Kyle Petty (Adam Petty Survives)

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File:220px-Kyle Petty 2011.jpg
Kyle Petty in 2011.

Kyle Eugene Petty (born June 2, 1960) is a retired American stock car racing driver. He formerly competed in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and is currently a television analyst for NBC's pre- and post-race shows. He is the son of racer Richard Petty, grandson of racer Lee Petty, and father of racer Adam Petty. He and his ex-wife Pattie have two other children, Austin and Montgomery Lee. Petty last drove the No. 44 Dodge R/T for Petty Enterprises, where he formerly served as CEO (now an owner); his last race was in 2003. Petty appeared in the 1983 Burt Reynolds movie Stroker Ace. Petty was born in Randleman, North Carolina. He began racing at a young age and made his major-league stock car debut at the age of 18.

Career

Early Career

He won the very first race he entered: the 1979 Daytona ARCA 200, in one of his father's mothballed 1978 Dodge Magnum race cars; at the time becoming the youngest driver to win a major-league stock car race. Later in the season, he made his Winston Cup Series debut; again driving a passed down STP Dodge Magnum numbered No. 42 (a number used by his grandfather Lee Petty) for his family's team. He ran five races and had a ninth-place finish in his first series race at Talladega. In 1980, he made a total of fifteen starts in the No. 42 (after crashing the last of his father's Dodge Magnums in one of the Daytona 125 qualifying races) and had six top-ten finishes (using what ever hand-me-down race car his father could spare), garnering a twenty-eighth-place points finish. He began the 1981 season driving his father's No. 43 for one race, before running a full schedule in his regular No. 42, finishing in the top-ten ten times and finishing twelfth in points.

He began the 1982 season with two top-ten finishes, but later began splitting time between his No. 42 and the No. 1 UNO/STP car owned by Hoss Ellington, and ended the season fifteenth in points.

File:220px-KylePetty7racecar1983.jpg
Kyle Petty's 1983 Grand Prix.

In 1983, he picked up funding from 7-Eleven and switched his number to No. 7 accordingly. He had only two top-ten finishes but improved to thirteenth in the standings. He followed that season up with six top-tens the following year, but fell three spots in points.

1985-1996

Petty took his number and sponsorship to Wood Brothers Racing in 1985, where he had a then career-high seven top-fives and his first top-ten points finish. The next season, he won his first career race at Richmond and finished tenth in the final standings. In 1987, he switched to the #21 and received new sponsorship from Citgo, as well as picking up a win at Charlotte. He failed to pick up a win in 1988, and fell to thirteenth in points, causing him to be released from the ride.

Petty's 1985 car.

He signed on to a part-time schedule in 1989 for the new SABCO Racing team. Originally beginning the season unsponsored, he and SABCO later picked up sponsorship from Peak Antifreeze after he drove their car to a top-ten finish at the Daytona 500, filling in for Eddie Bierschwale, as well as Ames Department Stores. Petty and the #42 Pontiac team competed in nineteen races that season, his best finish being a 4th at Atlanta. Peak became the team's full-time sponsor in 1990, and Petty finished eleventh in points after winning the spring race at North Carolina Speedway with a 26-second margin of victory. Mello Yello would replace Peak as sponsor of the #42 in 1991, and Petty was running eleventh in points when he suffered a broken leg at a crash at Talladega, causing him to miss the next eleven races. His abbreviated schedule combined with only one top-ten in the second half of the season caused him to finish the season 30th in points.

File:74e7b783a354f3e6520e776b56903fc0.jpg
Kyke Petty's 1992 Mello Yello Pontiac.

In 1992, now with sponsorship from Mello Yello, Petty rebounded to a career-best fifth-place finish in points, as well winning two separate races that season. The 1992 season would be the only year that he would win multiple races in a season. Kyle came very close to winning the championship in 1992, he had a flat tire at Phoenix (2nd to last race) and broke an engine in the last race otherwise he would have been neck and neck with Elliott and Kulwicki for the title. He duplicated his points finish in 1993 as well as picking up a win at Pocono Raceway. He dropped ten spots in points in 1994 after he failed to finish higher than fourth, and lost the Mello Yello sponsorship at the end of the season. Coors Light became his new sponsor beginning in 1995, and he won his most recent race at Dover. He fell further down to 30th in points after only finishing in the top-ten five times and failing to qualify for the fall race at Bristol Motor Speedway. He improved to a 27th-place points finish the next season despite missing two races due to injury and failing to qualify for the season-ending race at Atlanta. He parted way with SABCO at the end of the season. In 1996, the popular rock group Soundgarden recorded a tune called "Kyle Petty, Son of Richard."

Petty made his 500th Cup start at Phoenix International Raceway in 1997.

1997-2003

For the 1997 season, Petty formed his own team, PE2 Motorsports, and fielded the No. 44 Hot Wheels Pontiac Grand Prix for himself. He had two top-five finishes and finished 15th in points, the highest points placement of all the new teams to run during the 1997 season. He only had two top-tens in 1998, and fell back to 30th in points, causing him to return to Petty Enterprises and run his team from their shop, and became Petty Enterprises' new CEO. He began the 1999 season with two early DNQs, and finished 26th in points despite finishing in the top-ten nine times. He was also commentating for ESPN as a guest to commentate as a NASCAR driver for NASCAR Busch Series races. He had one top-ten early in 2000. He missed the next two races and returned to drive the No. 44 for the rest of the summer. He also filled in at the Brickyard 400 for Penske Racing after their regular driver, Jeremy Mayfield had to miss the race due to a concussion; Petty finished 32nd. Kyle Petty drove the No. 44 Hot Wheels Pontiac and only qualified in 19 races in 2000; causing him to finish 41st in the points standings in the 2000 Winston Cup Series.

In 2001, Adam Petty brought the No. 45 to the Winston Cup full-time and switched to Dodge, as did all of Petty Enterprises. This, coupled with Kyle's lack of success in recent years, caused him to announce retirement after the 2003 season. In 2001, Brawny/Georgia Pacific became Kyle's new sponsor and he got one win. In 2002 Kyle had a win at Talladega, raising him to 19th in the points. He missed three races in 2003 before he retired, but managed one win, but then finished the season by missing most of 2003's races and fell back to 43rd, last, in the standings.

In 2003, during the Food City 500, Petty crashed his No. 44 car in a hard driver's side impact, recording a hit of 80 Gs. After that shaking event, Petty retired before the season even ended, and his replacement was Christian Fittipaldi. Petty held the record for hardest hit until Elliott Sadler crashed at Pocono in 2010.