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‘Mind over matter’ philosophy keeps ‘The King’ going as he nears 80

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Richard Petty has been through a lot in nearly 80 years of life and 35 years of NASCAR racing.

“The King” has broken bones, had parts of his stomach and gallbladder removed and survived a brush with prostate cancer in 1995.

“I got a really good DNA as far as healing,” Petty said last month at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

After all the battle scars sustained through 1,184 Cup races and afterward, Petty feels like he did the day he retired in 1992.

“My daddy (Lee Petty) always said,’ I don’t know how you’re supposed to feel when you’re this old,’ ” Petty said. “So, I don’t know if I’m 80 or 70 or 50. Basically, physically … I don’t hurt nowhere right now. … I don’t feel like I feel any different than 10 years ago, 20 years ago or 30 years ago.”

Still a constant presence on the Cup circuit, the seven-time NASCAR champion can be seen in the garage and pits in his trademark cowboy hat and sunglasses serving in his roles of team owner and NASCAR ambassador.

And don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

“That is part of it,” Petty said. “If you own the team and you’re not interested in going to see what happens, that can’t be good morale for the team. I go because I want to go, too. I enjoy being around and watching all the stuff. You go in there and try to give them … they don’t listen to what I want them to do. At least give them support, ‘You guys can do this, you can, just keep working at it.’ It’s a confidence-builder for them to know I pay the bills, but I’m also interested in what comes out in the end.”

Photo by Daniel McFadin

Three months from celebrating his 80th birthday (on July 2), Petty is able to see his family’s story documented in the Hall of Fame’s “Petty: Building a Family Legacy” exhibit, which runs until July.

But according to NBC Sports analyst Kyle Petty, his father wouldn’t have made it this far if not for fulfilling his desire to keep tabs on Richard Petty Motorsports and NASCAR.

“My sisters and I have talked about it,” Kyle Petty said. “If it wasn’t for racing, he wouldn’t make it to 80. … Because he would just sit down and stop. He wouldn’t have anything to do.

“If it wasn’t for racing people and being able to walk through that garage and talk to people, yeah, he wouldn’t have made it this far.”

His father agrees.

“Mentally, I couldn’t do it,” Richard Petty said. “I’m a strong believer in mind over matter. You do what your mind tells you to do, whether your body wants to do it or whatever. I think that’s what kept me going from that standpoint.”

If not for racing, the Petty family’s trajectory might not have taken them far from Level Cross, North Carolina, where Lee and Elizabeth Petty raised their family. Richard and Kyle attended the same school in Randleman. The small student body meant Richard was one of 13 or 14 members of the football team and a performer in the marching band that played at halftime.

Photo by Daniel McFadin

This part of “The King’s” life is touched on in the Hall of Fame exhibit by his trumpet.

But it was the music provided by stock-car engines that fueled the Pettys.

“We lived on a dirt road and all the guys around us were the same way,” Richard Petty said. “They had nothing. So I didn’t know that until dad started racing. We’d go to Greensboro, we’d go to Martinsville or we’d go to Philadelphia. They had indoor plumbing, this is great. We grew up in that era. So that made you appreciate all the stuff going on. … Racing was all I ever knew. We raised a garden, so I knew how to raise a garden, but I didn’t know how to farm. I didn’t know how to be in the lumber business like my granddaddy was. I didn’t want to be in the liquor business.”

Because the Pettys pursued racing instead of farming – and liquor – the Buick Regal driven by Richard Petty to his seventh and final Daytona 500 win in 1981 sits next to a replica of the 1959 Oldsmobile Lee Petty drove in his own Hall of Fame career.

Not far away is the No. 42 Pontiac Grand Prix Kyle Petty drove to one of his eight Cup wins. Next to it is a No. 45 Monte Carlo Kyle’s son Adam drove in his tragically brief career.

Display cases show letters, typewriters, pictures, trophies and oddities that make up the Petty story.

