By Team Ford Racing Correspondent
It’s an odd sight -- Richard Petty on three wheels.
The King joined the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America Monday night, officially sanctioning the 20th annual event as a regal undertaking. He left Midland, Texas Tuesday morning, spinning a three-wheel bike along with 200 other riders on the way to Austin.
Petty arrived in Midland Monday night andTuesday morning before the ride participants departed for the day’s 344-mile journey, he was busy being Richard Petty -- signing autographs in front of the Ride hotel.
They stopped counting the number of autographs Petty has signed when he crossed a million. If you don’t have one, you might be in the minority.
As an ambassador for stock car racing, Petty is likely to never be topped. He is, after all, the King.
“It’s just been part of my life,” he said. “It’s a deal when I started getting a little recognition, and then it got to be bigger. It’s just part of me. It’s part of what I do. It’s what it takes to make a day for Richard Petty.
“I guess I’ve just cornered the market on autographs.”
The Kyle Petty Ride started 20 years ago as a way to raise money for children’s hospitals. After the death of Kyle’s son (and Richard’s grandson), Adam, in a crash at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2000, the Pettys decided to build Victory Junction Gang Camp, a North Carolina summer camp for chronically ill children. The ride now raises funds to support the camp.
Although not an avid motorcyclist, Richard has participated in at least parts of the ride in most years.
“Some things like this start off big and kind of level off and maybe go away,” he said, “but this is still a pretty enthusiastic deal. It’s pretty established, and a lot of people have a lot of fun with it.”
The ride began Saturday in Carlsbad, Calif. and is scheduled to end this Saturday in Daytona Beach, Fla. It’s the first time the ride has literally gone from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic.
Petty also is keeping one eye on the progress of his Ford Racing Sprint Cup team, which has made some big strides this year.
“We’re better but not there,” he said. “We sit down and look at it and talk about it. I don’t think it’s any one thing. I think it’s a combination where all of us need to step up. The drivers need to step up, the crew chiefs need to step up, the cars need to be stepped up.
“It would take only a little from everybody. If that was all done, it would be a big change overall. If it was one thing, it would be easy to fix. It’s going to take everybody to chip in just a little bit.”