Daytona Beach, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Danica Patrick is shrugging off comments that NASCAR legend Richard Petty recently made about her not having a chance to win a Sprint Cup Series race.
Last weekend, Petty was asked by reporters during his visit to the Canadian Motorsports Expo in Toronto if Patrick would ever win a race in NASCAR's top racing circuit. He said, "If everybody else stayed at home. If she'd have been a male, nobody would ever know if she'd showed up at a racetrack."
Petty is a member of the inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame class, a seven-time Cup Series champion and holds the record for most race wins with 200.
During Thursday's Daytona 500 Media Day at Daytona International Speedway, Patrick responded to Petty's criticism.
"People have said things in the past, and they're going to say things in the future, but I still say the same thing, that everybody is entitled to their own opinion," Patrick said. "People are going to judge what (Petty) said whether they judge it well or not, but I'm just not going to."
Driving the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, Patrick is set to begin her second full season in Sprint Cup. She finished 27th in the point standings during her rookie season in 2013.
One year ago, Patrick made NASCAR history by becoming the first female to win a pole position for a Cup race, doing so in the Daytona 500. She was running in third on the last lap of the Daytona 500 but lost momentum to finish eighth. It remains her career-best finish in a Cup race to date.
"I'm giving it my all every single time I get into the car, whether I'm making a qualifying run or in the race," she said.
Before her foray into stock car racing in 2010, Patrick had already become enormously popular and widely marketable in the IndyCar Series. She's the only woman to win an IndyCar race, which occurred in 2008 at Motegi, Japan. Patrick also holds the record for highest finishing female in the Indianapolis 500 with a third-place run in 2009. She finished fourth in the Indy 500 during her 2005 IndyCar rookie season.
"Stock cars are not my background," Patrick said. "I've done two full years, one in Nationwide and one in Cup. I still feel like I'm figuring out the stock cars, and I will for a long time."
Patrick's Daytona 500 pole win last year made her eligible for Saturday night's Sprint Cup preseason race at Daytona. It will be the first time she competes in The Sprint Unlimited. Patrick won the pole for the 2012 Nationwide season-opener at Daytona as well.
"I've been fortunate that, whether it's been in a Nationwide car or in a Cup car here (at Daytona), I've been lucky enough to drive really good cars here," she said.
Many of Patrick's fellow competitors in Sprint Cup think she has a relatively good chance of winning a race in the future, particularly a restrictor-plate race at Daytona or Talladega Superspeedway.
"I think her most immediate opportunity to win would be plate-wise, which she has shown down here (at Daytona), especially the 500," said Jimmie Johnson, who won his second Daytona 500 and claimed his sixth Sprint Cup championship this past season. "Last year, she was in a great position through the course of the race. I would say plate racing is probably the first opportunity for her, and then it's going to take time to sort out the other areas."
Last June, Petty's son, Kyle, a former Cup driver and now NASCAR television analyst, was criticized for comments that he made about Patrick during an interview, calling her a "marketing machine" and "not a race car driver."