Nine Years Ago Today, NASCAR Changed Forever

Clayton CaldwellCorrespondent IMay 12, 2009

LOUDON, NH - MAY 12:  Adam Petty has a quiet moment alone during practice for what ends up being his last race during the Busch 200, part of the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division at the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire on May 12, 2000.  (Photo by M. David Leeds /Getty Images)

It' was of the saddest days in NASCAR history. May 12, 2000. It was one of those things that you, as a NASCAR fan, will remember where you were when it happened.  It was the day Adam Petty died.

I personally, was 11 years old when my mom came into the room and told me Kyle Petty's son just died. Adam? Really? Why?

I immediately turned on ESPN and watched the saddest thing ever. 19-year old Adam Petty was killed at New Hampshire, just hours before, and I, for the first time in my life, realized what death meant.

Adam Kyler Petty could have been a star. In his first ARCA ReMax Series start, Adam Petty won in 1998 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. He was only 17 years old. In 1999, Adam ran his first full season in the then NASCAR Busch Series. He did fairly well, however, he failed to qualify for three races. But, he had four top tens in 29 starts.

The following season in 2000, Adam Petty made history. On April 2, 2000 Petty qualified for the 2000 DirectTv 500, becoming the first four generation driver in Motorsports history. Petty was running around the 25th spot, when on lap 215, his engine expired, derailing him to a 40th place finish.

I'll never forget the interview Petty did with TNN, and Dick Berggren said we were looking forward to see what he could do in his career. Unfortunately, we never did.

On May 12, Adam Petty was testing for the NASCAR Busch Series race at New Hampshire when his throttle got stuck and he struck the outside wall. Petty would not survive the accident, stunning the NASCAR world.

Adam's father Kyle would finish out the year in the No. 45 car in the Busch Series. And would driver the No. 45 car for the rest of his career.

As sad as the accident and the death were, NASCAR benefited from Adam's life when his death really led to some safer barrier research. Perhaps the best thing that came from Adam's death is the Victory Junction Gang.

Five months after Adam's death, the Petty's teamed up with Paul Newman and created The Victory Junction Gang Camp, a dream of Adam's. It's a camp where chronically ill children can have fun for absoultly free. In 2004, Kyle and Patti Petty announced the opening of the camp.

Today it's NASCAR's proudest charity and it's now the offically charity of NASCAR.

May Adam's legacy live on forever.