Photo by Daniel McFadin

Not many athletes, in auto racing or any sport, can say the end of their career was honored by a comic book.

The exhibit chronicles the family dynasty and its many contributors, from Richard’s brother and engine builder, Maurice Petty, to his cousin and crew chief, Dale Inman, and his late wife, Lynda.

What does Richard Petty hope today’s generation of drivers can learn from the family oriented exhibit and the Hall of Fame as whole?

“I would like for the next generations coming in to go back and appreciate what Bobby Allison, David Pearson, Lee Petty and Fireball Roberts did,” he said. “Because if it hadn’t been for them, they wouldn’t be doing what they’re doing. I hope they don’t get away from who built the fan base. I was just part of the foundation. … It took all of us to do it. I hope that they don’t think they’re the ones making it happen.”

But Richard Petty still is helping to build the sport, 25 years after he last took a checkered flag.

Don’t expect him to ever hold a news conference in Daytona announcing he’s stepping away from the sport full time.

“That would go over like a lead balloon,” he said. “I don’t want to start a new life. I’ve been going to races for 68 years since 1949. I don’t know I wouldn’t cut back on going to all the races. But I’m still interested in being nosy enough to know who’s doing what.”

Sponsor expanding its partnership with Danica Patrick’s team

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Stewart-Haas Racing announced Wednesday that Code 3 Associates will partner with One Cure initiative for three races on Danica Patrick‘s car this season and that Code 3 Associates will add another race on Patrick’s car.

Code 3 Associates is using its partnership with One Cure, a project led by the Colorado State University Flint Animal Cancer Center, will be on Patrick’s car at Kansas Speedway (May 13), the Monster Energy Open at Charlotte Motor Speedway (May 20) on All-Star weekend and Aug. 19 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Code 3 Associates will serve as the primary sponsor of Patrick’s car June 25 at Sonoma Raceway.

“We need a new way to find potential cures for cancer, and pets may provide the answer,” said Dr. Rodney Page, director of the Flint Animal Cancer Center. “Cancer is cancer, so what is learned in pets being treated for cancer holds promise to benefit people and vice versa. This approach is known as comparative or translational oncology, and it is the core of the One Cure concept. This partnership helps educate more people about comparative oncology and improves the lives of all cancer patients, whether they have two legs or four.”

“Code 3 Associates has championed animal welfare for more than 25 years, and One Cure allows us to take what’s learned from treating animals that are fighting cancer to people who are fighting the same battle,” added Nan Stuart, founder, Code 3 Associates. “Danica and Stewart-Haas Racing have been strong advocates for animal welfare and this extension of our partnership with them helps more people understand and appreciate One Cure’s mission.”

The car for Kansas will feature the upcoming “Wonder Woman” movie on it. The movie debuts June 2.

 

NASCAR America live at 6 pm on NBCSN: Exclusive Dale Jr. interview

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 6 to 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Krista Voda hosts from Stamford, Connecticut, along with Kyle Petty and Greg Biffle.

Here’s what’s on today’s show:

* We continue to follow up on Tuesday’s major announcement of Dale Earnhardt’s retirement at the end of this season. One of the biggest elements of today’s show is the exclusive interview our Marty Snider had with Junior. Check out the video above for some of that interview.

 Which drivers in the Cup Series’ current crop of young talent could ultimately replace Earnhardt as the face of the sport?

* Xfinity Series points leader Elliott Sadler also joins the show to share his reaction to yesterday’s news. Sadler joined JR Motorsports last season, but his friendship with the Earnhardt family goes back much farther.

* The next stop on NASCAR America’s My Home Track: 50 States in 50 Shows tour of the USA is The Bay State: Massachusetts. This state has seen major success recently with its Boston pro sports teams, and it’s also home to one of New England’s premier short tracks, Seekonk Speedway.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you also can watch it via the online stream at http://nascarstream.nbcsports.com

If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you plug-in that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 6 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s final Cup season could lead to greater ticket sales

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Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s announcement Tuesday that he will retire from the NASCAR Cup Series after this season could help minimize attendance declines that have become common at tracks.

