Richard Petty returned to the race track Wednesday afternoon, the Lowes Motor Speedway, after having lost his eldest grandson, Adam, twelve days ago after a crash during a practice session for a Busch Series race. He took time to answer...
Richard Petty returned to the race track Wednesday afternoon, the Lowes Motor Speedway, after having lost his eldest grandson, Adam, twelve days ago after a crash during a practice session for a Busch Series race.
He took time to answer questions in the Charlotte speedway media center.
After the funeral on Monday a week ago, "everybody sort of hung around the house. Lynda and myself went to Wyoming on Thursday. Then Friday Kyle and Montgomery Lee and Pattie and them went to a horse show down in the eastern part of the state. We just sort of tried to get away from all the racing stuff and just sort of slow down a little bit."
"Everybody seems to be doing real good. It's like everything else. I know everybody has been through it from time-to-time. As long as everybody stays busy everything's going good", replied Petty to a question about how the family was coping. "Kyle has been real, real busy trying to put everything else together. Pattie has done real good, I think. Linda gets a little emotional every once in a while. Montgomery Lee has done really good because she was able to go and get back with the horses and stuff. Austin has just been busy. He's been busy with the girls, so he's OK."
"I sort of go with the flow. It's tough losing anybody in your family. I just lost my father about six or eight weeks ago. We're still dealing into that with my mother, and then all this other happens. After you get to be 62 years old you sort of go with the flow, and that's what we've been doing."
When asked if this tragedy has soured him on racing, his immediate response was: "Oh no. I tell the tale that I was sitting Monday evening and really felt bad. I said, 'You know, if I hadn't been in racing and hadn't pushed Kyle, stayed working with Kyle, hadn't working with Adam -- maybe this wouldn't have happened.' Then I read in the paper - first thing I done Monday night when I picked up the paper - a boy, 17, and one, 15, both drowned, different places just swimming, just having fun. So that just lifted a cloud off of me from that standpoint."
"Petty Enterprises is going to go on. Right now we're just re-evaluating everything we had because as everybody knows, we were putting a lot of future and a lot of things in the basket with Adam to sort of carry the torch for us. So now we just have to re-evaluate everything. So from that standpoint it will be a little bit of time before we get that figured out. When we do, we'll let everybody know what is going on."
In reply to a question about whether Kyle wanted to get back to racing, Petty responded, "Yeah, I think he does. I think was just a little too quick for him. I think he needs to sort of settle down. Plus, the business part of it, the family part - all that stuff just thrown in on him at one time - I think he said, 'OK, just sort of take a week off here,' and try to sort of get that stuff together so that he could go forward with it. Yeah, he'll be ready for next week."
How does he want Adam to be remembered? "That's a good question. I think that you see very few 19-year-old kids that have touched as many people as what Adam has. I think he was too young for anybody to really evaluate what his career was going to be from the professional standpoint. But I think the majority of the people that have ever met him remember his smile, the patting on the back, that he'd joke with them or whatever. So I guess that's probably the best memory that anybody could ever have of anybody is that, hey, he was a pretty good kid and always seemed to get along with everybody. That's how I'm going to remember him anyway."
Will Kyle focus more on the team now? "It's really hard to say. Yeah, I think he'll go back to his career a little bit more now from that standpoint. But he's still got a pretty big operation with Petty Enterprises. It's just according to how he wants to split it up. I think from the driving standpoint once he gets back in and gets to going, then he'll probably be more determined than ever to prove a point, more or less."
Did Kyle consider retiring from racing? "I don't think so. If he did, he didn't express to any of the family or any of that stuff. It was just a deal sort of like what I said a while ago. It's just, 'Hey, this is life.' We got to checking, talking to different people in the shop and there were five or six people in the shop that had lost kids that we didn't even know about. Maybe they lost them before they went to work with us, or whatever. So it's not an isolated deal. Racing's got nothing to do with it. It was his time and he's not here with us no more."
How is it to talk about this so much? "Well, really I would just rather everybody forget about it - just have their good memories and then go on down the road. That's what we're trying to do. Everybody that has talked to us or wrote letters, you all have talked to us, and whatever - the sympathy has been great, and we appreciate that. Everybody knows there is nothing we can do and nothing y'all can do. But we do appreciate that part."
"I don't know that this will bring the family any closer together. We felt like we were a pretty close family anyway. We're not looking at racing any different. We went out and ran Saturday night. John (Andretti) ran into the wall and totaled a brand new car out. That car was tore up worse than Adam's car, and John is fine. You know what I mean? So we just look at it that part of living is dying, and he just got there a little bit earlier than what we wanted him to do."
"Right now we don't have any particular plans" for the future of the race team. "That's where Kyle is at today. He is working with people. We don't know, but we're going to go forward - let's put it that way. One person is not going to stop the world and it's not going to stop Petty Enterprises either. What we do in the future, like I said a while ago, is that once we decide what we're going to do and how we're going to operate, then we'll let everybody know."
Will Kyle be driving the Busch Series car next week at Dover? "You would have to talk to him about that. We don't know. They are going to have to see. Really that's going to be more up to probably what Sprint wants to do, how they want to handle their PR part of it. Right now, I would doubt it. But you can never tell."
Does anything stand out about the public's reaction to Adam's death stand out? "No, not really. It's just a deal where I guess there were a lot more people that knew Adam than what I thought. These people had actually met Adam. They didn't just know Lee Petty or Richard Petty or Kyle Petty. They knew Adam Petty. So again, he stood out a little bit further than what I thought he was."
"We don't know" what caused the accident. " We think the accelerator hung. That's what all the observers and that's what everybody seems to think happened because of the speed that was carried into the middle of the corner."
Do you really want to know what happened? "Coming from the Petty crowd, we don't want to know. We don't care. I mean, if it was something that we could have prevented, it would have already been prevented, I guess. No matter what you find out it doesn't change the outcome. If it was something that we could prevent the next time, then yeah, you'd like to know from that standpoint. But other than that, it's irrelevant."
Since Austin is not interested in racing, who will be heirs of the Petty operation? "I don't see none of the girls really coming along driving, you know what I mean? Hopefully not, anyway. But that's really not a concern. Racing went on without the Pettys. It will go on after the Pettys. The Pettys have to make a living somewhere and racing is what they know, and that's what they're going to be doing."
Is Petty Enterprises staying in racing in memory of Adam? "No, no. We've got to make a living, man. It's sort of like a farmer. Just because he has a drought one year, he plants again next year. We do the same thing."