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SI Flashback: A bittersweet debut

Fourth-generation Petty joins Winston Cup circuit

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Click here for a larger image Adam Petty made his Winston Cup debut three days before great-grandfather Lee Petty died. George Tiedemann  

By Mark Bechtel

Issue date: April 10, 2000

Sports Illustrated Flashback

There are bad omens, and then there's the litany of maladies Adam Petty endured in the first two days of preparation for his Winston Cup debut, at Texas Motor Speedway. At the start of the week he missed his flight to Dallas; when he finally arrived his luggage was nowhere to be found, nor was the Cadillac that was supposed to meet him. (A cab to the hotel and a 4:30 a.m. luggage delivery by the airline remedied those difficulties.) "I was, like, Could this week get any worse?" he says.

He got his answer the next day when he and his father, Kyle, appeared for an autograph session at a Sprint PCS store near Fort Worth and had to hunker down in the back room when a pair of tornadoes blew through the area, killing four people and doing $450 million in damage. Understandably, the early-week events had Petty questioning his luck for the weekend. "I was hoping to come down here and run good," he says. "By then I was hoping just to qualify."

On Friday he got his wish, qualifying 33rd in the 43-car field. This time Kyle wasn't so lucky: He ran the 44th fastest lap. That meant when Adam became the first fourth-generation driver in NASCAR history, his dad -- and best friend -- wasn't on the track with him. "I'm sad for him. It really upsets me," said Adam on race morning, sounding more like a parent than the 19-year-old that he is. "I hope he doesn't get down on himself."

Analysis & Stories
SI's Mark Bechtel:
Petty had great potential's Donovan: Hitting too close to home's Smithson:
Lost Generation 
Local Look:
He's only 19, remember  
SI Flashbacks
A Bittersweet Debut 
Championship Bloodline 
Reactions: Goodbye, Adam 
10 Questions: From 2/15/00 
Map: New Hampshire International Speedway 
Multimedia Memories: Remembering Adam Petty 

But the bad luck continued on Sunday, after Kyle had picked up a ride in midrace when Elliot Sadler bruised his shoulder in a wreck. As Kyle was changing into his racing gear, the engine in Adam's car blew, and the two just missed racing together.

When Adam, who finished 39th, returned home to Trinity, N.C., on Monday, he moved into his own 2,200-square-foot, three-bedroom house. "It's just far enough from my parents so they can't see when the lights are on," he says. So maybe, in the end, there was a silver lining: Adam is no longer the only Winston Cup driver to live with his parents and share a bedroom with his brother.

Issue date: April 10, 2000

Related information
Adam Petty dies in crash at NIHS
SI Flashback: Championship bloodline
Kyle and son Adam talk about the lofty expectations facing Adam in his NASCAR debut.
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