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
Catch up before Sunday's Windows 10 400 (1:30 p.m ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM) What: 42nd annual Windows 10 400 Where: Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pennsylvania When: Sunday, August 2, 2015 TV/Radio: NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Distance: 160 laps (400 miles) Green Flag: 1:46 p.m. ET Pit Road Speed: 55 mph Caution Car Speed: 70 mph Fuel Window: 32 laps On The Front Row ( Full lineup ) 1. Kyle Busch , Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota (178.416 mph) 2. Kevin Harvick , Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet (178.168 mph) To the rear Jeb Burton , BK Racing No. 26 Toyota (going to backup car) Failed to Qualify None Fastest in Practice ( Full practice results ) First Practice: Brad Keselowski , Team Penske No. 2 Ford (176.606 mph) Second Practice: Carl Edwards , Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota (175.812 mph) Third Practice: Kyle Busch , Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota (175.240 mph) Bumps be gone Two months ago, drivers complained about bumps in Turn 2 over Pocono's new waterfall entrance. The track paved over the section, and the racers have recognized the work done. " They did a great job repairing or improving the bumps and issues they had over in the Tunnel (Turn) especially on the apron," said an appreciative Dale Earnhardt Jr . But June winner Martin Truex Jr . may have lost an advantage, saying, "A few differences in the race track with the Tunnel Turn being smooth again, I think that certainly makes it a little bit easier on everybody else." Second consecutive sweep? Earnhardt won both races in 2014, and Truex will attempt to become the eighth driver to complete the season sweep at the Tricky Triangle. In addition to the two Juniors, the six other drivers who have achieved the Pocono sweep are Bobby Allison (1982), Bill Elliott (1985), Tim Richmond (1986), Bobby Labonte (1999), Jimmie Johnson (2004) and Denny Hamlin (2006). Four-Time's last time The all-time wins leader at Pocono, Jeff Gordon , will attempt to make his seventh trip to Richard Petty Victory Lane in his last start at the track. Gordon's last win at the Tricky Triangle came three years ago in this race when he snapped a tie with NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott for lead. The facility incorporated "GORDON" into the start/finish line, and it has a "Thank you Jeff 24" sign greeting patrons and race teams as they drive out of the track under the Tunnel Turn. Birthday bonanza A win would be an early birthday present for Gordon, who turns 44 next Tuesday, as well as his crew chief, Alan Gustafson, who turns 40 next Wednesday when fellow Hendrick crew chief, Chad Knaus, turns 44 as well. Last year's Sunoco Rookie of the Year winner, Kyle Larson , celebrated his 23rd birthday on Friday, and 38th-place qualifier Jeb Burton will join him at that age next Thursday. A two-time Pocono winner, Kurt Busch , turns 37 next Tuesday. Four in a row Coors Light Pole Award winner Kyle Busch will attempt to become the first driver to win four consecutive Sprint Cup Series races since Jimmie Johnson won four Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup races in a row in the fall of 2007. Other drivers with wins across a month of consecutive Sundays include NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt, Bill Elliott , David Pearson, Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough. Others to turn the trick have been Harry Gant, Jeff Gordon , Mark Martin and Billy Wade. If Busch wins, he'll go for five in a row at Watkins Glen and try to become the first driver to accomplish the feat since another NASCAR Hall of Famer, Bobby Allison, did it in 1971. Richard Petty holds the record with 10. Taking the fifth Kyle Busch and Harvick haven't won on five of 23 Sprint Cup Series tracks, and Pocono is one they have in common. In addition to the Tricky Triangle, Harvick is winless at Dover, Kentucky, Sonoma and Texas while Busch hasn't gone to Victory Lane at Charlotte, Homestead-Miami, Kansas and Martinsville. Chevy seeks milestone The Bowtie Brigade has won six consecutive races at the track, and if it wins on Sunday, it will make the 750th victory for the manufacturer. Seventy-six different drivers have won in a Chevy, which has claimed 38 manufacturer titles including the last 12. Gordon boasts the most wins with 92, followed by Johnson with 74, Earnhardt (73), Waltrip (60) and Yarborough (48). Next new winner? Through 20 races, 10 drivers have won their way into the Chase with Kyle Busch on the cusp of making the top 30 and becoming the 11th driver to make the playoffs, leaving five spots with six events until the field is set. Of top 30 drivers without a win in 2015, Larson has the best average finish of eighth. The second-best driver in that group is two-time Pocono winner, Stewart, with a 12.1 average finish. Another former winner, Ryan Newman , is