Binascar Notes:/B/I Petty Looking Forward To 63

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- It has been a year of change and loss for Richard Petty.

Back at one of the tracks that made him famous, The King blew out the candles on his birthday cake, scooped a finger full of frosting and started looking forward to his 63rd year.

Petty, who has the most wins (200) in NASCAR history, celebrates his birthday Sunday. He made his traditional trip to Daytona to watch the Pepsi 400, meet with old friends and get a taste of how many others he has touched over the years.

His new main sponsor, Cheerios, presented him with a giant birthday card that held at least 1,000 signatures. Fans clamored to sign it outside of the museum next to the track. It took about 15 minutes to fill the card.

"I've never been this old, so I don't know how you're supposed to be," he said Saturday. "I don't do things any differently than I did five years ago, 10 years ago, 15 years ago."

But life has changed, especially over the past few months.

In April, his father passed away. Lee Petty was among the original trailblazers in the world of stock-car racing that is so popular today. In May, grandson Adam was killed during an accident at practice for a Busch Series race in New Hampshire.

"I sort of go with the flow," Petty said in a recent interview. "It's tough losing anybody in your family. I just lost my father. We were still dealing with that with my mother, and then this other happens. After you get to be 62 years old, you sort of go with the flow, and that's what we've been doing."

Changes have occurred on the business side for Petty, too.

Beginning this week, the STP logo that has been connected with the Petty tradition for 29 years won't be the primary sign on the car he owns. Petty's car had a Cheerios logo with a blue-and-yellow paint scheme instead of the traditional blue-and-red.

That was on his mind as he blew out the candles and got ready to watch the John Andretti take the wheel of the car he owns.

"It will be odd to get on top of the truck and not look for the red-and-blue car," Petty said. "I hope I can get used to the yellow. I hope everyone else gets used to seeing yellow up front."

New Bridge: With his big brother, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, serving as grand marshal and stumping for presidential votes, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced the state would put up money for a pedestrian walkway at Daytona International Speedway.

The $2 million grant will go to build an overpass over the bustling International Speedway Drive in front of the track, a congested eight-lane thoroughfare that clogs to a standstill in the hours before and after races. There are satellite parking areas and hotels on the other side of the road from the track.

The announcement Friday raised caution flags for Democrats, who complained that the Republican governor was rewarding Daytona for the national publicity for his presidential candidate brother at the race.

The Florida governor vetoed money in the state budget for the same project last year.

The walkway will be the first of its kind at Daytona. Several NASCAR tracks, including Lowe's Motor Speedway in North Carolina, have had the walkways for years. One of the walkways at Lowe's collapsed in May, injuring 107 people.

France Update: NASCAR president Bill France continues to recover from cancer treatments.

"He's had a lot of examinations recently and all the results have come back pretty good," NASCAR vice president Mike Helton told The News-Journal of Daytona. "His treatments have continued as a preventive measure. But as you know, chemotherapy and radiation do take their toll."

France, 67, was diagnosed with cancer last winter. He would not reveal what kind of cancer it was.

In February of 1999, NASCAR gave Helton a more active role in the day-to-day operations, allowing France to lighten his workload. But France still has an active presence.

"He was in the office on Monday," Helton said. "I had a couple of meetings with him. And I've talked to him on the phone twice today. Believe me, he knows what's going on out here."

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2000, Pepsi 400

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