Kyle Petty to lead group of motorcycle enthusiasts on coast-to-coast charity ride
Kyle Petty reflects on his son's dream to help others brought to life by the children who enjoy the Victory Junction Gang Camp.
Network's approach 'reinvigorates' him as son Adam's entry into the sport did Kyle Petty has joined the race-day broadcast team for NBC Sports Group, the organization announced Thursday, and is the latest figure to join the network's ever-growing cast of NASCAR experts in preparation for the 2015 season and beyond. Petty will work alongside Krista Voda, whose hiring was announced in late October, as an analyst on pre- and post-race shows surrounding NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series coverage. He will also remain a regular contributor to "NASCAR America" on NBCSN. "Kyle Petty brings a lifetime of experience to our team that is unmatched," said Sam Flood, executive producer, NBC Sports and NBCSN. "As a driver, team owner, philanthropist and multigenerational observer of the sport, he has seen it all, and has great perspectives across NASCAR's full spectrum." Petty joins a group that already includes race announcer Rick Allen and on-air analysts Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte, along with reporters Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast, Mike Massaro and Dave Burns. The son of Richard Petty and grandson of Lee Petty , both NASCAR Hall of Famers, Kyle grew up entrenched in the sport and made 829 starts in NASCAR's premier series. A guest on "The Morning Drive" on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio when the news was released, Petty joked, "Breaking news after I've been on "NASCAR America" on NBC for 23 weeks this year. Breaking news, I have a job next year." From his work on the nightly NBCSN show, Petty said the staff has "reinvigorated" him. He compared the network's fresh-eyed return to NASCAR to his late son's approach to racing when Adam became a national series competitor. "…when Adam came along, it was like I was seeing these race tracks for the first time because he was so excited," Petty said. "Even though he had been around the sport, he hadn't driven, and he was so excited. "(He would) tell me what the race track felt like or tell me what was going on at the race track or what he learned today at the race track. And I get that same feeling from these people at NBC. "They're just excited to be at the race track, and they're excited to be a part of the sport." FOX and NBC have exclusive NASCAR broadcasting rights, beginning next year. NBC will broadcast the final 20 Sprint Cup Series races, final 19 NASCAR XFINITY Series events, select NASCAR Regional & Touring Series events and other live content, beginning next year. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Once an informal ride, event now sweeps through NASCAR
Wife of Hall of Fame engine builder passed away on Sunday
1988 champion gets inducted, says Chase's Cup news was the bigger deal Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live MORE: Five inducted into NASCAR Hall of Fame " Chase scores Cup ride CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Bill Elliott often outran the competition, but recently the former NASCAR premier series champion has been trying to outrun his emotions. It's been quite the past few days for Elliott, the 1988 champ, and his family. On Thursday it was announced that his son, 19-year-old Chase, would make his first start in the Sprint Cup Series later this year. On Friday, the elder Elliott was one of five drivers inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. His son landing the ride with Hendrick Motorsports , where he will take over a car perhaps even more famous than that of his father was the bigger deal, Bill Elliott said. "Let me tell you this little story," Elliott offered after he, along with Fred Lorenzen, Wendell Scott, Joe Weatherly and Rex White were officially inducted into the Hall. "I called Chase – I think it was Wednesday night and I was talking to him and he said 'guess who called me?' "I said 'I don't know.'" Told it was someone named Jeff, the name didn’t register. "He said, ' Jeff Gordon called me.' He was so excited that Jeff Gordon had picked up the phone and called him," Elliott said. "… That meant so much to him (to talk about) what his next step and what his next role was going to be." Elliott made the No. 9 Ford Thunderbird one of the most recognizable cars on the track during his career. In addition to his championship, he won 44 times in premier series competition. He, along brothers Ernie and Dan, set qualifying records likely to remain unbroken as well. Gordon, scheduled to end his driving career at the end of '15, has won 92 times and four championships with Hendrick Motorsports . For fans that began following the sport in the early '90s or later, Gordon’s brightly painted No. 24 Chevrolet quickly became just as recognizable and even more successful. He's won on nearly ever track where the Sprint Cup Series competes, and several that are no longer on the schedule. And now Chase Elliott prepares to step into the ride once Gordon steps aside. MORE: Gordon calls Chase the 'total package' As much as the sport has changed since Bill Elliott arrived on the scene in the latter part of the '70s, one thing has remained constant – the cycle of drivers that show up, make their mark and eventually depart. Gordon is making