With nine wins at Martinsville Speedway, Richard Petty has more grandfather clocks than any other of his competitors before or since from the track.
That’s why, with racing returning to Virginia at NASCAR’s historic short track, I am extra saddened by the passing of Lynda Petty, Petty’s bride, this week.
Last year I wrote an article that’s premise is how I believe whole-heartedly that NASCAR’s most successful drivers, for the most part, were happily married.
The Pettys were the first couple I cited to prove my theory that a happy home life and a supportive spouse makes for the best possible race car driver.
And who was more supportive than Lynda Petty?
While Richard was off making a living to support their family, it was Lynda who stayed home and raised the children.
She had to discipline as both mother and father, make dinner and take out the trash, attend school functions and watch as her handsome husband kissed sexy women in Victory Lane – 200 times!
Mrs. Petty even had to find a place for all of those grandfather clocks!
With Mrs. Petty handling the finances, the home, the children, and the other chores, Petty had time to concentrate solely on the winning of races and championships – a record-setting seven of them!
And Mrs. Petty kept her hand in NASCAR, too. Many wives looked to Mrs. Petty for guidance. She was approachable, knowledgeable, and friendly.
Navigating the role of NASCAR wife must be difficult, frantic, at times, boring, and always a struggle to find balance for one’s home.
Mrs. Petty offered sage advice, words of wisdom, a warm source of comfort, and the voice of experience.
As well known in motorsports, there is no substitute for ‘seat time’ and none seemed to have more than Mrs. Petty as NASCAR wife.
Nowadays the wives and girlfriends of NASCAR drivers are very involved with the business side of racing – Delana Harvick and Samantha Busch to name two – or in their own bustling careers like Carl Edwards’ wife, Dr. Kate Downey.
But before this generation of NASCAR wives, Petty was a beacon for the newbies entering the sorority.
As Liz Allison, Davey Allison’s widowed wife wrote upon hearing the passing of Mrs. Petty this week:
“As a young driver’s wife, I still recall the many conversations that I had with Lynda Petty. She (Judy Allison and Susan Bonnett) were the three wives that I always turned to for advice and support. Lynda was the most down to earth and loving person and one who was never too busy to lend a listening ear. She will always hold a special place in my heart!”
Mrs. Petty just made NASCAR better from all sides.
Her son Kyle entered the sport and Mrs. Petty stayed involved. She even saw her grandson Adam sit in a cockpit and start to pursue his dreams in the Petty Legacy.
Tragically, Mrs. Petty had to see her grandson laid to rest after a racing accident.
And there were other tragedies throughout her years in NASCAR that peppered Mrs. Petty’s life. But they did not define her or change her demeanor.
I never had the privilege to meet Mrs. Petty, but have admired her from afar for many years.
As a wife myself I always look for long-married couples as models of what to do (and not) to stay married… happily.
So, with much respect, sadness, and admiration I wish Mrs. Petty Godspeed and Peace.
NASCAR, her husband Richard, her family, her friends, fans, and I were far better for having her in our world.