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Woody: Queen Lynda Is A Racing Heroine

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, April 29 2010

Richard Petty said it took his wife Lynda's illness to fully appreciate his queen. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Larry Woody | Senior Writer

NASCAR has had lots of heroes over the years. It has also had lots of heroines – we just don’t hear as much about them. They’re silent and unseen for the most part.

Another word for racing’s heroines is “wives.”

None is more respected and admired than Lynda Petty, Richard Petty’s bride of 50 years.

If her husband is King Richard, doesn’t that make her Queen Lynda? It should. She has earned the title; she deserves a crown.

Lynda has been battling lymphoma for several months and recently got some good news. Richard, in a press release, reports that the cancer is in remission; in fact, doctors believe they have completely eliminated the growth.

“She’ll still have to take some treatments from time to time but at least she has got all her faculties back and we’re looking forward to another 50 years with her,” Richard said.

Lynda Petty, like most racing wives, was often the glue that held her famous family together, and it wasn’t always easy. She watched her husband and son survive crash after crash and endured the broken-heart agony that only a parent or grandparent can know when grandson Adam failed to walk away from a wreck at New Hampshire.

Lynda was always there – by gravesides and bedsides – stoic and solid.

Richard tells a humorous story about Lynda when he was trying to decide on retirement:

“I said I’d quit racing when it wasn’t fun any more,” he said, “and about a week later I got caught up in a big wreck and ended up in the hospital. I was laying there all beat up and bruised and bandaged and Lynda walked into the room. She came over beside my bed, stood there lookin’ down at me for a long minute, and finally said, “Well, are we still having fun?’ ”

Stevie Waltrip, Darrell’s wife, once told me that drivers have no idea of what their spouses go through during a race.

“They’re out there on the track, busy and concentrating on driving their cars,” Stevie said. “Meanwhile we wives have to sit there and watch and think about what could happen at any moment. The guys get the excitement, the wives get to worry.”

Richard said it took Lynda’s illness to make him really appreciate her.

“For 50 years I’ve been out messing around with a race car, ever since we’ve been married,” he said. “I’ve always said that racing comes first, and if she works real hard she can be No. 2. I finally said (during her battle with cancer), ‘Wait a minute, it’s time to give her my next 50 years.”

He continued:

“So it’s been a deal where I haven’t been to a lot of the races this year. I’ve had to cut back on a lot of appearances and different obligations, but I felt like she came first. Family comes first and then you work everything around that.”

Richard’s right, and there’s a lesson there for all of us. Sometimes we don’t appreciate something – or someone – until it’s too late.

Let’s hope Richard and Lynda have lots of years for catching up. Long live the Queen.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, April 29 2010