plans to exit. Elliott's son Chase is preparing to arrive. Not much different than when he and his family first showed up, the elder Elliott said. "When I came in you had Cale (Yarborough), David Pearson, all those guys kind of winding down," Elliott said. "Then I watched Richard ( Petty ) retire and now it's turning … again." At that time such changes didn't catch his attention, he said, explaining that with a limited budget and much to learn, "all I cared about was just trying to go race. "There was so few of us, we really didn't worry about anything else," Elliott said. "It was kind of like you were driving down the road with blinders on, you were really oblivious to anything else going on." PHOTOS: Best moments from the NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony His son understands what lies ahead, Elliott said on a night he was honored for what took place in the past. "He's an incredibly good race car driver, and I'm not saying it's because he's my kid," Elliott said. "… I've said all along he's better than I ever thought about being." Maybe so, but the father was no slouch. Among his 44 victories are four that came in the in the twilight of his career before he began to scale back his racing schedule. Driving for Ray Evernham, who had helped guide Gordon to three of his four titles, Elliott won at Homestead, Pocono, Indianapolis and Rockingham. "There aren't many names that transcend a sport," Evernham said. "If you're not even a baseball fan you know the names Ruth or Mantle; even the most casual football fan knows Lombardi and Unitas. "In our sport, in motorsports, they know Foyt and Andretti and Earnhardt and Petty and even casual fans know Bill Elliott because of the things he's done. "It's an honor to have him as a friend, and it's been a great ride." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Discover little-known facts, learn offseason plans for six NCWTS drivers Photo credit: Ivan Veldhuizen/NASCAR Illustrated This month, we found out more about six NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competitors and what they planned to do in the offseason. 1) Norm Benning (63) From Level Green, Pennsylvania, 20 miles east of Pittsburgh. "Nobody has ever heard of it, so I just say I'm from Pittsburgh." Worked as corporate pilot. "I've been flying since I was in my 20s. I never flew commercial but I did get an offer from United." Races on a shoestring budget. "It's actually embarrassing. I can't buy the tires I need to compete." Offseason plans: "I'll get some flying in and I'd like to go snow skiing. When I get done with that, I'm going to reorganize the race shop." 2) Johnny Sauter (36) From tiny Necedah, Wisconsin. Recently moved from North Carolina to Madison. "I had enough of the unbearable hot summer months." One of 12 children. "I'm No. 10. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world." Father Jim, who died Nov. 1, 2014, was a respected racer. Would Jim give Johnny a break on the track? "I don't think it’s in our [blood] to let somebody have a free pass." Offseason plans: "I look forward to doing the things I used to do when I was a kid — snowmobiling, ice fishing, skiing." 3) Joey Coulter (24) From Miami Springs, Florida — family full of Dolphins fans. "My mom has gone to every home game since 1972." Business major at University of North Carolina at Charlotte. "I changed majors from engineering. It was hard to balance racing with studying to become an engineer." Will marry fellow racer/UNCC grad Jessica Green during offseason. "We met while we were racing in Florida." Longtime scuba diver. "I went diving in the Florida Keys right after the last race of the season. It's what I grew up doing before I even thought about racing." MORE: Coulter transitions to new role with GMS Racing 4) Timothy Peters (34) Won track championships at Orange County (North Carolina) Speedway in 2003 and edged Denny Hamlin for title at South Boston (Virginia) in 2004. "Hard work pays off. Winning one championship is hard enough, so to win multiple is something to hold your head high about." Enjoys fishing. "When I get the chance, I like to fish — bluegill and crappie mostly." Offseason plans: "Spending time with my wife Sara and my son Brantley. I love being around my family, so I try to spend as much time with them as possible." 5) Matt Crafton (38) From Tulare, California, home of two-time decathlon gold medalist Bob Mathias (1948 and 1952). Raced go-karts and late models against Cup champ Kevin Harvick . "He was a year older and I raced with him some." Favorite hobby is tearing up the sand dunes. "I went soon after the season ended and try to do it three or four times a year." First driver to win two straight Truck Series titles. "It's definitely a feather in the cap." Offseason plans: "Going out to the desert and hanging out with friends." 6) Jennifer Jo Cobb (41) From Kansas City, Kansas. "No matter the day, you can always find something to do." Former instructor at Petty driving school. "Twelve hours a day in the car kept me in shape." Has pet rabbit. "I named him Chanel — he's really soft and luxurious — and then found out he was a boy and changed it to Chanelo." Engaged to engineer/crew chief Eddie Troconis. "A potential wedding date is 10-10-2015 — which is cool, 10 being my truck number." Founded Driven2Honor to honor women in the military. "I've met some incredible women since starting the program." SUBSCRIBE NOW!
Richard and Kyle Petty honored for their work as Victory Junction turns 10 RELATED: Subscribe to NASCAR Illustrated Weave your way through Randleman, North Carolina, past its verdant pastures and timeworn gas stations, and you'll happen upon a magical place. About four miles outside town, a stone's throw from Richard Petty's residence, you’ll find Victory Junction. But it might as well be at the intersection of healing and hope. The 80-acre camp, situated on land that Petty roamed as a child before donating it a dozen years ago, celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. Since it opened in 2004, Victory Junction has enriched the lives of children with serious illnesses by providing life-changing camping experiences at no cost to them or their families. It has also honored the memory of Adam Petty in a most fitting way. Due to that incredible achievement, NASCAR Illustrated is naming Richard and Kyle Petty the 2014 Persons Of The Year. Although they would surely prefer the award go to the thousands of people who have helped turn Adam's idea into reality, we honor these two for their tireless efforts and singular contribution to children. Grandson of Richard and son of Kyle, Adam developed the idea of this camp. The notion came to him some two years before his death in an accident at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2000. Shortly after, the seed that Adam had planted started to take root. "This was just land that I grew up on," Richard Petty said recently. "We brought four-wheelers over here and went hunting and all this kind of stuff, so we knew the land. We had some boys from [ Richmond International Raceway developer] Hugh Hawthorne and he brought a bunch of guys down from Richmond. Dale Inman [long-time Petty crew chief] got on a bulldozer, never been on a bulldozer before, and just cleaned everything. For two years, they just cleaned everything trying to get things lined up." On a recent, resplendent autumn day, the King gazed out on the finished camp, taking stock of just how far it had come. "The place really looks good now because it looks like it belongs here," he said. "When we done it to begin with, it was pretty but it was naked. Now everything's hidden. Beautiful place, man." This is true both literally and figuratively. Victory Junction has welcomed more than 20,000 children and family members from all 50 states and several foreign countries in its first decade of operation. It has succeeded in its mission to create a place that fosters independence, confidence and continuous growth after camp to better the quality of life for children. Adam's legacy is palpable on these healing grounds. "I think you feel his presence," Kyle said of his son. "I've said it before: I see Adam in every child that comes through here in their smile. Adam had a huge smile. So when you see these kids laugh and smile, then yeah, you do feel closer." Victory Junction has always relied on and benefitted from the generosity of its extended NASCAR family. The Pettys started this journey with little more than Adam's vision and a belief that it was meant to be. There were only fields and dreams in the beginning. "We went out then to race fans, to the tracks, to NASCAR, everybody, and said, 'This is what we're gonna do,' " Richard said. "We started with no money; we just started it and said, 'We're gonna do it and they will come.' As you were able to show what you was doing here, then more people came and more people got involved." Evidence of that largesse is everywhere -- Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s Corral and Amphitheater, Kurt Busch 's Superdome, Michael Waltrip 's SportsCenter and Jimmie Johnson 's Victory Lanes bowling alley among others. "It's been that trickle-down effect," Kyle said. "The first two guys that really helped us here were Bobby Labonte and Dale Jarrett, really made a commitment and said, 'Let us do something.' Since then, just about everybody (among drivers). That's all cool and that was big and they built a big building and donated and gave their time and effort to raise their funds and awareness. "But it's the fan that sends $4.50 a month or $45 a year that really keeps the camp going. "So, that's the base. The base is the fan base. Just like the same guys, men and women and kids that go to race tracks all over and pull for Tony Stewart or Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon . They're the people that keep camp alive." Victory Junction Chief Development Officer Mark Schumacher joined the camp this year and only recently realized that his professional and personal lives had crossed without him knowing years earlier. Schumacher's son, a cancer survivor, was a camper at Camp Boggy Creek in Orlando, Florida, in 1998. That year, wildfires ravaged the Daytona Beach area and forced NASCAR to postpone the July race to October. As fate would have it, the Pettys visited Camp Boggy Creek that fall and that is when Adam hatched his idea. He left thinking: Instead of visiting kids in hospitals, as the Pettys had done with the annual Kyle Petty Charity Ride to that point, why not bring the kids to a camp in North Carolina? Schumacher's