‘A Taste of History: Auto Racing in Northeast Georgia’
When: 7 p.m. Aug. 30
Where: First Baptist Church fellowship hall, 751 Green St. NW, Gainesville
The King is coming to Gainesville.
Seven-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Richard Petty, one of the drivers known for revolutionizing American stock car racing, will visit the city at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30, for “A Taste of History: Auto Racing in Northeast Georgia.”
The event will honor racing history in North Georgia at First Baptist Church’s banquet hall on Green Street with noted author and Gainesville native Ronda Rich serving as the master of ceremonies.
Tickets are $50 and all proceeds will benefit the Northeast Georgia History Center in Gainesville.
Petty, who says he remembers racing at Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, will be joined at the event by his children, daughter Rebecca and former racer and current TV analyst Kyle.
The Petty family was invited to the event by longtime friend Ed Parks, who is a board member at the history center.
“I have been friends with Ed Parks for 40 years and we were honored when he asked us to join him this year,” said Petty, who turned 76 last month.
The appearance in Gainesville will be one of many Petty makes in a year, events he makes in between attending NASCAR racing events.
“I attend all but a couple (of races) each year,” Petty said. “We make a lot of appearances every year, but only two or three for something as special like this.”
Petty’s daughter, Rebecca Petty Moffitt, explained her family is involved with several nonprofit agencies including its own Petty Family Foundation and the Richard Petty Museum. Therefore, the family tries to assist other nonprofits as they can.
“We are looking forward to seeing the museum,” she said in a recent phone interview. “We have museum ourselves and its in transition. So, it’s always good to see how another museum is set up.
“Basically, we are hoping we can help your community and bring awareness to the history center you have down there. We all get pulled with different directions ... but Daddy and my brother do more.”
Since retiring from full-time racing following the 1992 season — he made a few various starts after retiring — Petty became an unofficial ambassador for NASCAR. He also became a race team owner.
One thing Petty hasn’t stopped doing is keeping a close eye on where the sport is heading and who might surpass his and Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s record seven Cup series championships. One driver who has a chance of breaking the record is five-time champion Jimmie Johnson, this year’s points leader. If you ask Petty, Johnson has a good chance of breaking the mark, even with the increase in competition.
“If (Jimmie) continues the way he has in the past seven years, I believe he can do it,” said Petty, who won a record 200 Cup races in his career.
Another issue in NASCAR is safety.
Before the death of Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500, Petty’s grandson, Adam, was tragically killed while qualifying for a NASCAR race in 2000. After losing a grandson and longtime racing competitor, Petty has seen NASCAR make large increases in driver safety. Petty seems to approve of how NASCAR is doing in safety.
“The only reason we’re not safer is because no one has come up with a better idea,” said Petty, the 1959 Rookie of the Year.
While the sport continues to grow, so will the popularity of its drivers. One driver who has become a megastar, despite not having won a race on any level of NASCAR, is female Danica Patrick.
This year, Kyle Petty made several comments about Danica, saying she was a “marketing machine” and she was “not a race car driver.”
The King seems to agree with his son.
“Kyle is the only person that has actually come out to say what everyone else is thinking,” Petty said.
For information or to reserve a ticket, call 770-297-5900 or email Rachel Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
J.K. Devine contributed to this story.