Adam Petty’s Death Ended Greatest Dynasty
By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since the death of Adam Petty, and it’s equally hard to comprehend the changes set in motion by the death of the charismatic young driver.
It ended the greatest family dynasty in the history of sports.
Adam’s father Kyle was a popular driver. His grandfather Richard was NASCAR’s winningest racer and all-time fan favorite. His great-grandfather Lee was a champion and one of the sport’s pioneers.
That was the mantle that Adam was poised to inherit, a banner handed down through three generations.
The Petty dynasty ended on a grim day at New Hampshire Speedway when Adam’s car slammed into the wall during practice.
A decade later, famed Petty Enterprises is no more. Kyle has given up racing for broadcasting. Richard remains active as a figurehead for another team.
After a half-century of thunder and glory, there are no more Pettys on the track.
And we are left to wonder, had Adam had lived, what might have been.
I interviewed Adam a week or so before his death. He was in Nashville for a race at Fairgrounds Speedway, and I sat with him in the team hauler and discussed the family’s past and future.
Weeks earlier Lee Petty had died and Adam was very much aware of the lineage, the history, the role he had inherited.
He was bright and energetic and possessed the dazzling Petty smile and natural charm. And he loved to race. He had the Petty genes.
I’d had occasion to observe a younger Adam in prior years when Nashville’s Bobby Hamilton drove for Richard. Covering Bobby, I frequently ran into young Petty. He practically grew up in the team’s hauler.
During our final conversation he talked about how much the sport meant to him, how proud he was of his family history, how it felt to be the grandson of “The King” – as he smilingly called his famous grandpa.
And a few days later he was gone.
Some say that the death of Dale Earnhardt at Daytona the following year was the most momentous event in the sport’s history and set major safety innovations in motion. I agree, but I also believe the earlier death of Adam Petty lent extra emphasis to the Earnhardt tragedy. It was a crushing back-to-back blow: the death of a charismatic young prince followed by the death of the sport’s most famous reigning warrior.
In a span of months the sport lost a Petty and an Earnhardt – a large part of its future and its present – and some feel that it has never recovered.
How different would things be today if Adam Petty were alive and racing, now in his prime? Would he winning races and contending for championships, with his famous father and grandfather at his side? How invigorating would his impact be?
Sadly, we’ll never know. All we know for sure is that things have never been the same since that fateful day, a decade ago last week, when a dynasty died.
– Larry Woody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments