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 Tuesday, May 16
One ride Petty never got to take
 
By Phil Furr
Special to ESPN.com

 Tim Fedewa should have been doing the Simpson Samba on the roof of his car at New Hampshire.

Kyle Petty
Kyle Petty and his family attend Monday's funeral service.
If anyone ever had a reason to do a dance, it was Fedewa -- a driver who has spent the last year and a half searching for the willpower to keep going in the face of one bad break after another.

Fedewa won the Busch Series 200 in Loudon, N.H., last Saturday. He could have danced if the cause for celebration had not been a fleeting break in a weekend of incessant sadness.

There were 44 reasons to be jubilant, and reason No. 45 not to.

When the time came for Fedewa to wave to the crowd and accept the accolades, there was an angel sitting on top of his No. 36 Chevrolet -- an angel who had just taken his place alongside the other racers past for a backward Victory Lap around New Hampshire International Speedway.

"I rode on the Kyle Petty Charity Ride the last couple of years with Adam, and really got to know him pretty well and got to be a part of his contagious smile and laugh," Fedewa said. "Every time I think of this weekend, I'll definitely think of that."

Instead of Fedewa frolicking around in self-admiration, he slowed his Chevrolet, wheeled around on the frontstretch and reached out to offer Adam Petty the first ride of what will be a long memorial.

Without a doubt, Adam smiled all the way around the one-mile oval. Adam Petty always smiled.

He will be remembered for his grin, his openness, and his ability to attract people and make them his friend. Just like Fedewa said: "Adam wasn't my best friend, but he made me feel like I was."

Adam Petty made people feel good.

  Adam wasn't my best friend, but he made me feel like I was.  ”
—  Tim Fedewa
There's no way to know when tragedy will deal stock car racing a bad hand. The speed, the mechanics, and the physics all come together to make these men and their machines fly around to the entertainment of thousands. When one of the three is not in tune, disaster is waiting to fill the void.

Often it comes without warning. Adam Petty wasn't a victim of the most horrific crash, he was the victim of racing circumstance.

"Adam was about as fine a young man as I've ever met -- a good Christian," said Fedewa, who knows all too well what it's like to want to be like dad.

Fedewa is a second-generation racer.

"I know (Adam's) in heaven, and he's happy. I know his family has strong faith, and we're just praying with them now. This is probably the saddest day in NASCAR I can remember."

Here's the saddest fact. Petty never got to take his own Victory Lap in the NASCAR circuit that his family helped to shape.

The "Petty" sirname has been engraved on 262 Winston Cup trophies. Lee won 54, Kyle won eight, and Richard, "The King", won an untouchable record 200. Adam would have been next. For the small town of Level Cross, N.C. -- blessed in its own way to be the home of a racing dynasty -- Adam was their next hero.

Fans will gather by the thousands this week at Lowe's Motor Speedway to watch stock car racing. The show will go on. Adam Petty would have attempted his second Winston Cup race in Charlotte. In this state -- the one that claims the Pettys for its own -- the fans would have been on hand, cheering for a Petty.

Any Petty.

Now, each time the winner donuts at the start-finish line and heads the other way, images of Adam Petty and unfulfilled dreams will be along for the ride. Kyle's son, Richard's grandson, and Lee's great-grandson never had a chance.

Adam Petty was 19.

Phil Furr, a freelance writer based in Charlotte, N.C., writes a weekly auto-racing column for ESPN.com.
 


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