Father's Day holds special meaning for the Petty family

Father's Day has always been special for the Petty family. Of course with four generations of NASCAR drivers, the holiday has typically been celebrated on the road, but the NASCAR Nextel Cup garage is as much a home to the Petty family as their...

Father's Day has always been special for the Petty family. Of course with four generations of NASCAR drivers, the holiday has typically been celebrated on the road, but the NASCAR Nextel Cup garage is as much a home to the Petty family as their home in Level Cross, North Carolina.

King Richard Petty, who followed in his father Lee's tire tracks and became the sport's all-time wins leader, will be the Grand Marshall at the DHL 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday (1:00 p.m. ET on FOX).

Third-generation driver Kyle Petty, who pilots the #45 Georgia-Pacific Dodge, will be one of 13 drivers with a special paint scheme to honor their father this Sunday.

"For my family, racing has been something that fathers and sons share," said Richard Petty, who picked up four of his 200 career wins at MIS. "Racing feels like family, and I think that the Happy Father's Day event at Michigan International Speedway will help the fans feel that same family connection and realize how important it is."

This year, the Petty family has another reason to celebrate.

They welcomed nearly 2,000 guests to the Victory Junction Gang Camp in Randleman, NC on Wednesday. It was the grand opening of the camp that Kyle and his wife Pattie Petty opened in honor of their son Adam, who was killed in a crash during practice for a Busch Series race at New Hampshire International Speedway four years ago.

The Victory Junction Gang Camp, which was built on 70 acres of land donated by Richard and Lynda Petty, will host children suffering from chronic and life-threatening illness.

The camp welcomes its first guests, a group of 125 children with hemophilia and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, for a week-long stay beginning on Sunday. Kyle will make his way to the camp following the race in Michigan to welcome the first guests.

The Victory Junction Gang Camp is a race-themed complex that includes 16 camping cabins along with entertainment and medical facilities to give the kids a safe and fun environment. It's part of a network of camps for sick children developed by actor and racing magnate Paul Newman, who opened the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, Connecticut in 1988.

To cater to the special needs of their guests, the Victory Junction Gang Camp has climate controlled cabins with purified air and carefully controlled pools that can be accessed by kids with physical disabilities. Facilities for fishing, horseback riding, crafts and a performing arts centre have also been specially designed for the kids needs.

The medical centre, nicknamed "the Body Shop" is staffed by specialists and equipped to provide the guests the care they need while visiting.

"Victory Junction can provide a continuity of care that allows campers to relax among their peers during disease-specific camp sessions, have fun and be kids instead of patients," said Sharon Space, M.D., the camp medical director.

Through tireless efforts during the past four years, the Petty family has raised nearly $24 million from corporate sponsors, charity events and the generosity of the other drivers, who have donated money and time to support the program.

"We'd talked about building a camp before Adam's accident," Kyle said. "After Adam's accident we put everything on hold. After a little while we thought it was one thing we could do to honor his memory and honor what he had done. We talked my father into giving us the property."

Adam Petty, who was blessed with the famous Petty smile along with the ability to work a car around the track, was the first fourth-generation NASCAR driver. He was destined to be the cornerstone of Petty Enterprises' racing efforts heading into the 21st century. He died six weeks after patriarch Lee passed away from a stomach aneurysm at the age of 86. Adam was two months shy of his 20th birthday.

"Racing has been our lives forever," he said weeks before his death. "'I never considered doing anything else. We're Pettys. Racing is what we do."

The Petty family legacy on the track has stretched across more than half a century, from Lee, who won the first Daytona 500 in 1959 through the current three-car Petty Enterprises team. It's unlikely that Petty legacy on the racetrack will ever be matched. But because of the determination of his parents to honor his memory in a very special way, Adam Petty may have left behind the greatest legacy of all.

"Adam will forever be remembered through this camp," said Kyle Petty. "Adam's selflessness and love of children are the foundations on which this camp has been built."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Adam Petty , Kyle Petty , Richard Petty