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Dale Earnhardt Jr. comes to Danica Patrick's defense

By DANIELLE HAYNES, UPI.com   |   June 30, 2013 at 11:27 AM   |   Comments

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June 30 (UPI) -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. and other NASCAR drivers came to Danica Patrick's defense after TV analyst Kyle Petty said she is "not a race car driver," but simply a "marketing machine."

"Danica has been the perfect example of somebody who can qualify better than what she runs," Petty said on SPEED's RaceHub program Thursday. "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."

Patrick brushed off his comments while talking to reporters Friday at the Kentucky Speedway, saying "I really don't care."

Now other NASCAR drivers are coming to her defense, including Earnhardt, Patrick's former boss when she drove in the Nationwide Series for JR Motorsports.

"I have to disagree with Kyle," Earnhardt said Friday at the Kentucky Speedway. "I think she's a tough competitor. She works really hard at what she does and she has run some really good races. On every occasion, she's outrunning several guys on the circuit."

Kevin Harvick, who will be Patrick's teammate when he joins Stewart-Haas Racing next year said Patrick has overcome hurdles in her transition from Indy car racing to NASCAR.

"To drive them fast is something that is just not going to happen overnight," Harvick said. "I don't know that I would go as far as calling her not a racer because she's raced her whole life and I think on a continuous learning curve. She's obviously dedicated at what she does to try to get better and knows she has a lot of hurdles to overcome in a short amount of time."

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