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Day of grief for racing community


© St. Petersburg Times, published May 16, 2000

The expressions of grief concerning Busch Grand National driver Adam Petty had been heard from all corners of the racing community since his death Friday in a crash during practice at New Hampshire International Speedway.

On Monday, that community came together for a memorial service for the 19-year-old fourth-generation driver.

More than 1,000 friends and family members and some of NASCAR's biggest stars attended the service at High Point (N.C.) University.

"All his dreams and waking moments on this earth ... from the time he was a little kid, I can remember that all he wanted to do was race," said Adam's 18-year-old brother, Austin, in remarks read by the Rev. Douglas Carty. "He wanted to grow up and be a race car driver just like my daddy."

Kyle and Patti Petty held hands and sobbed quietly through their son's service that also was attended by Adam's grandfather and seven-time Winston Cup champion Richard Petty and several former and current Cup drivers, including Dale Jarrett, Bill Elliott, Ward Burton, Bobby Allison, Ernie Irvan and Bobby and Terry Labonte.

Adam's death came almost six weeks after the death of his great-grandfather and NASCAR great Lee Petty, who died at age 86 of complications from a stomach aneurysm.

Adam's crew members wore their black team shirts with his car's No. 45 on the sleeves.

The only family member to speak was Adam's 14-year-old sister, Montgomery Lee.

"We not only lost a fourth-generation driver, we lost a great friend and my brother," she said. "It's not the same without Adam here. Things will never be the same. Everyone loved Adam, and he will always be with us no matter what."

Adam made his Winston Cup debut April2 at Texas and was set to join Kyle and John Andretti next season as the Petty Enterprises entries in Dodge's return to NASCAR's premier series.

Carty encouraged the mourners to recall Adam's sense of humor and his determination to continue the family tradition of driving Winston Cup.

He also gave them a reminder.

"Adam is in the presence of God," Carty said. "Think about that."

CONDOLENCES: They can be sent to the Petty family via e-mail at

BAD TIMING: In a sad coincidence, the new Sprint Yellow Pages, being delivered now in west Volusia County, features on its cover the stock car Adam Petty drove during his deadly crash. The picture was taken weeks ago and shows the car running at Daytona, which is in Volusia County.

Sprint spokewoman Robin Gilbert told the Orlando Sentinel the picture is part of a promotion for Sprint, which is sponsor of Petty Enterprises.

"We see it now as a tribute," Gilbert said, "although it wasn't planned that way."

MORE FUEL PROBLEMS: An inspection before qualifying for the May5 Busch Grand National event at Richmond turned up problems with the fuel in Ron Hornaday's car. NASCAR announced Monday it suspended crew chief David Lackey until June7 and fined car owner Ken Alexander $10,000.

NASCAR did not specify the problem, but cited the rule against "the use of altered fuel or fuel other than the official fuel at the event."

Two weeks ago, Peter Sospenzo was suspended until June6 and car co-owner Michael Kranefuss was fined $50,000 for altered fuel found in Jeremy Mayfield's Winston Cup car at Talladega. Mayfield was docked 151 points.

ODDS AND ENDS: With Lyn St. James entered in the Indianapolis 500, it marks the first time in race history two women will attempt to qualify. Nineteen-year-old Sarah Fisher will attempt to make her Indy 500 debut. St. James, 53, has made six 500 starts. Her best finish was 11th in 1992, when she was named Rookie of the Year. ... Dario Franchitti's second-place finish in the CART Firehawk 500 at Motegi, Japan, was his first podium finish since his 1999 victory at Australia in the season's next-to-last race.

- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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