Friday, March 28, 2014

Repost from July of 2008: Thinking of Petty Family This Weekend


It will be ESPN's Shannon Spake who will anchor a one hour NASCAR Now special from Petty Enterprises in Mooresville, NC on Tuesday at 6PM on ESPN2. She will be on-hand with Richard Petty and others to celebrate his fifty year anniversary in the sport.

Just like the late Dale Earnhardt Sr., anyone who has been around NASCAR for a good while has some Richard Petty stories. His Southern charm, big smile and natural way with all types of people has carved a legacy which will last forever.

Petty was a casual friend to all of the ESPN crew members back in the 1980's when that network first started covering the sport. As a TV person from Connecticut in my 20's, I felt as out-of-place at a NASCAR track as was humanly possible. Petty was kind and nice to all of us as we tried to bring the sport to a new audience...cable TV. He could make you smile on a sweltering hot day in North Wilkesboro and that was no easy task.

Later in my career, we originated This Week in NASCAR with Eli Gold from the Petty Museum in Level Cross, NC. We were in a spot as to how to feed the TV crew until Lynda Petty and her church friends solved the problem with homemade food. We had our own covered-dish church social amid the trophies and I discovered pecan pie and the Petty hospitality.

Petty's contributions to the sport in terms of being an ambassador are unmatched. He unlocked new markets and won-over new fans with his aggressive driving and his self-effacing manner. That cowboy hat and smile are known well beyond the American borders.

Spake has a good opportunity to explore the past for fans who do not remember the full-size cars or the fact that NASCAR actually ran convertibles. That is the series where Petty started, and hopefully the show will have some additional photos and footage for fans.

This should be a good opportunity to record a TV program that may have a lasting memory once Petty retires as an owner and gets back to the piece and quiet of Level Cross. ESPN should be commended for allocating time and resources to participate in a well-deserved anniversary celebration.

I would invite you to add any memories or thoughts you may have about Richard Petty for the ESPN crew producing this show or just for other Daly Planet readers. Click on any of the pictures to see them full-size.

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6 comments:

Gymmie said...

What a fun week! The King on "For Race Fans Only" last Thursday, on NN tomorrow and Trackside Friday :). Like Mikey said, it's going to be a fun time :)

I didn't know much about racing in the 70s but I *knew* The King and Mario were race car drivers. I remember the Old STP commercials :).

The King is definitely on my list of people I want to meet :).

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- I became a racing fan in the early 1960's reading about The King in what used to be Sports Illustrated. It was some years before I saw a race, on TV, but I followed and became a fan of Richard Petty, and still am.

As John Force and others have said, Richard Petty taught many in racing the value of fans and how they should be treated.

As the story goes, when RJR held the first Winston Preview they had no idea what sort of response to expect and held it at the Winston-Salem convention center up the street from RJR's headquarters. To their surprise, when "closing time" arrived they realized that 100 to 200 fans (as I recall the story)were still in line to get The King's autograph. He stayed and signed autographs until all those in line had received an autograph - and, if you've seen it, his autograph is involved and not the typical squiggles and wavy lines. A very great deal of the popularity of NASCAR is due to how Richard Petty treated fans and showed others how to. In its last years the Winston Preview attracted over 20,000 attendees, usually from over 20 states - sometimes in nasty weather. You might have been there the year ESPN, with Dave Despain, broadcast from the Preview.

Richard Petty has earned and deserves all the accord he has received.

Thank you for the alert.

alex said...

My first Nascar race attended in person was the 1992 Atlanta race, the last of Richard's career. Even though I was only 8 years old at the time, I knew I was seeing something special. The memory is a little fuzzy from that day but since then I've watched many older races to appreciate the history of the sport.

The program on Tuesday will be one of those "can't miss" shows. Thanks for this blog post, I wouldn't have known about the show otherwise

bevo said...

Great pictures JD. That Superbird and Daytona were the coolest cars that ever raced in NASCAR. I was a kid back then and built the models of The King and Buddy Baker.

A couple of weeks ago Buddy talked about driving those cars on his Sirius show. He said they could set them up as loose as they wanted to because when he went into a corner that wing would straighten him up so he could just nail the thing. His big regret though? Anytime a driver won a race in one the company gave him a car. Buddy just gave them to family members and friends, a small fortune now :)

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- There have gotten to be 2 things I really look forward to each week - how Allen B. will open N-Now and what picture you will use for your posts. You do only a SUPER job. Thank you.

Lou,Kingston,NY said...

JD, Richard in NC , does make a point in one respect to me. Your photo for the column of the day does get my attention. And one in recent memory is the "Shoot Out on Monday Night", " Odd Couple". It was good. And the PE Tuesday photos, priceless as they apply to the column. I guess thats why you are so good at what you do. Thanks as always.