Why I Love NASCAR: Kyle Petty

We are creatures of habit, most comfortable with things we started with from the beginning. Like the music we listened to in high school, the style of clothing we were wearing when we met our special someone, and the “regular” we order at our favorite restaurant, we cling to the familiar, the accessible, and the known. In keeping with this format, I tend to feel most relaxed and identify most with the era of drivers I watched when I first became a NASCAR fan. Among that slew of racers was a man who still has a presence in NASCAR, Kyle Petty.

Nowadays when someone speaks of NASCAR’s famous son most people instinctively know that man is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. But, when I began watching NASCAR in 1990 the famous son was none other than Kyle Petty. Long-haired, sinewy, with the characteristic Petty smile, Kyle was a force to be reckoned on the track. While driving for Felix Sabates in a Mellow Yellow black Pontiac Kyle Petty had his best year ever in (then) Winston Cup chalking up two wins in 1992 and making a decent stab at the Cup when he dropped to fifth due to struggles in Phoenix, the second to last race of the season. That was the Alan Kulwicki, Bill Elliot, Davey Allison nail-biter that kept us fans at rapt attention, but still made me sad for Kyle. This time period was relatively shortly after Days of Thunder’s release and seeing the Mellow Yellow car was a constant reminder of the flashiness of NASCAR.

Historian that I am I learned a lot about Kyle Petty, intrigued by his lineage and his talent. He was, of course, nothing like his father when it came to number of wins, dominance, or marketability, but I liked him just the same. When I learned he had a promising career as a country music singer in the mid-1980s but gave it up to pursue NASCAR racing solely I was impressed by his choice. Surely Kyle knew he would forever live under his father’s reputation and accomplishments in NASCAR, but he didn’t deny his passions and goals. And while others looked far more conservative than he, Kyle Petty always stayed true to himself with his long locks, personal style, and undeniable charisma.

As the years wore on and Kyle Petty became less of a challenge to his fellow drivers, it still pleased me to watch him on the track. Kyle dominated for a time at Rockingham in the early 1990s and he had little to prove after his 1992 season, but eventually his passion turned toward fostering his eldest son’s career behind the wheel of a stock car. When Adam Petty died in a practice session for a Busch Series race at New Hampshire International Speedway in 2000, I thought my heart would break. As distraught as Kyle Petty obviously was, he never became despondent. Kyle Petty was relentless in keeping the memory of his son Adam alive and make good come out of the tragedy.

Charity, a large part of the life of a Cup level NASCAR driver, was where Kyle Petty channeled his grief over his son Adam. He began the Victory Junction Gang Camp in memory of Adam; a place for terminally-ill children to make wonderful memories. In addition, Kyle Petty holds an annual charity motorcycle ride across the country called the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America.

Kyle Petty is a man I hold in high regard. From living brilliantly under the “shadow” of his famous father to surviving the unimaginable and being able to smile and laugh while honoring and remembering his son, Kyle Petty’s fortitude, wherewithal, and character are admirable. Many today still talk about Dale Junior’s tragedy of losing his father too soon. I am one of them. But, quite frankly, he experienced what many do every day, the loss of a parent. What Kyle Petty does daily, live with the unnatural, the loss of a child, and tries to make the world a better place, is truly worthy of our awe.

For those of you newbies who adore NASCAR and think Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the original most famous son, I’m here to tell you he’s not. Check the facts; Kyle Petty is the son of King Richard and grandson to NASCAR stalwart Lee Petty. He is the father of the late Adam Petty and wears the #45 of his late son on his hat every time Kyle goes on air to talk about NASCAR. And, keeping a presence in the modern world, Kyle Petty tweets throughout race day and hobnobs with his fans and fellow NASCAR nuts. I adore Kyle Petty. Kyle Petty is yet another strong reason why I love NASCAR.

Chief 187 is a writer, columnist, and blogger as well as creator of the widely popular Chief 187 Chatter. Her column “Why I Love NASCAR” and other articles are featured on Skirts and Scuffs. She can be reached via Twitter by following @Chief187s. To find out more please visit http://Chief187.com.

Why I Love NASCAR: Kyle Petty Why I Love NASCAR: Kyle Petty Reviewed by Chief 187 on Monday, January 09, 2012 Rating: 5