Traditions in Nascar are as sacred as the sport is itself. Nascar is/was all about tradition. Like so many things in America today, another tradition is ending.
The legacy of the Petty family runs deep within the asphalt and concrete of Daytona International Speedway. Patriarch Lee Petty won the first Daytona 500, prevailing in a three-wide photo finish that took days to decipher in 1959. Richard Petty won a record seven titles including the iconic 1979 event, the crash- and fight-plagued race that spurred NASCAR to national popularity. Kyle Petty also won at Daytona in 1979, charging to Victory Lane in an ARCA event that marked his first time behind the wheel of a race car.
Richard Petty Motorsports is trying to commemorate that latter event this week, fielding a No. 44 car for A.J. Allmendinger featuring the same retro paint scheme that Kyle Petty drove in his debut 30 years ago. Allmendinger said he was stoked about the way the car looked. Richard Petty said the paint scheme brought back pleasant memories. Everybody seemed happy about it — except Kyle.
“They did not ask me about the paint scheme,” he said Saturday. “Y’all have been around me long enough, and I’ll be honest about this one. I get mad all the time. How many times have y’all seen me mad? I broke my hand a couple of years ago because I was so mad. I get mad all the time. I was not mad about that, not at all. I was crushed. I was hurt, and I’m not going to get over it for a while. And that’s a personal thing. That’s me. That’s not got anything to do with anything else. That was my paint job and my car and my number and my stuff, from my first win. Not for Petty Enterprises or GEM or whoever that is. They can look at it however they want to. But I didn’t get a call from anybody. So that’s even worse”.
That’s how it goes these days for Kyle Petty, the odd man out in the sale of Petty Enterprises to the organization once known as Gillett Evernham Motorsports. He’s no longer associated with the race team his family founded, because that team no longer exists. He no longer has a car to drive on the Sprint Cup tour. He occasionally competes in sports-car events like the recent 24 hours at Daytona. He’s taken to wearing a cap with a black stripe across the No. 45, telling the world that there’s no longer a car bearing that number for him to drive anymore, and that it belongs to his late son, Adam, in eternity now.