Long: Kurt Busch’s win helped turn darkness to light for the Petty family


KANSAS CITY, Kan. — When Denny Hamlin called Kyle Petty last year seeking permission to use the No. 45 for his second team at 23XI Racing, Petty couldn’t give an answer. 

He had to talk to his children.

The No. 45 had not been used by the family since the end of the 2008 season as a tribute to Adam Petty. That was his number as he moved to Cup and that number rode with Richard Petty’s grandson when he made his lone Cup start in 2000 at Texas Motor Speedway. 

Adam Petty died in a crash six weeks later during practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Adam Petty’s sister, Montgomery Lee, then 14, eulogized her brother a few days later through sniffles and tears before 1,500 relatives, friends and some of NASCAR’s most famous competitors. 

“Every memory of Adam is a great memory,” she said that day. 

Before walking off stage and being escorted to her seat by Richard Petty, Montgomery Lee said: “I love you Adam.” 

The sport’s love of Adam kept the No. 45 with the Petty family for the last 20 years.

“NASCAR protected that number,” Kyle Petty told NBC Sports. “Kyle Petty never protected that number. Richard Petty didn’t protect that number. Our family didn’t. The people at NASCAR protected that number because they knew what it meant to our family.”

Hamlin sought the No. 45 for co-owner Michael Jordan. That was Jordan’s number when he returned to the NBA in 1995 after using it when he played minor league baseball. NASCAR, which oversees the use of numbers, told Hamlin he needed to talk to Kyle Petty.

After talking with Hamlin, Kyle Petty called Montgomery Lee and son Austin to relay Hamlin’s request. 

They approved.

“You have to realize that as this came about,” Kyle Petty said, “Adam has been gone longer than he was here. We’ve crossed that threshold. He’s been gone 22 years and he was only here 19 years. … (Montgomery Lee and Austin) had made peace with it. It was easier for me to make peace with it.”

Adam Petty died on May 12. Three days after that anniversary, Kurt Busch was driving the No. 45, chasing Kyle Larson for the lead in the final laps of Sunday’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway. 

“I’m not lying,” Kyle Petty said Sunday night, “when Kurt was running (Larson) down, I’m in Kiawah, South Carolina, and you could have heard me in Kansas City. I was pulling for Kurt Busch. I was screaming. … I probably looked like Tom Cruise on Oprah Winfrey’s couch — when he jumped up and down on her couch.

“I was screaming: ‘Catch him Kurt! Catch him Kurt! Let’s go, man!’” 

Busch got closer. He made his move around Larson. They raced side-by-side, Busch nosed ahead as they crossed the start/finish line with nine laps left. Busch quickly completed the pass and pulled away for his first victory of the season and his first with 23XI Racing. 

Petty sent Busch a text just after the No. 45 crossed the finish line. Petty was heartened by what he heard when Busch spoke immediately after the race.

“If you go back and watch his post-race interview with (FS1’s) Jamie Little when he got out the car,” Petty said, “he mentions just the number. He mentions it numerous times. … I know in his mind it’s his team, it’s a new team, it’s a team that was built specifically for him. It’s not that 23XI won, it’s that Kurt Busch won with his team. I know that. 

“I have to say for me that a little bit of me smiled every time (Busch said the No. 45) because I’m like, ‘that’s right it’s the 45. It should have been there a long time ago under different circumstances but you got it there, man.’”

Later, Busch was asked about the significance of winning in the No. 45 car so close to the anniversary of Adam Petty’s passing.

“I could feel things early on with Kyle and the way that he wanted this 45 car to have success,” Busch said. “It’s a small spiritual connection.”

This moment was just one of the highlights of the past few days for Kyle Petty. Son Austin and his wife Sarah welcomed daughter Ellington Montgomery Petty on May 12, coming 22 years after Adam Petty’s death.

“The darkest day for me has always been May 12,” Petty said. “May 12 is just an incredibly dark day. I get to a dark place a few days before that and stay in a dark place for a few days after that. It’s just a dark day.

“Austin and Sarah having a little girl, that day wasn’t as dark. There was a light. For a change, there was a light in that day. Eventually, that light will be brighter than that day. I’m sure. There’s no doubt in my mind. It’s not there yet, but the light was lit (that day). 

“Then to have Kurt and that number in Victory Lane three days later … it’s a week of positive things. It’s a not a week of negative things. It’s a week of light. It’s not a week of darkness. 

“It’s a week of hope and not a week of despair. I think when you look at it, in 20 years I’ll look back and say this is the week that changed everything.”

NASCAR Championship Weekend returns to Phoenix in 2024


Phoenix Raceway will host the championship races for the Cup, Xfinity, Craftsman Truck and ARCA Menards Series in 2024, NASCAR announced Wednesday.

The races will be held Nov. 1-3, 2024. The Cup season finale will be Nov. 3, 2024. The only other Cup race for 2024 that has been announced is the Daytona 500. It will be held Feb. 18, 2024.

Phoenix Raceway has hosted the championship finale for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks since 2020. Chase Elliott won the Cup title there in 2020. Kyle Larson followed in 2021. Joey Logano won the crown there in 2022.

This year’s Cup finale at Phoenix will be Nov. 5 and air on NBC.



