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“Some guys don’t respect anybody, no matter what their gender,” he said. “Every (driver) has to stand up for themselves at some point and set the tone that they won’t put up with it from anybody. When I first started hanging out with her and got to know her even before I raced with her, I knew she wasn’t the kind of person you run around pushing buttons with. Some guys don’t see it that way I guess and push her around on the race track. She will just have to settle that however she wants. There’s way to do it.”

Jimmie Johnson was pushed around as a first-year NASCAR driver, but learned to counterpunch.

“You have to take three or four lumps before you pass one out. That was my philosophy,” he said. “Rookies get used up. It doesn’t matter if it’s our sport or baseball or football; it’s just how it is. It gets better with time and that stuff goes away.”

Patrick, who is not in the field on Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway, has yet to break into the top 30 in three Cup races. She has just one top-10 finish in the Nationwide Series, an eighth at Fort Worth, in 15 starts.

She said it’s a question of just getting to know all the drivers in a new circuit.

“It’s feeling each other out, knowing how far you can push each other and find the limits,” she said. “I feel like that’s all it is. It’s nothing I haven’t dealt with.”

Patrick said a few years back at Phoenix other drivers were taking advantage of her and she got clearance from Eury to respond. She rolled down the back stretch and plowed into a driver who had been muscling her around the track.

“I don’t really think anybody messed with me for a little while after that,” she said.

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BIRTHDAY BOY: “The King” of NASCAR, Richard Petty, turns 75 on Monday.

Aric Almirola, driving Petty’s No. 43 Ford Fusion in the Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday night, was asked about the celebration plans.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I think they might be secret and I don’t want to spill the beans.”

As expected, Petty isn’t celebrating his big day with cake and ice cream while sitting in a rocker.

The seven-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champ and owner of 200 Cup victories, including seven at the Daytona 500, will blow out the candles in the same town where he was born, Level Cross, N.C. He’ll also be working at his garage and will later spend time with his family.

Later in the week, he’ll fly to Daytona Beach, Fla., where Petty and his family and friends will not only celebrate the Fourth of July but also his birthday. A special dinner at a resort hotel will include guest speakers from Petty’s life, capped by a fireworks display.

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