example of somebody who can qualify better than what she runs. She can go fast, but she can't race. I think she's come a long way, but she's still not a race car driver. And I don't think she's ever going to be a race car driver."

Now before you jump all over Petty, because lets be honest, he ain't his father Richard, the younger Petty does have eight career Sprint Cup Series victories and 178 top tens. That would be eight and 178 more than Patrick. And sure he road on the coat tails of his father to get to NASCAR's highest level, but he did do something more than ride around once he got there. And Petty understood his place in the sport.

"I was not a great driver, and I'll be the first to admit it," said Petty. "I was a journeyman driver. Just like in the NFL or any sport, there are journeyman players."

I fear Danica, many reports and her fans live in some sort of illusion that she is something more than she is. She might win a race at Daytona. She might win a fuel mile race. But at that point she is nothing more than Derrike Cope or Casey Mears. Jimmie Johnson or even Dale Earnhardt, Junior she will never be.

And that is the strange thing about this sport. In just about every other sport the most popular athletes are usually the most successful. Not so in NASCAR. Junior and Danica are one-two in popularity, but if you were to rank them in success they would be more like ten and 30.

"There are going to be people that believe in you and people that don't," Patrick said. "You surround yourself with people that believe in you. That's what matters."

I don't take anything from her, I just find the way NASCAR works...well strange.

Oh yeah, there is a race this weekend. NASCAR will race Saturday night under the lights at Kentucky. It's the third ever trip to the Blue Grass state for the Sprint Cup series, so we only have two previous winners; Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski.

 "I think one of the things I like about Kentucky is that it is one of the few tracks that I have always felt kind of heads up to the field," said Keselowski. "I guess to elaborate on that, this is my fourth full year in Sprint Cup and in some ways it feels like I have been here forever and in some ways it feels like I haven't. When you go to tracks like Texas and Atlanta and places like that where there are a fair amount of drivers with more experience than I do, I always feel like I am that one little step behind. Here at Kentucky there is no driver that has more experience than me. We are on an even footing all the way. In fact, if anything, I feel like I might be slightly up because I have a couple more Nationwide starts and so forth. I think that leads to some of my comfort here."