Petty: 'Learn to Live all Over Again'

Richard Petty

“I needed to sort of have a little time on our own. Get back in the saddle again. Learn to live all over again.’’ (Photo: Getty Images)

RICHMOND, Va. - The smile shines, but the voice betrays Richard Petty’s emotions when he talks about his wife Lynda, who passed away last month.

Petty and Lynda were married 55 years, and Petty says he’s “going to have to start all over again’’ without her.

Friday marked Petty’s first time at a racetrack since his wife’s death. He had missed races at Martinsville, Texas and Darlington. He said he’d never before missed three NASCAR races in a row.

“I needed to sort of have a little time on our own,’’ Petty said of his absence. “Get back in the saddle again. Learn to live all over again.’’

Petty admits he’s “still surviving. It’s going to be a little different.’’

He and Lynda began dating when she was in high school. They eloped in 1959. Through four children, they often were at the track together while other drivers didn’t bring their families.

Even at home, there was much going on.

“She never met a stranger,’’ Petty said of Lynda. “Every once in a while I would come into the house and see people I didn’t even know. She’d invite them in the house. Again, it’s just going to be different.’’

He flashed that brilliant Petty smile but his words were stilted and his voice quivered slightly as he talked his wife.

He admits it would be good to be back at the track to help ease his mind over what he’s lost.

“The busier they keep me, the better off I will be,’’ he said.

He has been busy this week. He was in Georgia on Monday, Tennessee on Tuesday and Wyoming on Wednesday before arriving in Richmond on Thursday.

Petty spoke Friday morning at the unveiling of Marcos Ambrose’s car. Stanley made a $100,000 donation to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and will donate up to $1 million if Ambrose wins Saturday night’s race.

The charity event made an impact with Petty.

“I think it kind of pacifies myself from the standpoint that we have troubles but a lot of other people have a lot of other trouble,’’ he said. “Like with Victory Junction Gang camp and other stuff that we do, we were so fortunate. I had four kids and 12 grandkids and every one of them was perfectly healthy. And you look at all the people that are not that way. From that standpoint you just want to give back.”

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