third with a 12.4 average finish. Double-duty dudes JJ Yeley skipped Saturday's practices to head to Iowa and run the XFINITY race. Four drivers competed in Saturday's Camping World Truck Series race at Pocono: Kyle Busch , Austin Dillon , Harvick and Brad Keselowski . Driver Rating Best driver rating average at Pocono based on races since 2005: 1. Denny Hamlin , 108.3 2. Jimmie Johnson , 106.9 3. Kurt Busch , 105.9 Defending race winner Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet Former Pocono winners in the field Jeff Gordon (6); Denny Hamlin (4); Jimmie Johnson (3); Tony Stewart , Kurt Busch , Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Kasey Kahne , Carl Edwards (2); Ryan Newman , Joey Logano , Brad Keselowski , Greg Biffle , Martin Truex Jr . (1). FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Driver acknowledges challenges involved with one-car organization LONG POND, Pa. -- Eight weeks ago, Martin Truex Jr . snapped his 69-race winless streak in very convincing fashion, leading 97 laps at Pocono Raceway on his way to winning the Axalta 'We Paint Winners' 400 for his third career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win. Now, he is back at the "Tricky Triangle" for Sunday's Windows 10 400 (NBCSN/Live Extra, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) and the driver of No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet is looking for the season sweep at Pocono. "It feels a little different coming back this time for sure. It feels good. It was definitely a huge weekend for us, for all of us; for me, my team, for Barney (Visser, team owner) and just everybody that has put so much effort into Furniture Row Racing and the No. 78 car. "Hopefully, we can repeat on what we did last time. Obviously, it’s not going to be easy, but I feel like we are up for the challenge." Truex is looking to become the eighth driver to sweep both events in the same season. His good friend, Dale Earnhardt Jr ., became the seventh driver to sweep at Pocono last year. He will not be going for the sweep in the same car he took to Victory Lane in June as he has a new Chevrolet for this race. The New Jersey native indicated there is a little more pressure on this return trip just because they were so dialed in during the previous race at the 2.5-mile track. "You definitely feel a little more pressure just because we were so good here last time that you don’t want to screw it up. But at the same time, again, the track is a little bit different and everybody is getting better. I think the Gibbs Racing cars have proven that in a couple of weeks’ time you can make some really big gains. I think those guys are really the cars to beat right now. We’ve got to continue to work hard and try to get our stuff better and try to again get up front and start leading laps again and put ourselves in position to win again." Truex followed the June win with a third-place finish in the rain-shortened race at Michigan, but wrecks took Truex out of Sonoma (42nd-place) and Daytona (38th). He followed that up with a pair of top-20 finishes at Kentucky (17th) and Loudon (12th) before notching his sixth top-five result of the season with a fourth-place finish at Indianapolis last week. "It's been a little bit up and down here lately, but I feel like we still have speed in our racecars. We really haven’t been to any tracks where we feel like we have really performed well at. No 1.5-miles, a place like Dover where we led the most laps, places that I tend to run really well at. I think we have some more good tracks coming up. I feel like we still have that momentum, we just kind of had some bad luck along the way." Truex acknowledged that the different rules packages unveiled in the middle of the season were not favorable to a single-car team like Furniture Row. A low downforce package was run at Kentucky last month and will be used again at Darlington in September, while a high-drag package was used at Indianapolis last week and will be used again at Michigan in two weeks. The team started 2015 strong due to its quick grasp on the 2015 rules package as Truex became the first driver since Richard Petty (in 1969) with 14 top 10s in his first 15 races of the season. "We really geared up this season and put a lot of emphasis on building our cars and focusing on the rules package we thought we were going to have. A small team like ours can't make those big changes and go after a new rules package quite as fast as, say, the bigger teams. "We really put all our eggs in that basket of 'hey these are the '15 rules.' We developed our whole car around it over the winter and going into the start of the season. We really hope that it continues down that path. At this point we are not really sure what is going to happen. It’s definitely a difficult time for the teams for sure. "A lot of money being spent on wind tunnel time and aero stuff and just trying to figure those things out, but at the end of the day we don’t even know what we are going to have yet," Truex said. "So, it's definitely difficult, especially for the smaller teams to be able to do that." 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
