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Danica Patrick brushes off criticism from Richard Petty

Danica Patrick (Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Danica Patrick finished 27th in the Sprint Cup standings last season. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Danica Patrick believes Richard Petty is entitled to his opinion and that only positives can come from his recent controversial statements.

Responding at Daytona 500 media day on Thursday to Petty's assertion that the only way Patrick will win a Sprint Cup race is "if everybody else stayed home," Patrick said, "As I said the last time somebody said something that was not so positive for me, it spawns so many positive articles. I love the conversation that it creates in sport, and across the board it makes sports interesting. It makes life interesting when people have different perspectives, and that's fine with me."

Petty, a seven-time series champion, said Patrick gets so much attention because she's a women, but he added that he thinks the publicity is good for NASCAR.

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Patrick finished eighth in last year's Daytona 500 after becoming the first woman to win the pole. It was the 31-year-old's only top-10 finish in 46 career Sprint Cup races.

"It has nothing to do with where it comes from," Patrick said of the 76-year-old Petty's comments. "The people that matter the most to me are my team, my sponsors and those little 3-year-old kids that run up to you and want a great big hug and say they want to grow up to be like you. That's the stuff I really focus on."

Later, in an interview on ESPN's "SportsCenter," Patrick said she won't seek Petty out to talk about his comments.

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