Performance & Hotrod Business February '14

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 44 of 99

"As I look back at the deal, the Fourth of July, the president being there, winning the race on the last lap, all that stuff was just an unbelievable situation." championship. It was also the year that son Kyle started racing, and when Richard won Daytona that year, Kyle won the ARCA event in a Dodge Magnum. Moving Forward In 1982, Petty switched to Pontiac, running a Grand Prix body shape, and he finished fifth in the season's points championship. The following year Petty Enterprises was caught with a "big engine" that exceeded the 355-ci legal limit by some 30 cubic inches in a post-race inspection after winning the Miller 500 at Charlotte. It resulted in a $35,000 fine, plus Petty lost 103 points for the violation. Maurice said he fooled the pre-race engine size test by inserting wax in the cylinders to trick the air-pump test, and then the wax quickly melted away after the engine was started. Soon after that infraction, Richard left the family operation and went to drive for Mike Curb Racing. His 200th win came July 4, 1984, at the Daytona International Speedway. It was an extremely high-profile win, as President Ronald Reagan was in attendance and witnessed the feat from the broadcast booth. Here's how Richard summarized that day: "I didn't think it was as big a deal when I won it as I do now. As I look back at the deal, the Fourth of July, the president being there, winning the race on the last lap, all that stuff was just an unbelievable situation." Following a return to Level Cross and several more years of racing, it was announced that the "Richard Petty Fan Appreciation Tour" would run the entire 1992 season. This final year would give Richard a chance to give a proper farewell to all his loyal fans throughout the country. Packed grandstands were the norm during each race and at the final event where Richard drove, Nov. 15 at the Hooters 500 in Atlanta, a crash and fire took him out of the race. The STP crew worked hard to put the car back together and with the front sheet metal off and charred paint on the side, Richard Petty took his pieced-together car around the track on a final lap as men and women in the crowd openly wept during the emo- tional parade lap after the race ended. It was finally over. After taking on a new role as car owner Petty has had a variety of drivers in the #43 car and there's been numerous top-five and top-ten finishes; however not a lot of wins and no championships. And there's been good times and bad times for the entire Petty family. Richard's grandson Adam (eldest son of Kyle) made his Cup debut in Texas in the year 2000 and was planning to move into a full season for 2001 in a Petty Enterprises Dodge Intrepid. However, tragedy struck at the New Hampshire International Speedway when it is believed his throttle stuck on the #45 Monte Carlo and he hit the Turn 3 wall at full speed, killing him. Richard buried his father and grandson within six weeks. Kyle Petty and his wife Patty established, along with actor Paul Newman, the Victory Junction Youth Camp in 2004 in honor of their son, a year-round campground to enrich the lives of children with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses. In 2008 Petty Enterprises moved out of the antiquated (and very nostalgic) headquarters in Level Cross and relocated to a modern 88,000-square-foot facility in Mooresville. The original shop became the home of Petty's Garage ( where high-performance cars are built. With plans to move the Petty Museum back to Level Cross in the future and with the constant building of modern-day hot rods, along with attending the NASCAR events overseeing his two cars, 76-yearold "King" Richard Petty is a true living motorsports legend and very much still has his fingers on the pulse of automotive high-performance. Jim Maxwell is an automotive journalist and historian who lives in California. He can be reached at February 2014 PHBFEB.indd 43 n Performance & Hotrod Business n 43 1/7/14 2:37 PM

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

view archives of THE SHOP - Performance & Hotrod Business February '14