| ||Associated Press|
LEVEL CROSS, N.C. -- North Carolina and American flags flew at half staff Friday as racing fans and residents in the hometown of NASCAR's first family grieved over the death of fourth-generation driver Adam Petty.
Petty, 19, died after a midday crash during practice at New Hampshire International Speedway for Saturday's Busch 200. His car appeared to brush the wall in Turn 3, spin out, and then crash into the wall.
"My heart just sank," said David Eastlake, 30, of Richmond, Va., the last visitor to the Petty Museum before it closed at 5 p.m. Friday. "It sank even more than when Lee died. ... He was at the age when you knew what could happen.
"But for Adam, my God, 19 years old. He wasn't on the earth long enough to know what racing is except through his father and grandfather."
His death came just one month after Lee Petty, Adam's great-grandfather, died at the age of 86. Adam's father is racer Kyle Petty, and his grandfather is NASCAR icon Richard Petty.
Asked what he liked about Adam Petty, Eastlake said: "Just his
talent. He had the gung-ho to go."
Kyle Petty was out of the country on a personal trip, according
to a statement from Petty Enterprises, the family's business. The
family was gathering in a private place, the statement said, and
funeral arrangements were incomplete Friday.
The Petty Museum received a steady stream of calls from fans
around the country.
"He was just a fine young man, so polite," said a teary-eyed
Bonnie Davis, a museum employee. "It's real hard. I knew him
growing up. ... Time cuts so short, you just never know."
Adam Petty's death at a young age touched many people, even race
car drivers who know the risks of their sport.
"To have someone so young and with such a bright future ahead
of him die like this is a hard thing to swallow," said driver
Benson said he got into racing because his father was a driver.
"It's hard to explain why we love racing and on days like this
it is even harder."
Busch driver Steve Park, who qualified 21st Friday for
Saturday's race, said he and Adam were joking around Friday
morning, "and then to have this happen is unreal. ... I'm numb."
H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, president of Lowe's Motor Speedway in
Concord, N.C., said there was no doubt Adam Petty had inherited the
family's racing gene.
"He was a very talented driver and a real gentleman on and off
the track." Wheeler said in a release.
And Eddie Gossage, general manager of Texas Motor Speedway, said
Adam Petty and his son went to camp together.
"I'm glad my last memory of Adam was only a week ago, laughing
and cutting up as we took part in the annual Kyle Petty Charity
Motorcycle Ride Across America," Gossage said.
Remembering Adam Petty.
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