The heartbeat of NASCAR can be felt right here in #TheHeartofNC, the birthplace, and home of “The King,” race car driver Richard Petty. Petty was destined to become a racing great. His father, Lee Petty, helped pioneer the sport and won the inaugural Daytona 500 in 1959. What began with Lee continued on with Richard, his son Kyle, and eventually, Kyle's son Adam. While The King jets regularly to race tracks around the country, he still comes home to his farm in Randleman, N.C. just 20 minutes from downtown Asheboro.
About Richard Petty: NASCAR Legend
In 1958 at the age of 21, Richard Petty drove in his first NASCAR event and in 1959 won his first race at Columbia Motor Speedway. Today he is one of the most respected figures in motorsports. He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame In Charlotte in 2010 in its inaugural class. His career was full of highs, winning the Winston Cup Championship 7 times, the Daytona 500 7 times, 200 wins in NASCAR competitions, and over 700 top ten finishes throughout his career. With so many victories and accomplishments under his belt, Richard remained humble, always staying late to sign autographs and was voted the Winston Cup's most popular driver 9 times.
Visitors to the Richard Petty Museum in Randleman, NC can re-live or learn firsthand the great moments in Petty family racing history. The museum is located next to the Toomes- Petty house where Richard grew up. At the museum, guests can see and photograph The King’s belt buckle collection, championship rings, trophies, and a multitude of cars driven by the Petty family throughout the decades. Even those who aren’t NASCAR fans warm to the daring family stories, videos, collection and displays of this museum. The museum is open Monday - Saturday, 9 am - 4 pm with admission charged.
Petty as the voice of Strip "The King" Weathers in "Cars"
Today’s younger generation knows Richard Petty as the voice of Strip “The King” Weathers from the Disney Pixar animated trilogy, “Cars.” A little known fact, Richard's late wife, Lynda Petty, voiced Mrs. "The King" Weathers. At the Richard Petty Museum, visitors can see these characters in real life, immortalized in petty blue.
Petty's Garage: Will YOU Drive a Petty Car?
Next door to the museum, visitors catch sight of Petty’s Garage. The garage was founded in 2008 by “The King of NASCAR” to produce high-quality vehicles and make his professional race car team’s skill and prowess available to all car enthusiasts. The garage sells Petty products (from engines to drive trains to interior accessories). Car enthusiasts can install on their own—or have their local garage add them. The Petty Garage also customizes cars, fulfilling the dreams of their owners. These cars are often flown in or driven on flatbed trucks from destinations across the country. Finally, the garage offers professional tune-ups designed to achieve the maximum horsepower in a car. The results are worthy of the Petty name!
How Victory Junction Changes Lives
We can brag on Richard Petty’s incredible racing career for days on end, but what he and his family have achieved beyond the racetrack is rooted in their love of community and family. In 2000, Richard Petty’s grandson and fellow NASCAR driver, Adam Petty, was tragically killed in a practice crash at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on May 12, 2000. Only 19 at the time of his death, Adam left behind a compelling and compassionate vision of helping children with mental and physical disabilities.
In June 2004, Victory Junction Camp opened its doors in Adam’s honor. Its mission is to enrich the lives of children with serious illnesses by providing life-changing camping experiences that are exciting, fun and empowering, at no cost to children or their families.
Located in Randleman, NC, Victory Junction offers family camp weekends in the Spring and Fall, and Summer Camp from June to August at no cost to the 32 families per family camp weekend or the 128 children per Summer Camp session.
The camp runs solely on donations from the generous public. Funding is raised from signature events such as Run to Victory (a 10k/5k/Fun Run), Hearts of Victory Fundraising Dinners, and the Campership Classic Disc Golf Tournament. You can donate online, or attend one of the many events throughout the community.
The camp is colorful and joyous—with bright, high-energy designs in all activity areas as well. Ziplines and outdoor activities are designed for campers with physical disabilities. A larger-than-life version of the #45 car that Adam Petty drove can be seen at Adam’s Race Shop and is a beloved camp area. Cabins are specially tailored to accommodate the changing medical needs of each group of campers.
A race track in the camp’s center is used for the highlight of camp—a night during each session when fellow NASCAR drivers and the Petty family come together for a fun festival and experience with the kids called NASCARnival. This event takes place on Tuesday nights during each session and includes games, activities, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, and tethered hot air balloon rides. The icing on the cake comes from teams such as Richard Petty Motorsports, Penske, and Roush Fenway Racing that send drivers and pit crews for these events. The teams perform a live-action pit stop complete with tire changes, and campers are encouraged to take part and feel like a member of the crew.
For campers with sickle cell anemia, that first experience at camp is the only time they’ve ever gone swimming. Children with this disorder can’t survive the change of temperature from standing at the poolside and jumping into a cold pool. During Sickle Cell Anemia Week, the pool at Victory Junction is heated to just the right temperature, and these children frolic and play and splash just like other children.
Doctors, nurses, therapists, and medical support teams volunteer to come in for each week in their medical specialty, creating a magical experience for the campers….and allowing caregivers and parents to take the only breaks many of these families ever receive.
Richard Petty Tribute Park
The legacy of Richard Petty is interwoven throughout the hills of Randolph County, as well as the racing community, and the Richard Petty Tribute Park is a way of giving back to the man who has done so much for so many. Currently, the park is still in the fundraising stage and has been sponsored by the Heart of North Carolina Visitors Bureau, Senator Jerry Tillman, Snyder Farms, Linbrook Heritage Estate and Mayor of Randleman, Bucky Jernigan, among many others. The park will be finished within the next two years and will sit on a little less than an acre in downtown Randleman, NC. When complete, the park will be a small tribute to The King and his beloved wife, Lynda, featuring a bronze casting of the pair and a racing theme. Pictured below, The King and his daughters, Sharon and Rebecca, get a first look at the casting.
-By Sarah Testerman, Heart of NC Editorial Staff