Drivers to watch at World Wide Technology Raceway


After the fireworks from the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR heads to World Wide Technology Raceway, a 1.25-mile speedway just outside of St. Louis. Sunday’s race (3:30 p.m. ET on FS1) marks the second time the Cup Series has raced at this track.

Much is at stake. The race to win the regular season championship has intensified. Tempers are high. The pressure to make the playoffs builds. Ten drivers have wins this season. Twelve races remain in the regular season.


Kyle Larson

  • Points position: 11th
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Richmond, Martinsville)
  • Past at WWTR: 12th last year

While a driver coming off back-to-back finishes of 20th or worse might not seem like a frontrunner, it actually does make Larson one. His topsy-turvy season has seen him place outside the top 10 in back-to-back races four times. In the three previous times he had consecutive finishes outside the top 10, he came back to finish second, first and second. Can he keep that streak going this weekend?

Bubba Wallace

  • Points position: 15th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Las Vegas I, Kansas I, Coca-Cola 600)
  • Past at WWTR: 26th last year

Wallace has scored three consecutive top-five finishes, his best streak in his Cup career. He has climbed from 21st to 15th in the standings during this run.

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Las Vegas I, Phoenix I, Darlington I)
  • Past at WWTR: 19th last year

Byron has finished no worse than seventh in the last five races. He’s led nearly 20% of the laps run during that time. Byron has averaged nearly 47 points a race during that streak.


Corey LaJoie

  • Points position: 20th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Atlanta I)
  • Past at WWTR: 36th last season

NASCAR’s one-race suspension to Chase Elliott gives LaJoie the chance to drive a Hendrick Motorsports car for the first time. This will be the best car LaJoie has driven in his career. Many eyes will be on him to see how he does.

Ross Chastain

Chastain has finished 29th and 22nd in the last two points races. He’s not gone more than three races without a top-10 finish this season. After his struggles last weekend at Charlotte, Chastain saw his lead cut to one point over Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney in the standings. Five drivers are within 17 points of Chastain in the season standings.

Aric Almirola

  • Points position: 26th
  • Best finish this season: 6th (Martinsville I)
  • Past at WWTR: 5th last year

Almirola has finished 13th or worse in all but one race this season for Stewart-Haas Racing. In the five races since placing sixth at Martinsville, Almirola has finished an average of 21.0.

NASCAR suspends Chase Elliott one race for incident with Denny Hamlin


NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one Cup race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600, the sanctioning body announced Tuesday.

“We take this very seriously,” Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition, said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The incident that happened off Turn 4, again after looking at all the available resources — in-car camera, data, SMT, which basically gives us (a car’s) steering, throttle, gives us braking — it was an intentional act by Chase in our opinion.”

Hendrick Motorsports stated that it would not appeal the penalty. Corey LaJoie will drive the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. Carson Hocevar will drive LaJoie’s car this weekend.

Hendrick Motorsports also stated that it would submit a waiver request for Elliott to remain eligible for the playoffs. Sawyer said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “I don’t see any reason at this point in time why wouldn’t (grant the waiver) when that request comes across our desk.”

This weekend will mark the seventh race in the first 15 that Elliott will have missed. He missed six races after breaking his leg in a snowboarding accident in early March. Elliott, who is winless this season, is 29th in points.

Elliott and Hamlin got together shortly before the halfway mark in Monday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

As they ran together, Hamlin forced Elliott toward the wall. Elliott’s car slapped the wall. Elliott then made contact with the right rear of Hamlin’s car, sending Hamlin into the wall.

“I got right-rear hooked in the middle of the straightway,” Hamlin said after the incident. “Yes, it was a tantrum. He shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

Said Sawyer on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “In the heat of the battle, things happen, but they have to learn to react in a different way. … Our drivers need to understand that you have to handle that in a completely different way than hooking someone in the right rear and putting them in harm’s way, not only with just a major head-on collision like Denny had, but also other competitors.”

Sawyer also said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “nothing gave us the indication that on that particular contact with the fourth-turn wall … that anything was broke” on Elliott’s car and could have caused him to come down and hit Hamlin’s car in the right rear.

NASCAR also announced that Scott Brzozowski and Adam Lewis, crew members on Michael McDowell‘s team, had each been suspended two races after McDowell’s car lost a tire in Monday’s race.

Winners and losers at Charlotte Motor Speedway


A look at winners and losers from Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway:


Ryan Blaney — Blaney stopped his winless streak at 59 races and gave team owner Roger Penske his second major race victory in two days. Blaney had the best car but had to fight through restarts late in the race to win.

William Byron — Byron, the winningest driver this season, barely missed getting victory No. 4. He finished second and scored his fifth straight top 10.

Martin Truex Jr. — Truex logged his third top five of the season.

23XI RacingBubba Wallace was fourth and Tyler Reddick fifth, giving 23XI Racing a pair of top-five finishes for the first time in a points race.


Jimmie Johnson — The seven-time champion admitted having problems adjusting to the Next Gen car on a 1.5-mile track. He crashed early and finished last.

Legacy Motor Club — It was a bad night for Jimmie Johnson and his team’s drivers. Johnson finished last in the 37-car field. Noah Gragson was 36th. Erik Jones placed 32nd.

Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin — Two drivers who had strong cars didn’t make it to the finish after crashing near the halfway point. Hamlin said Elliott “shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”