Danica Patrick on her Super Bowl ad being pulled: “People have opinions on everything”

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Danica Patrick wasn’t surprised when her streak of Super Bowl commercials was snapped at 13 when Sprint Cup sponsor GoDaddy pulled a spot after blowback from animal rights groups.

“We thought it was a really funny, slightly left-side joke, but it really was unintentional,” Patrick said Thursday morning at Daytona 500 Media Day. “I don’t think anything in this culture surprises me anymore. People have opinions about everything, especially when you get into that world of animal rights, tree rights or whatever rights. They all have an opinion. I think (GoDaddy CEO) Blake (Irving) handled it as great as he could have. He said, ‘Fine, we’re not here to rock the boat or make people angry. We’ll pull the commercial and run something else. We were here to be funny, and enough people didn’t think it was funny.’”

The commercial centered around the story of Buddy, a lost golden retriever puppy who reaches home only to learn he’s been sold via a website (Patrick had a short cameo as a van driver). Online petitions protesting the ad gathered several thousand signatures, and GoDaddy took the brunt of criticism on social media that suggested it supported puppy mills.

In a blog post explaining the company’s decision to pull the ad, Irving said Buddy had been placed with an executive for GoDaddy, which has sponsored Patrick in NASCAR and IndyCar for several years.

The concept isn’t unfamiliar to Patrick, who adopted a Siberian Husky named Dallas a year ago after finding her online.

“I love my dog and take great care of her, and I was up at 1:45 in the morning taking her out last night in the dark because she had to go out,” she said. “She found a good home. How bad can it really be? I think that the Internet is a source for information. It was really hard to find a miniature Siberian Husky, but we found one.”

Patrick dismissed suggestions it was a publicity stunt by GoDaddy, which is known for occasionally racy and edgy campaigns.

“GoDaddy had every intention to run that commercial,” she said. “I feel like I heard from a lot of people that it was choreographed or planned. I think that’s so funny.”

Questions about her contract with Stewart-Haas Racing were less amusing for Patrick, whose deal to drive the No. 10 Chevrolet expires after the 2015 season (along with GoDaddy’s primary sponsorship).

“I believe y’all  are making that story,” she said. “I feel like every year is a pivotal year. When I first got into IndyCar, I felt … I really need to do a good job so I can stick around. Every year is a pivotal year.

“I care the same every year to do well. The most important thing for me is that my sponsor is happy and that GoDaddy is getting what they need for their relationship, and there’s (a return on investment) for them, and then on the other side that my team feels my desire, and knows how determined I am and sees improvement and wants me to be part of the team.”

Patrick said she and SHR “talk about that stuff all the time” but bristled when pressed if they were close on an extension.

“It’s friggin’ February, buddy,” she said. “It’s a matter of cart and horse, sponsor and team. Both are happy, so it’s a matter of getting GoDaddy in a place they’re happy and committing to something. From my understanding, the team wants that, too. It’s just a matter of time.”

Other topics she addressed Thursday:

  • On whether she’d spoken with seven-time champion Richard Petty since he’d made some dismissive comments about her ability a year ago. “I haven’t looked him in the eyes, I know that … because he wears sunglasses,” she said with a laugh. “Maybe he’s looked me in the eyes, I’m not sure. I fully believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion. It’s not something I’ve pursued (talking with him).”
  • On whether she was involved with hiring new crew chief Daniel Knost: “Not necessarily. I trust the team that they’ll make good decisions for me and do the best thing for me and the team overall. They know I work with Daniel back in 2012 when I did 10 races with (interim crew chief Greg) Zipadelli, he was the engineer, they knew I got along with him and liked him.”
  • On the Daytona 500 qualifying format: “I am worried. It didn’t go well at Talladega. I don’t see how it’s going to go any different here at Daytona … other than maybe people will be more encouraged to actually work together to stick with the plan. Other than that, luck of the draw.”