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. Jimmie Johnson: ‘That day is out there’ when he’ll split with crew chief Chad Knaus

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:50 PM EDT

    (Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

    In a surprisingly candid admission, six-time Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson says that while nothing is imminent, the day is coming when he and crew chief Chad Knaus will go their separate ways.

  2. ‘Hey, I’m Kevin (Harvick), welcome to Outback. Can I get you a table?’ (with video)

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:32 PM EDT

    (Photo courtesy Outback Steakhouse) (Photo courtesy Outback Steakhouse)

    In a bemusing video released Thursday, NASCAR star Kevin Harvick spent one of his recent off nights working the room at an Outback Steakhouse.

  3. Jeff Gordon delivers 1 millionth meal for Drive To End Hunger to 89-year-old race fan

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:30 PM EDT

    (Photo courtesy WFMYnews2.com) (Photo courtesy WFMYnews2.com)

    On Thursday, Jeff Gordon delivered the one millionth meal served by one of Gordon’s key sponsors, the Drive To End Hunger.

  4. Ex-John Force crew chief Jimmy Prock hired by rival Don Schumacher Racing

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:26 PM EDT

    Crew chief Jimmy Prock. (Photo courtesy John Force Racing) Crew chief Jimmy Prock. (Photo courtesy John Force Racing)

    Jimmy Prock, who resigned earlier this week as crew chief for 16-time Funny Car champ John Force, has been hired by rival Don Schumacher Racing.

  5. Jeff Gordon would love to return to Saturday Night Live — and wants to bring Ricky Funck with him (video)

    Oct 24, 2014, 7:59 PM EDT

    (Photo courtesy NBC/Saturday Night Live) (Photo courtesy NBC/Saturday Night Live)

    Jeff Gordon said Friday he wants to return to host Saturday Night Live for a second time — and he wants to reprise the hysterical “Ricky Funck” character.

  6. Kevin Harvick facing long climb from 33rd on grid Sunday at Martinsville

    Oct 24, 2014, 6:37 PM EDT

    Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 - Practice Getty Images

    A loose car and two brushes with the wall has put Kevin Harvick in a deep hole at the start of Sunday’s Eliminator Round opener.

  7. 2-for-1: Jamie McMurray wins Martinsville pole, sets track record

    Oct 24, 2014, 6:06 PM EDT

    (Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images) Getty Images

    If racing at Martinsville Speedway was like buying an ice cream cone, Jamie McMurray double-dipped during Friday’s Sprint Cup qualifying, earning the pole and setting a new track speed record (99.905 mph) in the process.

  8. Ryan Blaney, “Bubba” Wallace top Truck Series practices at Martinsville

    Oct 24, 2014, 5:19 PM EDT

    Kroger 200 - Practice Getty Images

    Both Blaney and Wallace are within 30 points of championship leader Matt Crafton going into tomorrow’s Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville.

  9. Denny Hamlin raring to go for Chase’s Eliminator Round

    Oct 24, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT

    Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 - Practice Getty Images

    A fifth win at Martinsville would put Hamlin into the Sprint Cup Championship Race at Homestead.

  10. Danica Patrick says she’s “open-minded” about crew chief swap

    Oct 24, 2014, 3:25 PM EDT

    Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon AP

    Danica, who will swap CCs with teammate Kurt Busch starting next week at Texas, says she’s looking forward to working with the engineering-based Daniel Knost.

  11. PWC officially confirms GT/GTS split races

    Oct 24, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT

    Photo: Pirelli World Challenge Photo: Pirelli World Challenge

    GT/GTS races confirmed for split in 2015 by the Pirelli World Challenge series.

  12. Jeff Gordon fastest in first Martinsville Sprint Cup practice

    Oct 24, 2014, 1:40 PM EDT

    Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 - Practice Getty Images

    Gordon leads group of four Chasers in Top 5 speeds; all 8 remaining Chasers within Top 15.

  13. Lotus to evaluate new nose design in Austin

    Oct 24, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Italy Getty Images

    Formula 1’s new technical regulations prompted Lotus to use a twin-tusk nose for 2014, but this could be scrapped for next season.

  14. Caterham given dispensation to miss Austin and Brazil

    Oct 24, 2014, 12:50 PM EDT

    Caterham Getty Images

    Bernie Ecclestone allows the team to miss the next two races as it searches for a buyer.

  15. Lotus close to confirming Romain Grosjean for 2015

    Oct 24, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    Canadian F1 Grand Prix - Practice Getty Images

    Deputy team boss Federico Gastaldi says the team is close to finalizing its drive line-up, with Grosjean in pole position for the seat.

  16. Matt Kenseth looking for “career highlight” win this weekend at Martinsville

    Oct 24, 2014, 12:07 PM EDT

    GEICO 500 - Qualifying Getty Images

    A win for Kenseth this Sunday would also put him into the Sprint Cup Championship Race at Homestead next month.

  17. Emerson Fittipaldi to be in attendance at Austin for fan event

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:45 AM EDT

    2013 Laureus World Sports Awards Nominations Getty Images

    Two-time Formula One World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi will make an appearance at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas next week as part of a COTA fan experience.

  18. Ricciardo: United States GP my favorite race of the season

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Russia - Previews Getty Images

    Ricciardo full of praise for Austin and the Circuit of the Americas ahead of next weekend’s race.

  19. The man behind the sculptures: William Behrends’ presence endures for Borg-Warner Trophy, and Giants legends

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:09 AM EDT

    Photos courtesy Steve Shunck Photos courtesy Steve Shunck

    Statues outside AT&T Park and the faces on the Borg-Warner Trophy share a common thread, in sculptor William Behrends.

Video from NASCAR America

Remembering the Hendrick Motorsports plane crash
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. R. Preece (1845)
  2. K. Busch (1624)
  3. M. Kenseth (1385)
  4. R. Newman (1364)
  5. L. Cassill (1272)
  1. D. Coby (1229)
  2. W. Pitkat (1155)
  3. B. Keselowski (1145)
  4. K. Kahne (1122)
  5. R. Rovelo (1114)