When Richard Petty took a verbal swipe at Danica Patrick last week, saying she could win a race only if there was no other driver on the track, it hit close to home for Mt. Juliet racer Hannah Garrett.
"I kinda know how she feels," says Hannah, a Mt. Juliet High senior and amateur racer whose nickname is "Little Danica."
"I've run into some of that (male snipping)," she explains. "Back when I was racing Quarter-Midgets, a little boy felt like I was interfering with him. I didn't pay him any attention -- I just went out and beat him."
Hannah says she also encountered some resentment from male drivers when she raced at Nashville's Fairgrounds Speedway, "and occasionally at Highland Rim, but not as much. For the most part I feel accepted."
Hannah grew up around racetracks watching her dad Tim compete. Her grandfather, Byron Pruitt, gave her the "Little Danica" nickname after watching her tear around in a go-kart.
She has always a been a fan of Patrick, who became the first woman to win an IndyCar race, and last year won the Daytona 500 pole -- but whose performances sputtered as the season went on.
"She's a good driver and will win (in NASCAR) eventually," Hannah says. "She's well-liked by the fans, and has brought a lot of positive attention to the sport."
Hannah has a "Go-Daddy" t-shirt (Patrick's sponsor) and got a chance to see her at last March's Sprint Cup race in Bristol.
"Before that, I'd only seen her on TV," she says. "I didn't realize how tiny she is in person."
Patrick, a fan favorite during her IndyCar races at Nashville Superspeedway, said she hopes to inspire more females to compete in what has traditionally been a male-dominated sport.
Hannah was racing before Patrick came on the scene. She started out in go-karts, and by seven had graduated to Quarter Midgets. Competing on a track in Hermitage that attracts top Quarter Midget drivers from throughout the region, Hannah set two track records and won the Sportsmanship Award.
From there she raced at Nashville’s Fairgrounds Speedway, one of the nation’s premier short tracks, and at Highland Rim Speedway. Two years ago Hannah also served as Highland Rim’s Miss Speedway.
"She is a wonderful representative of our track," says track co-owner Roger Cunningham. "Hannah has a great personality and is good for our youth movement. We're proud to have her."
After graduating from Mt. Juliet High this spring, Hannah plans to attend college in the fall and major in nursing. Because of her academic workload and other commitments, she will run only a partial schedule this season, perhaps two races a month.
"Racing is very time-consuming, especially when you also work on the car as I do," she says ."But I enjoy it, and I'll race as much as my schedule permits."
Highland Rim's season opens April 12 and runs every Saturday through October.
Hannah also is involved in taxidermy, a hobby inspired by her grandfather.
"There's so many things I'm interested in that I have trouble finding time for all of them," Hannah says with a laugh. "But racing will definitely be part of it. My goal this season is to run up front and win some races.
Spoken like a true Danica.