Friday, March 28, 2014

The Queen: Five Questions for Martinsville

Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
For every great man, there is an even greater woman. Couples like Johnny and June Cash and President John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy are some historic examples, yet the list could go on for pages. Women are pillars of strength, supporting their men for centuries. They stand firm with an undeniable grace.

There was no one as graceful as the wife of seven-time NASCAR champion Richard Petty, Lynda.

The two married on July 22, 1959. She was 17 and in high school. He was 21 and trying to break into the racing world. The marriage was kept secret for months, under wraps until a real wedding ring could be bought. From the very beginning, Lynda was an understanding woman. She would soon become a driver’s wife — and a great one at that. 

While Richard is regarded as The King, there’s no denying that Lynda was The Queen.

Lynda was diagnosed with central nervous system lymphoma in 2010. She also suffered a brain tumor. Though she fought and won against both, it was time for Richard to slow down; after all the years she spent taking care of him and the family, he needed to take care of her. He became her pillar. 

On Tuesday afternoon, Lynda Petty passed away at 72. She was a vital part of not only NASCAR, but of the Petty legacy, and that is worth commemorating. Let her be a constant reminder of the importance and power of racing wives, and let The Queen rest in peace.

Instead of flowers, the Petty family is asking that donations be made to:

Petty Family Foundation
311 Branson Mill Road
Randleman, NC 27317

This weekend, teams head to Martinsville Speedway, a half-mile with tight corners and close racing. As drivers prepare for another thrilling weekend, I prepare to talk about tires, Denny Hamlin, Richard Petty Motorsports, and more with Five Questions for Martinsville.

How will tires fare at The Paperclip? Last Sunday’s race in Fontana, California was full of blown tires and drivers blaming Goodyear. The cause, however, were the aggressive setups ordered by crew chiefs. Swings in camber and air pressure resulted in popped tires every 20 laps or so. Because air pressures at Martinsville are very low, I’m wondering if we’ll see some problems. Hopefully teams learned their lesson.

Does the off-weekend help or hinder Hamlin? Not only was the race at Auto Club Speedway strange, but news about the driver of the No. 11 raised a few eyebrows. During a pre-race checkup, NASCAR pegged the driver as unsuitable to drive. Joe Gibbs Racing’s statement say that he suffered from a “severe sinus infection” that affected his vision. Sam Hornish Jr. stepped in and raced for him. Fast-forwarding to Wednesday, it was announced that Hamlin was cleared to race and that the problem was — wait for it — a piece of metal in his eye. Aside from the fact that this whole situation is utterly bizarre, it’s obvious that this weekend will be a turning point for Hamlin. This is one of his best tracks, and he has something to prove. His mind better be in the right place if he wants to impress.

Can Darrell Wallace Jr. back up last fall’s win with another victory? October 2013 was a great month for Wallace Jr., who won his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at the Virginia track. Saturday marks the second start of the season for the series, and everyone is anxious. I’m expecting great things out of Wallace Jr., being the returning fall winner and all. Maybe he’ll strut his stuff, get another win, and secure more opportunities for the future.

What would a night race at Martinsville look like? Speaking of Wallace Jr., he recently tweeted about a night race at Martinsville. It got me thinking about if it could ever happen; because the track is so small, permanent lighting would be difficult to install. Also, a night race in either April or October in the Virginia mountains would be pretty chilly. Nevertheless, it’s fun to daydream, and my mind paints a primetime event at the track as action-packed and full of enthusiastic racing. Although the racing seen during the day is exactly like that. 

Will Richard Petty Motorsports continue on strong despite somber emotions? The loss of a family member is difficult to process, and the passing of Lynda Petty is no exception. I can’t fathom what Richard Petty is feeling right now, and it can’t be easy to go right back into work. However, there is a bright spot to all of this; Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose have had glimmers of brilliance this season. With both bringing home top fives at Bristol Motor Speedway, it may be time for the No. 43 and No. 9 to appear in the mix again. Emotions are powerful, no matter if they’re positive or negative. A win would be a beautiful way to celebrate Lynda, would it not?