All Things Must Pass

Brandon Reed

Brandon Reed

By Brandon Reed
Posted in Columns 10/22/10

If you haven’t had the opportunity to see the new documentary “Petty Blue”, you really should.

While if focuses mainly on Richard Petty, it tells the story of the Petty racing dynasty, good, bad and ugly.

One of the most heart rendering moments of the video is when they reach the story of Adam Petty, Kyle’s son, who was lost to us in a crash on May 12, 2000.

It was  on that day that the sports world lost something special.

I can still remember where I was on that day. I had just gotten home from doing my morning air shift at WMLB, a now defunct radio station in Cumming, Georgia. A friend of mine telephoned with the terrible news that Adam  had been killed that morning in a practice crash at New Hampshire International Raceway. Adam was 19 years old.

When you’re involved in automobile racing, you have to come to terms with the fact that you exist in a very fragile universe. At any moment, it can all come crashing down around you. It’s a part of the sport that makes you hate it, no matter how involved you may be.

I first met Adam at Peach State Speedway, now known as Gresham Motorsports Park, in Jefferson, Georgia. He made his professional debut at the Jefferson track on April 11, 1998. My grandfather and I were at the track the day before, and made our way down into the pit area to try to meet Adam.

My hair was long back in those days, and I always wore it pulled back in a ponytail. Adam spotted me, saw my hair, and said “Dadgum, your hair is longer than daddy’s!” He asked us to hang on while he went to get his father, Kyle.

We stood there and talked about racing, history, and the future. The next day, Kyle sent a crewman to find my grandfather and I, and brought us down in the pits to hang out with the entire Petty clan before Adam’s big day.

They made us feel like part of the family.

Adam became the first known fourth generation professional athlete in the United States that night. It still fills me with pride that it occurred at my hometown racetrack.

From then on, when I would see Adam and Kyle, either professionally or casually, that afternoon in Jefferson would come up. More than once, Kyle has pointed at me, and said, “Hey man, turn around”, looking for my hair. I finally cut it off a few years ago to donate to charity. As George Harrison said, all things must pass.

Adam was a heck of a kid. At age 19, he was focusing on what steps he could take to help others. The seed had been planted with him for a camp for sick children. After his death, his father and mother saw Adam’s dream through with the opening of the Victory Junction Camp. How many 19-year-olds do you know of that would have such a dream?

Every time I watch a race now, I can’t help but think of Adam. Back when Adam was running in the ASA series, he had an on-track incident with another driver. When the pit reporters caught up to him, Adam had a few choice words to say about his fellow driver.

But one week later, when asked again about the incident, Adam said he couldn’t talk about it anymore. It seems his mother had gotten wind of his comments, and let Adam know in no uncertain terms that she expected better than that of him. That scolding was all it took for Adam to learn his lesson about trash talking.

When I see some young, brash driver bashing a fellow competitor, I wonder how different the scene might be if Adam were still around, with that lesson taken to heart.

The day Adam passed away, I spoke for several hours with my grandfather, who remains one of the wisest souls in my circle. He said to me, “Son, we have to be thankful for the time we had with him. We were blessed that he was on the Earth with us for 19 years. Some people don’t get even that much time.”

God blessed me with the opportunity to connect with Adam and his family. That’s one of the finest gifts I could have asked for.

But we have to remember that eventually, all things must pass.

Brandon Reed is the editor and webmaster of Georgia Racing History.com.


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