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Adam Petty dies following crash at NHIS
By Dave Rodman
LOUDON, N.H. (May 12, 2000)

Adam Petty, 19, was involved in a single-car accident during a NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division practice session Friday afternoon at about 12:45 p.m. at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon.

Following the incident, Petty was immediately transported by ambulance to Concord Hospital where he passed away from head trauma suffered in the accident, according to an announcement made at 3:50 p.m. ET by Concord Hospital Director of Public Affairs M. Eileen Male.

Petty is the son of NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver and car owner Kyle Petty and grandson of seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Richard Petty.

"It is difficult to express our sadness over the passing of Adam Petty," NASCAR President Bill France said. "On behalf of the entire NASCAR family, we extend our hearts and prayers to his parents Kyle and Pattie, his grandparents Richard and Lynda and the entire Petty family.

"The Pettys are an integral part of the sport of NASCAR racing. The entire NASCAR community will miss Adam Petty."

"It's unreal, isn't it?" said series point leader Jeff Green, whose moist eyes displayed the mood in a garage filled with quiet grief and disbelief. Green said he was in the garage area when the accident occurred in Turn 3 of the 1.058-mile oval.

"I seen the marks," Green said of his qualifying run, which took place some 45 minutes after the accident. "It looks like the throttle hung, to me."

Fellow championship contender Todd Bodine confirmed that speculation. Bodine said he wasn't near the accident when it occurred, but had spoken with his Cicci-Welliver Racing teammate, Tim Fedewa, who was.

"Timmy was right behind him," Bodine said. "He said it looked like the throttle hung wide open -- who knows why?"

Fedewa ironically won the Bud Pole for Saturday's Busch 200, the 12th race in the 32-event series.

"If that really matters," Fedewa said in the post-qualifying news conference, struggling to contain his emotions. "Right now my thoughts and prayers are with the Petty family. This is probably the saddest day in NASCAR I can remember.

"I don't really think any of this stuff even matters. Adam was about as fine a young man as I've ever met -- a good Christian. I know he's in heaven and he's happy.

"I know his family has strong faith and we're just praying with them now."

The right side of the No. 45 Sprint Chevrolet impacted the outside wall with about 15 minutes remaining in the one-hour afternoon practice session preceding Bud Pole Qualifying for Saturday's event.

Petty's car rode the concrete wall in Turns 3 and 4 of the flat speedway for about 200 yards before coming to a halt against the wall. A fire briefly broke out but was quickly extinguished by speedway personnel.

The fatality was the first for a stock car driver in the track's 10-year history in its current configuration. The former Bryar Motorsports Park was purchased and rebuilt by owner Bob Bahre in the late 1980s.

His parents, Kyle and Pattie; a brother Austin and sister Montgomery Lee; his grandparents Richard and Lynda; great grandmother Elizabeth and a variety of other relatives survive Adam Petty.

The team withdrew its entry from the event.

The latest family tragedy comes barely one month after Petty made his NASCAR Winston Cup Series debut in the DIRECTV 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Three days later, the family patriarch, Lee, passed away in a hospital in Greensboro, N.C., at age 86.

The elder Petty, Adam's great-grandfather, was the founder of Petty Enterprises, the winningest organization in American motorsports, and a 10-time national champion of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.

Petty Enterprises has won 271 races, including 198 by Richard. Richard's son, Kyle, is an eight-time winner on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.

Petty, who was competing in his first full NASCAR Busch Series season, was 20th last year in the points race and third in the rookie of the year standings, finishing a career-best fourth in Fontana, Calif., in May.

Adam Petty made history in 1998 by competing in his first American Speed Association race, becoming the first fourth-generation athlete in all of professional sports.

Petty recently signed a new three-year sponsorship agreement with Sprint, and he planned to move to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series on a full-time basis in 2001.