He’s continued to be outspoken in his role on Speed and has increased his visibility during the recent TNT Sprint Cup broadcasts. But he really blew the lid off last week when he said Danica Patrick might be a driver, but she wasn’t a racer."She’s not a race car driver,” Petty said. “There’s a difference. The King always had that stupid saying, but it’s true, ‘Lots of drivers can drive fast, but very few drivers can race.’ 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."
Petty (both of them) made a valid point—not all drivers are racers. You see it all the time. Drivers qualify within a few tenths of a second of each other. But when the racing starts, there’s suddenly a much greater variance of speed. Whether or not Patrick is a racer is open for debate. My personal opinion is no, she hasn’t reached racer status yet. But Kyle could have gone a little further and called out some of the others he considers drivers and not racers.
The Pettys aren’t the first people to draw a distinction between drivers and racers. Perhaps the most controversial driver/racer argument concerns Jimmy Clark, considered by many (including me) to be one of the greatest racers of all time. But not according to Chris Economaki, the acknowledged dean of motorsports journalists who passed away last year.
Economaki wrote in his book, Let’Em All Go! The Story of Auto Racing By The Man Who Was There, that Clark was a great driver, but not a great racer. He noted that while Clark had won a record 25 Grand Prix at the time of his death in 1968 in a Formula Two race, eight times he led every lap. He pointed out Clark led 190 of 200 laps in winning the 1965 Indy 500. To Economaki, Clark was a great driver, a great qualifier (a record 33 F1 pole positions) and a great front runner. But not a great racer.
I don’t for a second agree with Economaki. He ignored many races where Clark raced from the back to the front. Clark was especially good in the rain. At Trenton, in his second oval track race in an Indy Car, Clark lapped the entire field, except second place A. J. Foyt. It was Foyt who said Clark was the one “furriner” who impressed him. But the fact that Economaki didn’t consider him a racer, is an indication of how much opinions may differ in this area.
at the Rock:
Clark came from the era when racers often drove anything with four
wheels -- and sometimes two. In addition to F1, he drove sports
cars and a Ford Cortina in English saloon car races, as close as they came to
NASCAR in Europe. In his first trip to
America, he was treated to a trip around Daytona in a stock car driven by
Fireball Roberts. Afterwards he said he
was terrified, but he also wanted to try a stock car himself. He finally got the chance, racing at
Rockingham in 1967. He ran as high as 12th
before blowing an engine. He died before
getting another opportunity to drive a stock car.
|Clark in a Holman Moody Ford Fairlane|