Petty last in simulated race, first with fans

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 12, 2000

Devon Bullard, 3, gets an autograph from Kyle Petty during his visit to Vicksburg Monday. More than 200 fans gathered at Ameristar to meet the driver. (The Vicksburg Post/PAT SHANNAHAN)

Kyle Petty will skip this weekend’s NASCAR Winston Cup stop at New Hampshire International Speedway, but he found time to visit with fans in Vicksburg on Monday.

Petty, whose 19-year-old son Adam was killed in a crash at New Hampshire in May, stopped at Ameristar Casino for an appearance. For nearly two hours, he answered questions, signed autographs on everything from toy cars and trading cards to a used tire and a broken driveshaft, and raced in a NASCAR simulator against seven qualifiers at the Wall of Speed.

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Petty finished last in the race, but he helped make one fan a winner. Petty drew the name of Darrell Sapp, a 60-year-old vacationing retiree from Euless, Texas, as the winner of a trip to November’s Pennzoil 400 in Homestead, Fla.

“Some of them seem so fake, but he was down-to-earth,” said Anita Holden, from Monticello.

Holden and her husband, Cory, brought an unusual piece of memorabilia for an autograph a broken driveshaft from the Petty Enterprises’ No. 43 car driven by John Andretti. It had already been signed by Petty’s father, Richard.

“I’ve got his daddy’s autograph on it and now I’ve got his,” Cory Holden said as he balanced the nearly 4-foot long item.

Kyle Petty, who has left Winston Cup for the rest of the season to drive his son’s Busch Series car, said he wouldn’t take advantage of an off-week in the Busch schedule to visit New Hampshire, where the Winston Cup cars will compete in the Dura Lube 300 on Sunday.

“I’ll go back to New Hampshire next year. When we go back and run our schedule, then I’ll go back next year. There was just no need to go back this year,” he said. “Personally, I didn’t want to go back, but even at that, since I’m not running a Winston Cup car and I’m not doing any of that, there’s really no need to go back.”

Petty said that the support he has received from fans has helped he and his family deal with Adam’s death.

“The fans have been great. It’s hard to describe the fans. To this day, it’s been four months, and we still get letters and cards from all over the United States … It’s pretty phenomenal how they’ve helped out,” Petty said. “After maybe the first couple of weeks it was tough, then it got to where you look forward to going to the mailbox every day.”

Kyle took over in his son’s Busch car and will keep the No. 45 when he returns to Winston Cup full-time next season, as well as in Cup races at Martinsville and Homestead this fall. He will also return to driving a Dodge next season, the brand his father drove to many of his 200 career victories.

Petty, who will run in the Winston Cup races this fall to prepare the No. 45 crew for next season’s transition from the Busch Series, has run some preliminary tests in the new Dodge Intrepid at Kentucky. He said he likes what he’s seen so far, although there is still a long way to go before racing in the Daytona 500 in February 2001.

“We’re really excited about it. It’s something brand new. There’s a lot of anticipation. We feel like the car is going to be a great car,” he said. “At the same time, everything’s brand new so we realize there’s going to be some hiccups too, that you’re going to run through some rough spots.”