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NASCAR: Kyle Petty: 'Thanks to all of you'

2 June 2000

Posted By Terry Callahan
Motorsports Editor, The Auto Channel
"First, let me thank you guys (the media), everybody in the regular crowd that travels with us, for kind of just leaving us alone for a couple of weeks, to be totally honest with you. We appreciate that more than you'll ever know. It's been a hard two or three weeks."--Kyle Petty

(IS HE READY TO COME BACK?) "I think so. That's a tough question to ask and a tougher question to answer, I guess.

"The accident happened on a Friday. (Daughter) Montgomery Lee and I were in London. I spent so much time with Adam at the racetrack, going to the racetrack, being around the racetrack and being around race cars that I felt like I needed to spend more time with Montgomery Lee and more time with Austin. So I had gone to London, and Mike Helton called. Let me say this: NASCAR did an incredible job of calling - I was out of the country - and explaining it to me. Mike will be my hero forever. He did a great job. So I couldn't tell Montgomery Lee when we were in England. I had to keep in from her for about 24 hours. I had to keep in form her until we got back because I just didn't want her to know.

"From that day on we've lived in our own little world. It was incredibly hard for Pattie and I to go back to Adam's race shop. You'll never know how hard it was to walk through those doors and see those cars sitting there with his name on it, and see his seats in the car and his uniforms and stuff like that. But at the same time, there is nothing Adam loved more than race cars, and being around his crew and the racing people. I can rest assured he would kick my but to know that we didn't go to Charlotte, just to be totally honest with you. I just couldn't go to Charlotte. Charlotte was a Winston Cup race for him and a Busch race. He had gone over there and tested and he was incredibly excited about going back to Charlotte, and just being there for the (Coca-Cola) 600 and being there for the Busch race, and they (Adam's team) felt like they had really good cars for both of them. I just couldn't bring myself - because we had talked about it so much - I just couldn't bring myself to go to Charlotte. So I decided to sit out and went to a horse show with Montgomery Lee and spent last weekend with Austin and with Pattie, and just kind of hung out with my family. That's kind of what we did. We've just spent family time the last two or three weeks."

(WHY DID HE DECIDE TO DRIVE THE BUSCH CAR THIS WEEKEND?) "Because I think that's what Adam would have wanted, to be honest with you. Our relationship with Sprint goes back five or six years. Our relationship with Sprint goes back to when I was driving for Felix (Sabates), and they came on board and Spree Pre-Paid Phone Cards. That was part of Sprint."

"It's always been a Petty relationship. It was Sprint and Petty. It just happened to be Adam Petty right now. It had been Kyle Petty. It had been Richard Petty, and I've got Sprint on my car.

"So we sat down with the crew and the crew decided. We sat down with the crew first and said, 'What do you guys want to do? Do you guys want to continue to race? What do you want to do?' They all pretty much wanted to race. They kind of took a vote that they didn't want to see anybody else in the car but myself. So we went to Sprint and talked to them and they were all for it, so here we are at Dover."

(ON THE DIFFICULTY OF GETTING BACK IN A RACE CAR) I'll say this and Pattie will tell you: I've lived in our own little world and this is as far as I've been away from home in two weeks. The furthest I've been away has been Petty Enterprises. So you get to know the people and you get past that stage.

"Coming in here last night and just rolling through the front gate of the racetrack knowing that Adam wasn't here was pretty hard. I'll say that. I didn't take it too good last night because, like I told Pattie, being at the racetrack on Thursday nights was our time. It was mine and Adam's time. He had been here, (gone) through inspection, he had a lay of the land and we'd go to dinner and do stuff.

"I don't think the emotion of getting back in the car and getting in his car is going to be that bad because I've been around his crew every day, and been around that car every day. I think it was just coming back to the racetrack and seeing new people and being around that part of it. That's the toughest part, and walking in here with you guys (the media) is hard, but I don't think the race car part will be that hard."

(WHAT ARE THE PLANS FOR THE BUSCH TEAM?) "One week at a time. Obviously our whole intent with the Busch car was to bring Adam to Winston Cup racing. Now that he's not here, whether we run one race, whether we run 20 races, whether we run the entire rest of the season or whatever, it really doesn't make that much difference. We're working with Sprint right now. We talked to them last week. We're continuing to have conversations with those guys. Basically, they had a long-term marketing plan. We're going to work with their marketing plan and work with what we can do, and see what we can do the rest of the year. We'll just work from there. But right now it's all up in the air for us."

(ON THE OUTPOURING OF SUPPORT FROM THE PUBLIC) "The biggest thing has not been from people you know. It's not been the outpouring or the calls from people you know or things like that. It was the people that you'll never meet and you'll never know. And it's not just been the individuals. It's been the cards that we've gotten from entire families that every family member has signed, and stuff like that."

