On the Road with "The King"
LAS VEGAS – If I told you there’s nothing between Fontana, Calif., and Las Vegas, I’d be lying. There are several towns, like Victorville and Barstow and Baker.
There’s the Zzyzx Road exit, too. Apparently that’s pronounced Zie-zix – it rhymes with “Isaac” and not “physics.” (Google is a wonderful thing).
But it was about 225 miles from where I was Tuesday morning to where I was going, and maybe 25 miles of that seems inhabitable. The rest was highway and high desert.
What made my drive challenging is that somehow I managed to get what might be the only rental car in use in America today without cruise control. What made my drive bearable, though, was “Richard Petty’s Audio Scrapbook.”
The scrapbook is four audio CDs, each about an hour long. I got through three of them on the ride over to Vegas and will finish the fourth one off going back and forth the to the track this weekend.
The guys who did this project did exactly the right thing by not overthinking the process. It’s legendary Motor Racing Network anchor and long-time Petty family friend Barney Hall sitting down with The King and with Dale Inman, Richard’s long-time crew chief, and having them talk and tell stories.
Bobby Allison, David Pearson and Richard’s wife, Lynda, also join in from time to time. One of my favorite tracks so far was the one where Lynda talked about the first time she met Richard. Who knew that in high school the future seven-time NASCAR champion carried his school’s bass drum around and helped make sure the cheerleaders didn’t do cheers for defense while their team had the ball?
This is the kind of thing I hope somebody at the future NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte has the good sense to turn into a regular feature of that museum. At least once a month, race fans ought to be able to go to the hall and listen to a legend tell racing tales.
Not everything in the “Richard Petty Audio Scrapbook” is fun and games. Petty talks about the incident he had in Dallas, Ga., when he was drag racing for a season after NASCAR banned the “hemi” engine. Petty’s car veered off the track and through a chain-link fence into a crowd of spectators. An 8-year-old boy was killed.
Petty and his wife also talk emotionally about the loss of their grandson, Adam, who was killed in a wreck during a practice session at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2000.
But there are many good moments for Petty to talk about, too. His conversation with Pearson about their rivalry and their most memorable races is classic.