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Some Special Thoughts About A Special Person

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, March 26 2014

Lynda Petty, who attended her husband Richard's Hall of Fame induction, passed away on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Throughout life there are certain people who touch your heart in a special way. Lynda Petty was one of those people.

In 1992 the paper I worked for assigned me to shadow the Petty family, specifically Richard, during his final season as a driver. Little did I know it was a year that would provide me with the opportunity to learn many lessons from Lynda and develop a strong friendship that led me to think of her as my at-track Mom.

I had done an in-depth interview with Lynda in 1988, but it was during the 1992 season that I truly came to understand the woman who, in my opinion, epitomized a true Southern lady.

She was gracious, but strong. She was a fierce defender of her family, staunch in her beliefs, and a firm believer in ethical behavior. She possessed a silent strength that enabled her to endure the heartache stock car racing sent her, but still greet people with a smile and a warm embrace.

The sport that brought her family so much success and fame also left her with many lonely nights, little privacy, anger, tears, numerous frustrations and a pain in her heart. It took her only brother, Randy Owens, in a pit road accident at Talladega and her first born grandchild, Adam Petty, in a crash at New Hampshire.

Motel swimming pools and race track infields were the playgrounds for the couple’s four children.

When Richard’s popularity exploded in 1967 she often found fans on the front lawn of their modest brick home taking photos when she opened the picture window curtains each morning. At that time, they lived beside her in-laws’ house and a few yards from the race shop.

Despite the constant flood of fans, Lynda always made strangers feel welcome. She not only raised four children, she hosted fan club cookouts at her home, prepared surprise birthday parties and often traveled with her husband. A civic-minded woman, she worked tirelessly in the racing wives auxiliary, served on the Randolph County School Board for 16 years and was on the board of the Randolph County Hospice.

It was Lynda’s thoughtfulness, however, that always provided me with security and comfort while covering the sport. No matter the issue, I could always talk with Lynda and receive a bit of wisdom. True, my parents were only a phone call away, but I could always walk into the motor home lot at a race track and have a conversation with someone who truly cared during a tough weekend.

Our relationship began when I was 13 and delivered a batch of sugar cookies to Richard and her in the infield at Asheville-Weaverville Speedway. Then, upon my graduation from high school, I received a philosophical book she had given to friends in her community upon their graduation. However, it was only after I began covering NASCAR fulltime that it blossomed into a friendship.

Lynda Petty fought a gallant four-year battle with cancer with her family providing an infallible support system. She was a wife, a mother, a grandmother and the “Queen of NASCAR”, but she also was a special person and friend whose footprints on this earth will remain for decades.

– Deb Williams can be reached at dwilliams@racintoday.com

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, March 26 2014
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • Rick Minter says:

    Great work, Deb. I remember Ms. Lynda being very gracious and friendly to me back in the 1970s when she came to the races at Atlanta and would hang out in Madaline Knight’s kitchen, where young fellows like me who liked racing could always count on getting a garage pass.

  • kelly says:

    Wow, I love reading stories like this, so much negativity in this sport today, based on who one likes or dislikes as a driver. Thank you and bless Miss Lynda, what a life.