Asked about the impact Earnhardt could have in the final 28 races of the season, Marcus Smith, chief executive officer and president of Speedway Motorsports Inc., likened Earnhardt to another famous athlete.

“Dale Jr.’s announcement yesterday is significant, it’s similar to when Michael Jordan decided it was time for him to retire from basketball,’’ Smith said Wednesday in a conference call with investor analysts. “The opportunity for fans to see Dale Jr. race one more time is certainly special and something we expect will be inspiring to a lot of fans to come to races.’’

Speedway Motorsports Inc. reported that admissions revenue was down 4.5 percent in the first quarter this year compared to the same time last season. The first quarter covered race weekends for Atlanta and Las Vegas. SMI reported that attendance at Atlanta was “up a little bit” and attendance at Las Vegas was “down a little bit” but did not provide numbers.

Earnhardt will be the fourth major NASCAR driver to leave the Cup series since last year Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart ran their final races last season. Carl Edwards announced before the season that he would not race this year.

International Speedway Corp., which owns tracks such as Daytona, Talladega, Darlington and Homestead-Miami Speedway, cited the absence of Gordon, Stewart and Earnhardt (when he missed the last 18 races of last year) as impacting admission revenue last season.

ISC reported its fourth-quarter admissions revenue was down 9.3 percent last year from the previous season. The company hosted Cup races at Darlington, Richmond, Chicagoland, Kansas, Talladega, Martinsville, Phoenix and Homestead during that quarter.

“The impact of Jeff Gordon’s retirement was underestimated, which was compounded with Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. missing races throughout the season,’’ said John Saunders, ISC president, in January about one of the reasons for the decline.

Earnhardt’s announcement that this will be his last Cup series already has some fans purchasing or looking to purchase tickets.

Richmond International Raceway reported an increase in interest for this weekend’s race after Earnhardt’s announcement. Richmond also is selling tickets to its fall race weekend. Earnhardt is scheduled to compete in both the Xfinity and Cup races there Sept. 8-9.

The series heads to Talladega next weekend and Grant Lynch, chairman of Talladega Superspeedway, anticipates more Earnhardt fans showing up.

“If you’re going to go see him one more time, why wouldn’t you go to the track where he runs the best,’’ Lynch said. “We think that’s the a positive for Talladega. He’s always been great at Talladega. It’s an Earnhardt track. I hope folks will take the attitude that ‘Wow, I’ll get two more chances to see him,’ see him next weekend and come see us again in October.’’

The greatest demands for tickets likely will come for races at the end of the season.

Earnhardt’s final Cup race will be Nov. 19 at Homestead. The track is selling three-day weekend packages. Deposits for single-day tickets, which go on sale May 5, are being taken. That race sold out last year.

The week before Homestead, the series races at Phoenix Raceway. The track is in the renewal process for the Nov. 12 race with fall race ticket holders. The track is selling tickets to its new Club 64 section above Turn 1 now. Grandstand tickets and camping go on sale June 2.

The week before Phoenix, the series races at Texas Motor Speedway. The track is selling weekend ticket packages only at this point. The track will sell individual tickets to its fall Cup race in June. A date has yet to be determined but it will come after the June 10 IndyCar race there.

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Complete list of Dale Earnhardt Jr. retirement NASCAR Talk stories/videos

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There were numerous storylines that emerged from Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s announcement Tuesday that he would retire at the end of the 2017 NASCAR Cup season.

NASCAR TALK was all over the Earnhardt announcement with comprehensive blanket coverage with our team of Nate Ryan, Dustin Long, Daniel McFadin and Jerry Bonkowski.

If you missed one or some of our stories or videos, here’s a convenient list for you to go through and learn everything and anything related to Junior’s announcement:

Follow @JerryBonkowski