CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Kyle Petty, the NASCAR driver-turned-analyst with the unfiltered opinions, has angered someone new.
Petty didn’t mean to make Denny Hamlin mad with his televised comments before Sunday’s race at Pocono. Hamlin, who saw the segment on Speed, tweeted before the race “Kyle Petty is a moron,” and was still venting about Petty after crashing out 14 laps into the race.
Turns out, Hamlin had every right to be upset. Petty admitted to The Associated Press on Monday he had misinterpreted previous statements made by Hamlin, and the opinion Petty presented before the race about Hamlin was incorrect.
“If you are going to run your mouth, if you are going to dish it out, you gotta take it, and the bone of contention here is that Denny is 100 percent right,” Petty said.
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“I can take it, I can say that I’m wrong and that I misinterpreted what Denny said.”
Actually, that’s not the bone of contention at all.
The issue at hand is that Petty has found his voice to be the loudest and most polarizing in a sport filled with NASCAR “partners” often too timid to ruffle any feathers. Nobody wants to land on the wrong side of a driver, a crew chief, a team owner or NASCAR itself. And with the hours upon hours of programming to fill, it is sometimes simply easier to stay on good terms.
That is not who Petty is, and he will not play that game.
He found himself in the news last month when he said Danica Patrick was a marketing machine who would never be a successful driver. It was not the first time he has referred to her as such.
For some reason, it was news — well, who are we kidding? All things Danica are news. But that’s beside the point. Petty was under attack for speaking his opinion.
“Sometimes I find myself the lone dissenting voice in this sea of political correctness, and I don’t think everything has to be politically correct. Facts are facts, and honestly, it’s just my opinion,” he said. “I don’t think that any of us — me, Kyle Petty, media, the drivers, NASCAR, track owners, we aren’t all right all the time. We don’t all live in a Utopian society where everything is perfect. There are things that need to be examined, that need to be called out, and I seem to be the only one that says it. That’s the only way I’ve always been. It’s just my opinion. It’s just my question.
“ It’s questions that have to be asked. Just as it’s their job to go out and drive the race car and do what they do, it’s not our job to ask if they went fishing or went to the Bahamas and just ask the fluff. It’s our responsibility to inform the fan base.”
Petty, 53, is the son of seven-time NASCAR champion Richard Petty and grandson of three-time champion Lee Petty.
“You are going to ruffle feathers sometimes, and the texts or phone messages I get, that’s fine,” Kyle said.
“That’s part of life. Because once you start singing the company line, you become white noise and that’s not me.”