Continued from page 1

And he’s certainly entitled to speak his mind.

He doesn’t think he’s wrong about what he said about Patrick, although he’s willing to let facts change his mind. What he’s found in the world of racing, particularly in this new age of Twitter, is there’s no such thing as a civil discussion.

After his comments about Patrick went mainstream, Petty said he was flooded with 250 tweets an hour for a full day. He went through them all, waiting for a reasonable argument, but only found personal attacks.

“After a full day, it was A. I have a ponytail; B. I’m a never was; C. I suck; D. I rode my dad’s coattails _ none of which is a valid argument,” Petty said. “You can change my opinion if you have a valid argument. You can’t just go junior high and go personal.”

Which is why Petty, who does indeed have a ponytail, doesn’t feel badly about his comments about Hamlin on Sunday.

Petty essentially said that Hamlin had gotten too brash in his comments about being the face of Joe Gibbs Racing, and should probably hang it up for the rest of the season and focus on healing his ailing back. What Hamlin had actually said was that he was the face of sponsor Fed-Ex and the No. 11 team.

Hamlin talked about Petty after his accident _ because he was asked by a reporter, not because he was dwelling on Petty _and was still miffed.

“My beef with Kyle is he has a lot of opinions about a lot of drivers, but he never once talked to any of them,” Hamlin said. “To be an analyst you’ve got to be in the trenches to find out the stories.”

Petty would have reached out to Hamlin or apologized for making a mistake, but then came the “moron” tweet.

“Denny’s argument was a typical Twitter argument, he calls me a moron and then he goes personal,” Petty said. “So I’m just not going to acknowledge it.”

It’s unlikely it’s the last driver disagreement Petty will have this year. After that, who knows?

Speed flips to Fox Sports 1 later this month, and nobody knows what will happen to the bulk of the NASCAR programming beyond this season. Petty joked Monday “everybody’s dream may come true and I may be watching races on my couch, or from a tiki bar in the Bahamas.”

But that shouldn’t be anybody’s dream. Petty’s opinions may not be popular or politically correct. But they are his; he believes in them and is not afraid to shout them from a trackside television set or inside the Hall of Fame voting room, where he’s influenced many a vote with his impassioned speeches.

Petty isn’t afraid to admit when he’s wrong, but he’s the equivalent of a single car team in a sport full of heavily funded big dogs, and he’s not afraid to make waves.

“I don’t need an interview from Danica or Denny or Brian France,” he said. “But for their sport to survive, they need an interview from us. I was on that side of that table. I needed you to talk to me when I was a driver, because I needed Coca-Cola or Wells Fargo, and if you didn’t talk to me, I didn’t get that job or that cash. I don’t know if people see it that way anymore. If we don’t cover the races, then there’s no sport. If we don’t talk about how great Denny is or Jimmie (Johnson) is or Danica, then there’s no fans.

Story Continues →