June 15, 2008
By Kim Roberson
Happy Father’s Day!
I am hoping everyone has already either given their dad a hug, or given him a call to get his day started right.
An interesting discussion was had this week pertaining to one father and son…and family…in NASCAR this week.
There has been a lot of discussion of the future of Petty Enterprises with the merger with Boston Ventures this week about the future of one of NASCAR’s great racing families. With Kyle Petty in the booth for TNT for six weeks, the 45 car is being driven by Terry Labonte and Chad McCumbee, and some folks are taking the time to ask why Kyle is still driving when he could so obviously focus on broadcasting, or more so, on the Victory Junction Gang Camp. It never really dawned on me why Kyle continued to get behind the wheel of the 45 car, until Dave Moody explained it succinctly during his “Sirius Speedway” show on Thursday.
Put simply, Kyle continues to drive because his son can’t.
The 45 car was destined to be Adam Petty’s car. His great-grandfather had driven the 42 car, his grandfather the 43, and his father the 44. The 45 was going to be Adam’s car for a promised long and successful career.
But Adam only drove the 45 car for one full season in the then -- Busch Series, and had raced one Cup Series race when that future came to a sudden end in New Hampshire just over eight years ago. Kyle, who had been looking forward to spending a few seasons racing against his son before retiring, was not left to carry the Petty racing legacy forward alone. There is no other Petty to race for Petty Enterprises. Younger brother Austin and sister Montgomery Lee aren’t racers. For now, there isn’t a next generation to pass the family line down to.
So Kyle drives on in his son’s car, the last Petty for at least a generation to drive for Petty Enterprises. He gets in week after week to honor both his father and his son, carrying the torch for the company his grandfather founded, and taking the seat his son never really had a chance to enjoy.
Eventually, there won’t be a Petty driving for Petty Enterprises. Once Kyle retires, who knows how long it will be, if ever, when a Petty will return to sit behind the wheel of a race car. Sure, Petty Enterprises will go on so long as there is a Petty alive to provide the support needed to carry it on.
Kyle might not be setting the world on fire, and he might not be the best driver that Petty Enterprises has. But he is a Petty, and he is filling the role meant for a Petty...even if he is not the Petty it was meant for. What started as a company begun by a father and passed to a son, who then passed it on to his son, who then hoped to pass it on to his son…has reached the end of the line…at least temporarily. And When Kyle gets out of the car for the last time; it will be the end of not just an era, but of generation’s worth of memories.
Today, when you see Kyle in the booth, and you see the 45 car on the track…and maybe when you wonder why Kyle doesn’t just stay in the booth where he works so well and allow someone else to take the wheel of the 45 full-time, take a moment to think of the tribute Kyle pays to not only his father, but his son, by staying in that car.
R.I.P. Tim Russert
Finally, on this weekend when we celebrate our fathers, I want to take a moment out to remember a man who wasn’t connected to NASCAR, but is the author of one of the best books about fathers that I have ever read -- and he was as much a Sunday staple to me as NASCAR is.
Tim Russert of NBC’s Meet the Press died suddenly here in Washington on Friday afternoon.
Tim had strong ties to the sports world; however they were primarily to baseball and his beloved Buffalo Bills football team, and not to the sport we enjoy most weekends.
On Sundays, I would tune in and watch Meet the Press, even though I am really not much into politics, because he was able to talk both sides of the table, and make me interested in what he was talking about. Besides politics and his baseball and the Bills, the most important things in his life were his family, especially his father, Big Russ, and his son, Luke.
His first book, “Big Russ & Me” was a New York Times best seller in 2004, but his second book, “Wisdom of our Fathers”, is the one that touched me the most. Thousands of children of all ages and backgrounds wrote him letters about their fathers, and I spent a weekend two years ago reading the book, and grabbing Kleenex as the words he wrote touched me.
The stories of fathers and sons and daughters and the love and bond they shared made me pick up the phone and call my own father. On Friday, the first thing I did when I got home was to find the book and pull it out to read it again.
When I look back on my memories of Tim Russert, what I remember won’t be the two very pleasant encounters I had with him on the US Airways shuttle from New York to DC a few years ago; it won’t be his illustrious white board on the night of the 2000 presidential election, where “Florida, Florida, Florida” was the focus, or his weekly debates Sunday mornings, or even his love of the Bills.
Early on in the book, he wrote these prophetic words: “When my life is over, I know that the most important thing I’ll be judged on is what kind of father I was.”
It seems almost unfair that it was on this weekend, Father's Day, that Tim was taken from his family.
This Father's Day, I hope all dads, young and old, read Tim’s words and strive to achieve them. And if you haven’t read “Wisdom of our Fathers”, find a copy and read it. And then call your dad and tell him you love him.
The thoughts and ideas expressed by this writer or any other writer on Insider Racing News, are not necessarily the views of the staff and/or management of IRN.