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Just Like Old Times for Petty Enterprises

April 25, 1999|From Associated Press

It felt like old times for the guys at Petty Enterprises last weekend at Martinsville Speedway.

John Andretti won the Winston Cup race and Jimmy Hensley was the winner in the truck event.

The sweep brought back plenty of memories from the glory days of team owner Richard Petty and the rest of the team. Petty got 15 of his 200 victories on the paperclip-shaped, half-mile Martinsville oval, while Lee Petty, the founder of the team and Richard's father, won there three times.

Richard's son, Kyle Petty, the Winston Cup team's second driver who finished a season-best 10th on Sunday, remembered a couple of stories about trips to Martinsville during his youth, when his father's No. 43 Pontiac was the scourge of the stock car series.

After one race during that period, King Richard sat on the pit wall and signed autographs until nightfall while wife Lynda waited in the infield with Kyle and his sisters.

"Electric windows in cars were new then," Mrs. Petty recalled. "Kyle and the girls had the windows in our car going up and down during the whole time we were waiting. Finally, Richard finished meeting fans and came over to drive us home. He was hot and tired and the car wouldn't start. The kids had run the battery down.

"It's funny now, but at that time Richard wasn't happy at all."

His son remembers another time when he was playing with the track's old manual scoreboard.

"I'd take the numbers and put 43 up on the board for all five top positions," he said with a laugh. "Then the kids of other drivers would replace 43 with their dad's number. I usually got the last turn because we stayed the longest. When we left, 43 was all over the board."

Richard Petty could not have been more pleased with the effort by Andretti, who made up a lost lap and had to pass two-time defending series champion Jeff Gordon and points leader Jeff Burton late in the race to earn his second Winston Cup win.

"It looked like Richard Petty in the car," he said.

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With his 19th-place finish in Martinsville, Va., Dale Earnhardt has just one victory in his last 100 races -- his emotional and coveted win in the 1998 Daytona 500.

The Intimidator, who's won 71 races in his career, has yet to lead a lap this season.

John Andretti's victory and Kyle Petty's 10th-place finish in the Goody's 500 gave Pontiac 19 top-10 finishes through eight races. Last season, Grand Prixs had only six top 10s after eight races.

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The fifth annual Kyle Petty Hot Wheels Racing Charity Ride Across America will start May 3, with Petty set to lead a large group of celebrities and VIP's on a 2,863-mile trek from Ontario, Calif., to Trinity, N.C.

In the past four years, the motorcycle ride had grown and raised more than $1 million for children's charities and the Winston Cup Racing Wives Auxiliary Trust Fund.

After visiting hospitals all along the route, the ride concludes May 9 with a concert by Willie Nelson & Family at Kyle Petty's farm. Proceeds from the concert will benefit Brenner's Children's Hospital.

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