A Perfect Partnership

With his personality, Kyle Petty could provide much-needed pizzazz to NASCAR’s charitable fund-raising efforts- By Kay Bell

Thank goodness for some semblance of sanity in NASCAR. After a long, insecure winter, the Petty name remains alive as part of the merger between Gillett Evernham Motorsports and Petty Enterprises. I wish the new Richard Petty Motorsports, or RPM, all the best.

King Richard, of course, remains front and center in the new organization, which is actually controlled by the Gillett folks, and will continue meeting with sponsors and making public appearances (He’s also released an audio scrapbook you can read about on p. 46). But one key member of the Petty family is not part of the rebranding. Richard’s son, Kyle, was left out in the cold with no official role, either as a driver or off the track, in the new company.

If you ever had any doubt NASCAR has moved far beyond tradition and loyalty to become a ruthless, competitive business, the birth of RPM surely ended your naivete.

I can’t blame King Richard for doing whatever it takes to be a winner again. The Petty operation of the last 20 years never came close to reaching the standards set when Richard was behind the wheel. But when one window net closes, another opens up. If you ask me, the timing of this extreme makeover is perfect for Kyle. He might not go down in history as a championship-caliber driver, but he’s a world champion when it comes to his philanthropic spirit.

So right here and now, I’m calling NASCAR out: If you don’t hire Kyle Petty as your Goodwill Ambassador, you’re missing an opportunity big as the Talladega infield crowd.

Petty, who hadn’t driven a full schedule in either of the past two seasons, retains his spot as an analyst on the handful of TNT broadcasts each summer and also appears regularly on the Speed Channel. But what he really does is relentlessly raise money for his Victory Junction Gang Camp. Ask NASCAR fans about Kyle Petty, and most can tell you two things: He started the Victory Junction Gang Camp for sick children, and he stages his annual cross-country motorcycle ride to raise money for it. Now, ask any NASCAR fan about NASCAR’s charitable arm, the NASCAR Foundation, and they’ll tell you

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