"It's phenomenal how many cards we gotten and how many letters we've gotten and how much we continue to get. It's been amazing. Pattie can tell you, too, that for the last two or three weeks, every afternoon I can home from work and we sit down and we go through the mail. You just about sit there and cry every day just from letters people have written, whether it be a little girl and her family or an older gentleman and what he's gone through losing a son or losing a daughter. It's been pretty phenomenal from that perspective.

"You look at Winston Cup racing, and I've always joked about it, and said all we really do is ride around in circles. But in reality, I don't think I ever even realized how many lives you touch by what we do out here. I think it brings a lot of enjoyment to people, seeing us do what we do. They being to feel a part of your family, and they begin to feel like you're part of them. That's been phenomenal for me. I guess I should have realized it a long time ago, but it really hit home with this."

(ON THE PUBLIC'S REACTION TO ADAM PERSONALLY) "He had such a short career, but that doesn't make any difference. It's like we've always said that what we've always tried to do... we've had success on the racetrack as a family, but it's what you do away from the racetrack. It's how many people's lives you touch and you help the other way. I don't think he even realized how many people he touched. I was talking to a guy from Texas the other day and he told me, 'You know, I never met your son, but I've never talked to anybody that, since this has happened, has had anything but good things (to say). He must have been a really good kid.' That pretty much summed it up. That's just it. He was just a good kid."

(ON HOW ADAM BECAME SUCH A SPECIAL PERSON) "I give a lot of it to Pattie. Obviously since we were on the racetrack and going a lot, then she was there with him a lot. But we've said it before; with Austin and Montgomery Lee and with Adam, you never missed an opportunity to tell them that you loved them. We must have called him three or four times - Montgomery Lee and I - when we were flying to London with the 'air phone.' Montgomery Lee thought it was cool that you could call from an airplane. So we called him in New Hampshire three or four times and just told him we loved him.

"I think we were just really close. We used to joke about being a father and son, and best friends. But it was a lot truer. And I think we were, and I think Austin and I, and Montgomery Lee and Pattie and all of us are in the same way. We just tried to do that because we felt like that was more important than the racing stuff. Racing's important, but your family was a lot more important. That's the way my mother and my father were with my three sisters.

"My three sisters came (over) instantly (after the accident), Pattie's sister came, Felix Sabates was there. I called from England and Felix was there, he and his wife. I don't think he'll ever know how much that meant because we were always really close. There were a lot of people like that. I think we were just close like that."

(DID HE EVER THINK ABOUT QUITTING?) "No. People ask that question and that never crossed my mind. It's like we've said before. This is what we have always done as a family. My grandfather did it, my father did it, I've done it, Adam did it. This is what we do. We look at ourselves in a lot of ways like a bunch of farmers. Just because something goes bad or something goes wrong, you don't quit and go home. You keep plugging along at it. Like I said before, and sometimes it sounds a little crazy to say or a little stupid to say, but as much as Adam loved racing he wouldn't stop, so there is no reason for us to."

(IS DRIVING THE BEST WAY FOR HIM TO MOVE FORWARD?) "The best way? I don't know. The only way, I know. I'll say that. I don't think you can say there is a best way, I really don't. I don't think I've ever had anything affect me anywhere close to this. I've just been devastated by this, to be totally honest with you. But it's the only thing I know to do is to go and get back and do this again, and try to do what I think we need to do."

(IS THERE ANY PARTICULAR MEMORY OF ADAM THAT STANDS OUT HERE?) 'No, not from this place, not from any one racetrack, not yet anyhow. I'm sure there will be as I go back to racetracks that I'll remember something or somewhere we went or something we did. There are just so many memories that keep flooding back. Pattie and I rode motorcycles up here yesterday. I love to ride motorcycles, but it was hard even riding a motorcycle because you've got so much time on your hands when you're riding to just sit and think, so that was kind of hard yesterday. But I don't there is any one memory."

(IS IT HARD TO SEE PICTURES OF ADAM?) "I think it will get to a point where at some point in time it may be hard to see a photo. But surprisingly right now it's not hard to see a photo of him because I don't think about it that way because he is still so fresh in my mind and in my heart. I can look out across the racetrack and see him so I don't need a photo. That doesn't really affect me that bad. When I look at it like that, that's not a big deal for me just to see pictures or see autographs and stuff. I've been pretty pleased with that."

(WHAT DOES IT MEAN JUST TO BE BACK IN THE RACE CAR?) "I don't know because I haven't been back in the car. I'm looking forward to it just to see if it takes my mind off of it. I haven't been able to find any place that does take my mind off of it. This is the one place I haven't been, so maybe it will."

Text provided by Al Larsen

Editors Note: To view hundreds of hot racing photos and art, visit The Racing Photo Museum and the Visions of Speed Art Gallery.