No. 18 driver has won three straight races with three different rules packages RELATED: How 'Rowdy' can make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup LONG POND, Pa. -- The 2015 season has been one of change for Kyle Busch , missing the first 11 races of the season with a broken leg and a broken foot and then coming back with a new crew chief, Adam Stevens, for his No. 18 ride. On Friday, the winner of the last three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races said embracing change has been key to his success. As the Joe Gibbs Racing driver attempts to become the first driver to win four consecutive races since 2007 when Jimmie Johnson did it on the way to his second Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, Busch hopes this strong streak will carry over into the fall to follow in Johnson's footsteps. "I look forward to continuing on our Chase march here and then once we get to Chicago, being able to capitalize on this hot summer to have a continuation of that into the Chase," Busch said. The driver has not only won three races in a row, but has done so with three different rules packages. His first win in the string came with the low downforce package at Kentucky Speedway, followed by a victory under 2015 rules at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. His first win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway the next week came with NASCAR's high drag package. "With the different aero packages, I actually was pretty excited about it," Busch said. "I kind of like change, and I feel like I'm the best at being able to adapt to it the fastest before crew chiefs and engineers get too much of an understanding of the basis of what they have to work on to make those packages better in order to get their drivers better, their cars better and to be able to keep up with me. I kind of like the change." Busch likes change so much that he suggested running last weekend's rules at Pocono Raceway, a track where he's winless in NASCAR's premier series. "I actually wouldn't mind if we had that high drag package here at Pocono," Busch said. "I think here would definitely be a place that you'd want to see it with these long straightaways. That would certainly make for a really interesting race." Pocono is one of only five tracks where he hasn't won a race. The other four -- Martinsville Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway -- are in the Chase, and the last three are 1.5-mile tracks, which make up half of the races in NASCAR's playoffs. When the Chase starts, Busch will have run only one points race with the 2015 package on a 1.5-mile track, Charlotte in the Coca-Cola 600 . He earned an 11th-place result behind JGR teammate and winner Carl Edwards . Busch acknowledged his lack of track time with the current package, and the driver may need to learn behind the wheel during the final 10 races of the season. "The lower downforce at Kentucky was fun," Busch said. "It's definitely a lot harder than what a lot of the other mile-and-a-halfs have been this year. I haven't run in a whole lot of them. But just from the drivers' sense of what I got, the off-throttle time was a heck of a lot more. Everybody enjoyed it a lot so I hope to continue on down that path." Although Busch's first win of 2015 came on a road course last month at Sonoma Raceway, Busch said next week's return to road racing may present the biggest obstacle over the final six races of the regular season as he needs to make and then stay in the top 30 in points to secure a playoff berth. "With Watkins Glen coming up next week, that's going to be another hard one to get through so that's going to be a tough challenge for myself in the left foot. So we'll make it, and I think we'll be OK like Sonoma," Busch said. "It'll be sore on Monday afterwards, and we'll continue to ice it and make it feel better." Sunday's Windows 10 400 (1:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM) will be the first time this season Busch will run a second race at the same track. He finished ninth in June, and hopes to replace the zero in his victory column with a win based on JGR adjustments over the last six weeks. "I've never won at Pocono Raceway, and I hope that's about to change," Busch said, using the "c" word again. "We've certainly had some good runs over the years, sometimes in the spring race, sometimes in the summer race, but overall, I feel like our team's really come a long way. I like where we're going and where we're at so I just hope that we can continue that here this weekend and get ourselves a win and make it four in a row." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
New Hampshire native Adam Sandler gives the command to start engines for the 5-hour Energy 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
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!