The King is back at the track By Joe Macenka CONCORD, N.C. (May 24, 2000) The NASCAR family got one member of the Petty family back Wednesday. Another one is due to return next week. Richard Petty swept into the Lowe's Motor Speedway garage in...
The King is back at the track By Joe Macenka
CONCORD, N.C. (May 24, 2000) The NASCAR family got one member of the Petty family back Wednesday. Another one is due to return next week.
Richard Petty swept into the Lowe's Motor Speedway garage in mid-afternoon, trying his best to get back to the business of racing 12 days after losing his eldest grandson, Adam, as a result of injuries in a crash during a practice session for a NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division race.
Petty answered reporters' questions for about 15 minutes in the suburban Charlotte speedway's infield media center. Some questions prompted a smile from beneath the trademark cowboy hat and wraparound sunglasses; others left Petty fighting a losing battle to prevent his voice from cracking as he struggled to come to terms with the death of a 19-year-old driver tabbed as the heir to stock-car racing's first family.
"Everybody seems to be doing real good," Petty said. "It's like everything else. I know everybody's been through it from time to time. As long as everybody stays busy, everything's going good."
Kyle Petty, Richard's son and Adam's father, is taking some time off this week as he continues to work through his grieving process. Kyle will return to driving in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series next week in Dover, Del., his father said.
"I think this was just a little bit too quick for him," Richard Petty said of Kyle, who is being replaced at Charlotte this week by Steve Grissom, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver for Petty Enterprises. "I think that he needs to sort of settle down. Plus, the business part and the family part, all of that stuff just really hit him at one time. And I think he just sort of said he needed to take a week off here and try to sort of get all that stuff so that he could go forward with it. Yeah, he'll be ready for next week."
Petty said he has no doubt his son will be able to put the loss of Adam behind him and focus on his job as a racer.
"I think from a driving standpoint, once he gets back in and gets going, then he'll probably be more determined than ever," Petty said.
Petty seemed to have the most trouble when asked how he will remember a grandson with whom, by all accounts, he was particularly close.
"You see very few 19-year-old kids that's affected as many people, that's touched as many people, as what Adam has," he said. "I think he was too young for anybody to really evaluate what his career was going to be from a professional standpoint. But I think the majority of the people who have ever met him remember his smile, patting them on the back, joking with them or whatever. I guess that's probably the best memory that anybody could ever have of anybody, is that he was a pretty good kid."
While no cause for the fatal May 12 crash has been determined, Petty said that as far as the family is concerned, the subject is inconsequential.
"No matter what you find out," he said, "it doesn't change the outcome."
That point was reinforced, Petty said, when John Andretti, Petty Enterprises' other Winston Cup driver, escaped injury in a crash last week during the circuit's annual all-star race.
"John went into the wall and tore a brand new car up. That car was tore up worse than Adam's car," Petty said. "So it wasn't John's time. Know what I mean? So we just look at it that part of living is dying."
A crowd of more than 1,000 people turned out for Adam Petty's memorial service May 15. Of all the mourners who showed up, the elder Petty said, the one who meant the most to him was Bobby Allison, who twice has had to cope with the loss of sons who were racers.
"I probably feel more for him now than what I did then," Petty said, "because I went through the same thing."