Skip to content

Remembering Lynda Petty: The King’s Queen and a true Southern Lady

Mar 26, 2014, 12:54 AM EDT

LyndaPetty Getty Images

It’s very rare that you meet someone for the first time and come away feeling as if you’ve known him or her your whole life.

Lynda Petty was one of those rare persons. She was a true Southern Lady, with the L capitalized for the respect she commanded throughout not only NASCAR, but in daily life.

Her husband may be The King of NASCAR, but she was his Queen and the true strength behind the entire Petty clan, raising the couple’s four kids almost single-handedly while Richard was out running nearly 1,200 races – winning a record 200 of them as well as a record-tying seven championships.

But the biggest win of Richard’s life came off the race track: winning Lynda’s heart, living and loving together for more than 55 years of marriage, a real life Hallmark love story come true.

As I think back on the handful of times I interacted with her over the years, two instances came immediately to my mind when I first heard of Lynda Petty passing away Tuesday at the age of 72.

The first time I met her was about 11 or 12 years ago. I was part of a group that had been invited to tour the Petty compound in Level Cross, N.C. While others ventured into some of the shops where Petty racing history was made, I wandered over to the gift shop, looking for souvenirs for my kids.

As I walked around, I couldn’t help but soak in the aura, the mystique of what made Richard The King and the Petty name the biggest in NASCAR history. Then out of nowhere, a voice came from behind me, saying in one of the sweetest Southern drawls you’ll ever want to hear, “How y’all doin’ today, hon?”

I turned and there was this smiling woman who proceeded to ask me if I needed any help, adding, “My name’s Lynda. What’s yours?”

After I told her mine, I mentioned I was looking for a unique gift to take home. She offered several suggestions, not giving me the hard sell to buy something, but rather ideas on what she thought my kids would like.

We got to talking for a few minutes, but it seemed so much longer. We chatted about the weather, she asked where I was from, asked about my family and said she hoped I enjoyed my time at the Petty compound and thanked me for coming.

Honestly, I had no idea who it was I just had such a friendly conversation with. I thought she was just a Petty employee. I didn’t make the connection at the time of telling me her name was Lynda and where we were at.

When I finally got to the cash register, I offhandedly remarked to the cashier just how friendly her co-worker was. The cashier leaned over slightly, looked me in the eyes and said in a near-whisper, “Oh, that’s not my co-worker, that’s Lynda, Lynda Petty, Richard’s wife.”

I had just met the wife of the greatest champion and race winner in NASCAR history, and I didn’t have a clue. She was so unpretentious, so friendly, so down to earth.

That memory of just how nice Lynda was has forever stuck with me.

I would go on to meet her a few more times over the years, with Richard always at her side. She was as friendly and welcoming each time we exchanged pleasantries as the first time we met.

One of the last times I saw Lynda seems like yesterday, just a few days before the 2008 Daytona 500. Richard and I were part of a video interview.

Afterwards, The King ambled over to his car, a gleaming white Dodge Charger, and climbed in. Lynda had been sitting in the car the whole time during the interview, listening to the radio.

I went over one last time to thank The King for his time and engaged in a little chit chat about the Charger, regaling him with how I had bought a jet-black, Hemi-powered Charger just like his about six months earlier, how fast it was and how I felt it was the best car I had ever owned.

As Richard and I jibber-jabbered for a couple more minutes about horsepower, speed and performance of our respective Chargers, Lynda sat there quietly, smiling and nodding her head every now and then.

Just before Richard drove away, she laughed and quipped once again with that ever-so-sweet Southern drawl, “Oh, you boys and all your talk about fast cars.”

Then she softly and gently reached over, put her left hand on her husband’s right hand as he was about to shift the car into drive and said, “Come on, Richard, let’s go home. Y’all have a good night, boys.”

With that the Queen and her King drove away hand-in-hand down International Speedway Boulevard, ever the inseparable couple.

Lynda put up a courageous four-year fight with cancer. Despite the excruciating pain she went through and all the exhausting medical treatments she endured, she remained personable and friendly until the end. That was Lynda’s way.

They say that behind every good man is a good woman. Whoever came up with that saying must have known Lynda Petty, because she was as good a woman as they get.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Latest Posts
  1. Danica Patrick finishes career-best 6th after G-W-C craziness in Atlanta

    Sep 1, 2014, 1:25 AM EDT

    Oral-B USA 500 - Qualifying Getty Images

    The result beats her previous high water mark of seventh this past May at Kansas.

  2. Kevin Harvick far from being happy after Paul Menard wrecks him, costing a chance for win

    Sep 1, 2014, 1:10 AM EDT

    (Photo: Jonathan Moore/Getty Images) Getty Images

    HAMPTON, Ga. — It was a rough night for a number of drivers in Sunday’s Oral-B USA 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta, including Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Marcos Ambrose.

  3. Kenseth clinches Chase berth; Bowyer falls out of Grid with one race to go

    Sep 1, 2014, 12:43 AM EDT

    Oral-B USA 500 Getty Images

    Matt Kenseth enters the post-season with a second place result, while Clint Bowyer finds himself outside the Chase Grid going into next Saturday’s regular season finale.