son's experience -- both good and bad -- helped make the move to Victory Junction a no-brainer. "He said it was the best time of my life during the worst time of my life," Schumacher said. "If that doesn't say it for you, nothing does. We just all believe one thing: A child needs to be a child. This is where they can do that. We're just bringing to them what every other child enjoys. That is what drives everybody on this team." Forged out of loss and sadness, Victory Junction has blossomed over time into a place of great joy. Schumacher sees a common thread running through all the campers that visit. "I think the genesis of this camp and the building of this camp and the experience the campers have is looking at life without a rear-view mirror," he said. "There is nothing we can do to change things. We can't bring Adam Petty back; we can't say to some of these children that your disease, your disability is magically disappearing. But we're not focused on looking back; we're focused on going forward. "So what can we do to make a difference going forward in their lives and how can we make that tragic death of Adam Petty mean something? That's Victory Junction." In the company of others sharing the same condition, kids feel empowered to let their true personalities come out. It's a freedom that -- once discovered -- can liberate these kids from the constraints society places upon them. "When these kids are in school, that's what they're known by is their disease," Kyle said. "That's the little boy in the wheelchair. That's the little boy with spina bifida. That's the little girl that can't play because she has hemophilia or whatever it may be. They become known by their diseases. Here, they are known by their names. Their disease takes the backseat." Victory Junction Camp Director Chris Foster noted that for many campers -- particularly those from small towns or with unique diagnoses -- it's often the first time in their lives being in the presence of others that can relate to what they're going through. The relationships that are formed over the course of a week can last a lifetime. "To come here and spend a week at camp with six or seven other kids in the cabin that have the same diagnosis as you is something they've never experienced in their whole life, and they get to feel normal and just play and be a kid," Foster said. "We don't like to focus on the diagnosis at all. We really just like to focus on the child and allow them to have that great experience. But in the real world, sometimes they are labeled by diagnosis." Michael Deal, who made his sixth visit to Victory Junction this summer, is one of many campers that return to the camp each year. "One of my good friends behind me, Zach, we both have Chrohn's [a bowel disease]," Deal said. "It's just we've been coming here so many years and almost been in the same cabin every time. We're basically best friends. We've done everything together. It's just a lot of fun. Here you can just let it all out. At home, you're afraid if people are going to tease you or make fun of you. And here, you can just talk about it and everybody will understand." In its first decade, Victory Junction has helped thousands of kids like Deal understand, heal and move forward on their way to better lives. Richard Petty , fond of using the word "deal" in everyday conversation, invoked the word to describe what makes this place truly special. "The deal is when you think about being here 10 years and seeing 20,000 kids that wouldn't get a chance to do anything like this," he said. "They can't go to church camp or YMCA camp or anything like that. But they can come here for five or six days and they see people that -- they think they're the only one in the world that's afflicted like that -- they come here and there's another 125 kids just like them. They join the world." The patriarch of the Petty family noted that he’d been blessed with four children, 12 grandchildren and three great grandchildren. His singular success in stock car racing afforded fame, fortune and worldwide acclaim. And yet, at 77, you get the suspicion that what's been built in the rolling hills of Randleman will mean more to him in the end. "This is the place that I come and I look around and say, 'Thank you, good Lord, for letting me be in this position to try to help all these other kids,' " he said. "To me, that's basically what it's all about." For Kyle Petty , the loss of his son served as prelude to healing on a grander scale than any of the family members could have imagined. He was asked what Adam would think, how he might feel, about the number of lives that have been so positively impacted by Victory Junction since it opened. "It's been like dropping not a pebble in still water, it's been like dropping a boulder in still water with the ripple effect and how it continues to just overwhelm you," he said. "I think from that perspective, he would be like us. He would just be humbled by the fact that the boulder that was dropped in the water was him, but when you look at it, the ripple effect still continues this much later." SUBSCRIBE NOW!
Founding member of the Racing Wives Auxiliary honored posthumously