Kyle Petty is an American former racing driver who recorded 829 starts in the NASCAR premier series between 1979 and 2008, scoring eight wins. Kyle was the third-generation stock car racer in Petty family after his grandfather Lee Petty and father Richard Petty. Both of them were multiple champions. Kyle's son Adam was also a stock car driver but unfortunately he was killed in an accident in May 2000, at the age of 19.
In 1995, Kyle Petty was the founder of the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America, an annual motorcycle ride that travels across the country to raise awareness of and funds for Victory Junction Gang Camp and other charities supporting terminally ill children. Since 2006, Kyle Petty is working as a TV analyst for the NASCAR races.
Ten NASCAR titles in one family
Kyle Petty was born on June 2, 1960, in Randleman, Noth Carolina. As a grandson of a three-time NASCAR Grand National champion Lee Petty and a seven-time Grand National/Winston Cup champion Richard Petty, there was no another option for Kyle except to become a race car driver.
Richard Petty reached his first title four years after Kyle was born and then he won five more titles by 1975. So, Kyle was watching how his father is becoming the greatest NASCAR legend of all time and he decided to start racing as soon as possible.
Kyle debuted in NASCAR Winston Cup at the age 19
Kyle Petty debuted in the stock car racing at the age of 18. A year later, in 1979, he debuted in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.That year his father Richard took his seventh title in the famous #43 STP-sponsored car. Kyle was participating in five races with #42 STP-sponsored car for his family's team, debuting in August at Talladega 500 and finishing ninth.
In 1980, Kyle made a total of fifteen starts in the #42 car and then entered his first full season in 1981. He recorded ten Top 10 finishes, ending the season 12th in the points. In 1982, Kyle continued to drive #42 Pontiac but he also spent some time in the #1 car of Ellington Racing.
For the 1983 season, Kyle's sponsor was 7-Eleven and he switched his number to #7. He had only two Top 10 finishes. Next year, he collected six Top 10 results, including the fifth place at North Wilkesboro Speedway.
Switch to Wood Brothers Racing in 1985 and maiden win in 1986
After six years with a family team Petty Enterprises, Kyle took his number and sponsorship to Wood Brothers Racing in 1985. He improved his score to seven Top 5 finishes in the first year with Wood Brothers and then he finally scored his first victory in 1986. It was in February at Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway. He won the Miller High Life 400 ahead of Joe Ruttman and Dale Earnhardt. At the end of the season, Kyle was 10th in the points.
In February 1986, Kyle participated at Daytona 24h for the first time. Together with Bill Elliott, Ricky Rudd and Ken Schrader, he was driving the #50 Ford Mustang for Folgers/Motorcraft. They didn't finish because of an accident.
Victory at 1987 Coca-Cola 600
For 1987 NASCAR Winston Cup season Citgo became his new sponsor and Kyle switched to #21 car. In May, at Charlotte Speedway, he won the Coca-Cola 600. With five more Top 5 finishes, he was 7th in the final classification, which was his best result in that period. He spent one more season with Wood Brothers Racing, scoring no wins in 1988.
After he was released from the WBR team, Kyle signed for a part-time schedule with new SABCO Racing team, to drive the #42 Pontiac.
Signing for SABCO Racing in 1989
In 1989, he was working part-time for the new SABCO Racing team. In the beginning of the season, he didn't have a sponsor but later he picked up sponsorship from Peak Antifreeze and it became his sponsor for the full season in 1990. He won the third race of the season, the GM Goodwrench 500 at North Carolina Speedway.
A year later, he repeated a victory at North Carolina in the Mello Yello-sponsored #42 Pontiac. He crashed out in the spring race at Talladega, suffering a broken leg, so he was forced to miss eleven races.
1992 - best season in a career
And then the season of 1992 came, his best season in a career, as he scored two wins and finished fifth in the points. He was the winner at Watkins Glen and North Carolina Motor Speedway.
He was one of the championship contenders with Bill Elliott and Alan Kulwicki, but misfortune in the last two races cost him lots of points. It was the last season for his father Richard, who retired from racing at the end of 1992.
Kyle scored his last NASCAR victory at Dover
In 1993, Kyle Petty repeated a fifth-place finish at the end of the season, scoring one victory and fifteen Top 10 finishes. He was the winner at Pocono Raceway. 1994 was the year to forget and then he picked up his last victory in 1995, driving the Coors Light-sponsored #42 Pontiac.
He won the Miller Genuine Draft 500 at Dover International Speedway. Despite that win, he was far from the top in the final classification. He finished 30th in the points.
Two seasons with his own team
The season of 1996 was Kyle's last with Team SABC. For the 1997 season, he formed his own team PE2 Motorsports. The team was running the #44 Hot Wheels Pontiac Grand Prix for Kyle. He scored two good results at Dover, finishing 5th in the spring race and 3rd in the fall race. The results in 1988 were bad, so Kyle returned to Petty Enterprises for 1999, continuing to drive #44 car.
At the same time, he became Petty Enterprises' new CEO. He was also commentating NASCAR races for ESPN. At the race tracks, his best result was the seventh place in five races, including Daytona 500. It was his second-best result at Daytona 500 after he finished sixth in 1992.
Kyle's son Adam lost his life in a practice crash
On May 12, 2000, a tragedy struck the family and NASCAR community when Kyle's son Adam died in a crash during the practice for the Busch Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Kyle missed the next two races and returned to drive the #44 for the rest of the summer. Then he moved to the Busch Series full-time to finish out the season in Adam's #45 Chevrolet.
In February 2001, before starting the NASCAR season, Kyle returned to Daytona 24 hours. He joined Orbit team to drive #43 Porsche 996 GT3-RS, sharing the car with four drivers and finishing 7th overall and 4th in GT class. Later in the season, he participated in one more race with Orbit's Porsche. He won the race at Watkins Glen, together with John Andretti.
Eight seasons with #45 Dodge
For the 2001 Winston Cup season, Kyle Petty switched to the #45 Dodge. He failed to qualify for twelve races and the 16th place was his best result. It was the worst season in his career.
In February 2002, he participated at Daytona 24h with Orbit's Porsche again, reaching the 15th place overall. Kyle spent seven more seasons in the #45 Dodge, collecting only six Top 10 results between 2002 and 2008. In that period, he had only one Top 5 finish and was 3rd in the 2007 Coca Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
During the season, Kyle took several races off to work as a color commentator for TNT's Nextel Cup coverage, replacing Benny Parsons who died from cancer. Early in the 2008 season, Petty Enterprises was purchased by Boston Ventures, causing Petty to step aside as the team's CEO.
Focusing on TV career
When the #45 car fell out of the top-35 in owner's points, he took a break from racing and focused on his TV duties. He returned to the cockpit of #45 Dodge few more times, participating for the last time in the NASCAR race on November 9, 2008, at Phoenix International Raceway.
His very last race in a career was Daytona 24h in January 2009, with Orbit Racing's Riley-BMW prototype. After retiring from racing, he continued to work for several TV stations, mostly for NBCSN.
More than $17.5 million raised for charities
His project 'Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America', which he started in 1995, remained his main occupation, with Victory Junction Gang Camp as a primary beneficiary.
The camp was founded in 2004 by Kyle and his wife Pattie, in honor of their son Adam. The camp allows children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses to experience memorable, fun, empowering, physically safe and medically sound activities. Since its inception, the Ride has raised more than $17.5 million for Victory Junction and other charities.