Sixteen years ago today, NASCAR lost a bright and shining star. Adam Petty was nineteen years old, poised to move to stock car racing’s highest devision before he was old enough to buy a beer — not that his family condoned such things. He died on the cusp of what would have been a legendary career, NASCAR’s first and only fourth-generation driver. A nice guy, he didn’t throw tantrums when things didn’t go his way and in his short career, he showed the kind of on-track potential that reminded many fans of his grandfather Richard. Would he have broken records like his grandfather? We’ll never know. What we do know is Adam Petty had gentle spirit and an infectious laugh and a kindness about him that’s sorely lacking in the sport today. Even without the trophies, he conducted himself as a true champion should.
After the crash that claimed Petty’s life, NASCAR gave his car a once over and declared that all the safety systems worked just as they were supposed to — nothing to see, move along. Nine months and three more fatalities later, NASCAR finally deiced to take driver safety seriously.
R.I.P. driver #45. You’ve been missed this past decade and a half.
Also published on Medium.