BY JIM UTTER
NEWS & OBSERVER/MCT
CHARLOTTE, N. C. — Richard Petty is the “King” of NASCAR. But his castle was ruled by “Mrs. Lynda.” Of that, there never was any doubt.
Lynda Gayle Owens Petty, the wife of the seven-time NASCAR champion and a community crusader, died Tuesday at her home in Level Cross surrounded by her family. She was 72.
“It was no secret that she was the cornerstone of the Petty family; a woman of humility and extraordinary strength,” said her grandson, Austin Petty. “While we mourn her death, we also celebrate her life and the profound impact she had on those who knew her.
“The pride she had in her children, her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren was shared with us through her unconditional love.”
There are few in the NASCAR community who have not been personally touched by one of “Mrs. Lynda’s” stories or her causes.
“On behalf of the France family and everyone at NASCAR, I want to offer sincere condolences to the Petty family regarding the loss of their beloved matriarch, Lynda Petty,” said NASCAR chairman Brian France.
“Through the years, Lynda became an integral part of the NASCAR landscape. We have lost a true friend, who will be missed each and every day. Our thoughts and prayers will be with the Pettys throughout this difficult time.”
While Richard Petty was traveling across the country racing for a living, “Mrs. Lynda” remained at home for the most part, with a protective eye over her family and her community.
“I was the one, and you can ask them … ask (son) Kyle, ‘Did your daddy ever whip you?’ and he’d say, ‘No, but my mother wailed the daylights out of me.,’ “ Lynda said during a 2009 interview with Speed Channel (now Fox Sports 1).
“I disciplined and I never even bothered Richard with it. I didn’t want to put the fear of God in him that he was going to beat his children to death for doing something, so I took care of them and they loved him to death and still do.”
Married Petty at 17
When Lynda was diagnosed with central nervous system lymphoma in 2010 and began a difficult regiment of treatment at Duke University Medical Center, her main concern was who would look after Richard, whom she married secretly when she was 17.
“Lynda was such an incredible person in so very many ways, far too numerous to count,” said Winston Kelley, executive director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, of which Richard Petty was part of the inaugural class inducted in 2010.
“In addition to being a devoted wife to Richard and an incredible mother and grandmother, she was a tireless worker for the causes that benefited others.”
Red Cross, school volunteer
During her life, Lynda Petty served as a Red Cross volunteer, a school volunteer, the president of the athletic booster club and a Girl and Boy Scout leader. She served 16 years on the Randolph County School Board, was on the board of the Randolph County Hospice and helped found the Racing Wives Auxiliary organization.
A private memorial service will be held at Reverie Place in Randleman. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Petty Family Foundation, 311 Branson Mill Rd., Randleman, N.C. 27317.
Lynda Petty was preceded in death by a grandson, Adam Petty, who died during 2000 as a result of injuries sustained in a NASCAR practice session accident at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
She is survived by her husband, Richard; son, Kyle; daughters Sharon Farlow and her husband, Terry, Lisa Luck and her husband, Charlie, and Rebecca Moffitt and her husband, Brian; 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.