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Apr 25, 2014 - 06:40 PM
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Richard Petty Returns To Race Track After Mourning Wife Lynda's Death
Posted by: ASkyler on Apr 25, 2014 - 06:36 PM
Feature Articles
Richard Petty Returns To Race Track After Mourning Wife Lynda's Death

By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

RICHMOND, Va.—Those who associate "The Return of the King" only with J.R.R. Tolkien’s "Lord of the Rings" trilogy simply don’t grasp the importance of NASCAR’s "King" to the sport he helped to elevate to national prominence.

Richard Petty returned to the race track Friday at Richmond International Raceway after a prolonged absence following the Mar. 25 death of Lynda Petty, his wife of 55 years.

"I just felt like I need to have a little time on our own, so I’ve been gone for two or three weeks," Petty said Friday at RIR during the unveiling of a special Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals paint scheme on Marcos Ambrose’s No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford.

"But I’m back in the saddle again now. I’m just learning to live all over again."


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At this point, Petty expects a full schedule to be therapeutic.

"The busier they keep me, the better off I’ll be," he said. "I’m surviving. It’s going to be different, I guess. After 55 years, I have to start all over again. I was fortunate that all the kids came home for Easter. We had all the kids and grandkids home, and that really made things work good."


If Marcos Ambrose wins Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond, his primary sponsor, Stanley Tools, will donate $1 million to the Children’s Miracle Network through the Ace Hardware Foundation.

A second-place finish is worth $500,000 to the charity, and a third-place result will generate a $250,000 contribution. No matter where Ambrose finishes, however, the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals will benefit from a $100,000 pledge from Stanley and the Ace Hardware Foundation.

If you think Ambrose doesn’t have a chance to pull off the win in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series short-track race, think again. With fifth-place finishes at Bristol and Martinsville this season, the road course ace has scored more championship points at tracks shorter than a mile (79) than any other driver in the series this year.

But that, says Ambrose, doesn’t guarantee success at Richmond.

"This track races differently, because (at .75 miles) it has an aerodynamic effect to it," he said. "We’re hoping our short-track program will cross over to here, but we know it will be slightly different, with the configuration of the track.

"We have a lot of reasons to win this weekend. We have (team owner) Richard Petty back, and it’s great to have him back at the track. We have a chance to win a million bucks for the sick kids at the Children’s Hospitals, and we have a chance to make the Chase and a chance to win my first oval race. I guess it’s all stacked up to be a lot of reasons to win, and we know it."

Ambrose has two career Sprint Cup victories, both at the Watkins Glen International road course.


Six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson has three career victories at Richmond International Raceway, but his recent results at the .75-mile short track have been less than scintillating.

"We suck here," said Johnson, who hasn’t won at RIR since the fall race of 2008 and has but one top-five finish since then. "We’re terrible, and hopefully we’re a lot better this weekend."

Johnson was at a loss to explain his recent struggles at Richmond, but he has a theory.

"They used to put a sealer down here, and I think a lot of our success came when they put the sealer down," he explained. "You could move around the race track to find some grip and really get your right sides (tires) on the edge to get more grip and speed out of the race car.

"They don’t have sealer down, so I can’t count on that this weekend. But I love watching races here, and for the races that I have been competitive in and had a chance to race in the top five, I love it. I think it’s a fantastic race track, it puts on a great show, it’s great for the fans, and in my heart I think we need more short tracks on the schedule.

"I just need to get this one figured out."

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