According to virtually every report in all media, Kyle Petty’s days as a driver for Petty Enterprises are numbered. That’s too bad.
Understand, it’s difficult to make an argument for keeping the 48-year-old behind the wheel of the No. 45 Dodge. While he has won eight races in his 30-year career (putting him a reasonably respectable 60th among all-time race winners), he has not only needed 828 races to earn those wins, but his last came in 1995. Even worse, he’s finished among the top five just three times since that last win.
There are more damning facts to buttress the Kyle Petty sucks and the only reason he still earns a living driving a Sprint Cup car is his last name argument, but … none of them matter. If there was even a shred of justice or decency in the world of NASCAR, Kyle Petty drives until he tells us it’s time to go.
Let’s forget the fact that Petty has carried himself with uncommon dignity and class while laboring under the unimaginable burden of being The King’s kid — though in some corners, that’s reason enough to cut the guy a gargantuan break; as far as I’m concerned, the argument against dumping him begins and ends on July 7, 2000, the day his 19-year-old son Adam was killed at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Go on all you want about drivers appreciating the risks of their chosen line of work, etc., etc., etc. (Petty himself will echo a variation of that theme whenever he’s asked how or why he kept racing in the wake of his son’s death). In point of fact, Kyle Petty has walked an incredibly difficult path and endured not one but two burdens that few — if any — public figures can even begin to appreciate. Yes, Kyle chose to follow his grandfather and father into NASCAR; yes, he, and his wife, and his father, and everyone in the sport, and, obviously, Adam himself, understood the stakes. And no, maybe the world doesn’t owe anyone anything. But Petty Enterprises and NASCAR? Somehow, they owe Kyle Petty the opportunity to call his own shots.