  4. Kasey Kahne rallies in last 2 laps to win at Atlanta, makes Chase

    Sep 1, 2014, 12:14 AM EDT

    Kahne wins at Atl 2014 Getty Images

    HAMPTON, Ga. – Kasey Kahne’s 17th career Sprint Cup win couldn’t have been any larger.

  5. Tony Stewart’s comeback hopes end with rough 41st-place finish at Atlanta

    Aug 31, 2014, 10:07 PM EDT

    stewart atlanta 2014 Getty Images

    HAMPTON, Ga. – It was not the comeback that Tony Stewart had hoped for.

  6. NASCAR Atlanta Update: Stewart falls back after contact with Kyle Busch; Kenseth leads

    Aug 31, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT

    Oral-B USA 500 Getty Images

    Tony Stewart’s return to competition tonight at Atlanta Motor Speedway has encountered some trouble after a restart run-in with “Rowdy.”

  7. Schumacher (TF), Hagan (FC), Line (PS), Krawiec (PSM) ones to beat in Monday’s NHRA U.S. Nationals finals

    Aug 31, 2014, 9:08 PM EDT

    2014 NHRA U.S. Nationals LOGO

    Following Sunday’s final round of qualifying, Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) will lead their respective classes as No. 1 qualifiers for Monday’s final eliminations of the 60th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.

  8. Tony Stewart the obvious fan favorite during pre-race introductions at Atlanta

    Aug 31, 2014, 7:28 PM EDT

    ATL fans pre-race 2014 Getty Images

    HAMPTON, Ga. — There was no question which driver received the most applause and cheers during driver introductions prior to the start of Sunday night’s Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

  9. Another major sponsor reaffirms backing of Tony Stewart

    Aug 31, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts - Practice Getty Images

    Rush Truck Centers’ CEO: “We stand with Tony.”

  10. How many Chase spots will still be in play after Atlanta?

    Aug 31, 2014, 5:34 PM EDT

    Pure Michigan 400 - Practice Getty Images

    Matt Kenseth can clinch a spot in the post-season with a finish of seventh or better in tonight’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

  11. Atlanta Motor Speedway honors longtime motorsports reporter ‘Capt. Herb’ Emory

    Aug 31, 2014, 4:25 PM EDT

    herb emory AMS media center

    HAMPTON, Ga. — Atlanta Motor Speedway will honor longtime Atlanta-area broadcaster and motorsports reporter “Capt. Herb” Emory, who passed away in April at the age of 61, prior to Sunday’s Oral-B USA 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race.

  12. Ryan Blaney takes last-lap duel, wins NASCAR Trucks at CTMP (VIDEO)

    Aug 31, 2014, 4:09 PM EDT

    14th Annual Michigan National Guard 200 - Practice Getty Images

    Ryan Blaney uses a cross-over move on German Quiroga in the final corner and then beats him to the stripe, winning the Chevrolet Silverado 250.

  13. NHRA: Tony Schumacher claims $100K Top Fuel bonus at U.S. Nationals

    Aug 31, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT

    NHRA Auto Racing AP

    The 9-time U.S. Nationals champion dispatches Richie Crampton in the final of the Traxxas Shootout with a track-record speed of 328.54 mph.

  14. Former Caterham staff begin legal action against team

    Aug 31, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Great Britain - Practice Getty Images

    The legal wranglings following the sale of the team look set to continue.

  15. Mosley: Mercedes shouldn’t publicly chastise Rosberg

    Aug 31, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    BRITAIN-MEDIA-POLITICS-LEVESON Getty Images

    Former FIA president believes Mercedes made a mistake hanging its dirty laundry out for all to see.

  16. VIDEO: Max Verstappen crashes during Rotterdam show run

    Aug 31, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Previews Getty Images

    Not the best start to life with Red Bull for the young Dutchman.

  17. Moto GP: Marquez a winner again, beating Lorenzo at Silverstone

    Aug 31, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    MotoGp Of Great Britain - Qualifying Getty Images

    Marquez claims win number 11 of his remarkable sophomore year in Moto GP.

  18. COTA and V8 Supercars mutually terminate contract

    Aug 31, 2014, 7:30 AM EDT

    V8 Supercars - Austin 400: Qualifying And Race Getty Images

    Australian touring car series will not be returning to Austin in 2015 as originally planned.

  19. Will Power’s brother Damien live tweets Will’s IndyCar title run; hilarity ensues

    Aug 31, 2014, 4:00 AM EDT

    WillChamp2 Getty Images

    Will Power’s brother Damien provides raucous, hilarious commentary as Will drove towards the Verizon IndyCar Series title.

Video from NASCAR America

Inside Tony Stewart's return to racing
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. Gordon (2091)
  2. K. Harvick (1938)
  3. T. Stewart (1523)
  4. K. Busch (1322)
  5. J. Logano (1322)