Adam Petty Dies in Crash at N.H.

Friday, May 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Richard, Adam, and Kyle Petty in May 1999.

LOUDON, N.H. (AP) — Adam Petty, the fourth-generation driver of NASCAR's most famous family, died after a crash Friday during practice at New Hampshire International Speedway.

The 19-year-old driver was taken to Concord Hospital, where he died of head trauma, spokeswoman Jennifer Dearborn said.

Petty crashed during practice for Friday's qualifying race for Saturday's Busch 200 on the 1.058-mile oval. His car appeared to brush the wall in Turn 3, spun out, and then crashed into the wall.

Rescue workers had to remove Petty by cutting through the roof of the red and blue No. 45 Sprint PCS Chevrolet. A yellow tarp was draped over the car as it was taken off the track on a flatbed truck.

``I knew it was a hard hit,'' said spectator David Henderson of Manchester, who was at a nearby concession stand. ``At first, everybody thought it was just a crash. Then it was like the whole place went silent.''

Andrew Watson, another fan, had tears in his eyes after learning the crash was fatal.

``There's no way this was his fault,'' said Watson, who said he knew Petty. ``He was a nice guy, a real nice guy. He was just following in his family's footsteps.''

Driver Buckshot Jones said his thoughts were with the Petty family.

``Nothing matters now. That's the worst thing that could happen,'' Jones said.

Petty is the grandson of seven-time NASCAR champion Richard Petty and the son of Kyle Petty, a regular on the Winston Cup circuit. Adam's great grandfather was Lee Petty, one of the pioneers of NASCAR.

``The whole family is sad right now, that's all I can say,'' said a man who answered the phone at Richard Petty's home in Level Cross, N.C. He identified himself as a family friend and said the family was at the nearby home of Kyle Petty.

Adam's Petty's death was the first on-track fatality in NASCAR since John Nemechek was killed in a Craftsman Truck race in Homestead, Fla., in 1997.

The last death in Busch competition was that of Clifford Allison, the son of another NASCAR Hall of Famer, Bobby Allison. Clifford Allison was killed during practice for a race in Brooklyn, Mich., in 1992.

Lee Petty died April 5 at age 86 from complications of a stomach aneurysm several weeks after surgery. Adam Petty had made his Winston Cup debut just three days earlier in Fort Worth, Texas.

Lee Petty won 55 races, still seventh-best in NASCAR history, and three Grand National — now Winston Cup — championships. In 1959, he become the photo-finish winner of the first Daytona 500.

His son Richard became the king of stock car racing with a record 200 victories and seven championships.

Richard's son, Kyle, is in his 20th year as a Winston Cup regular, and has taken over the day-to-day business of running the family's team.

Adam Petty's entry into racing made the Petty Enterprises team the first with four generations of NASCAR drivers.

It was his second season as a Busch Series regular and he planned to drive in five Winston Cup races this season in preparation for a shot at the rookie title in 2001.

He was 20th last year in the Grand National points race and third in the rookie-of-the-year standings, finishing a career-best fourth in Fontana, Calif., in May.

He had planned to drive full time next year on the Winston Cup circuit in one of the new Petty Enterprises' Dodges as a teammate of his father and John Andretti.

Adam Petty first got serious notice in racing in September 1998 when he won the ARCA race in Charlotte, N.C., at age 18, becoming the youngest driver to win a race in that series. He also ran the full American Speed Association season that year.

He also is survived by his mother, Pattie, his grandmother, Lynda, and his great-grandmother, Elizabeth.

Petty's death was one of several involving NASCAR drivers in the last eight years. Clifford Allison's older brother, Davey, a Winston Cup star, was killed in a helicopter crash at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. A few months earlier, 1992 series champion Alan Kulwicki died in a plane crash in Tennessee.

Winston Cup Drivers Neil Bonnett and Rodney Orr were killed after crashing before the Daytona 500 in 1994.