BUY FROM AMAZON: CLICK HERE!
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes
•”Richard and Maurice: Memory Lane” Featurette
•Vintage audio interviews
•Kevin Costner- “Backyard” music video
Chronicle 4 generations of the Petty family, known as the most successful family in NASCAR history
Narrated by Kevin Costner
Starring Lee Petty, Richard Petty, Lynda Petty, Maurice Petty, Kyle Petty, Adam Petty
The documentary, named for the color of Richard Petty’s #43 car, explores the rise of the Petty name in stock car racing, which began in 1949 with Lee Petty and then continued as he passed the torch to son Richard, who then passed it to son Kyle, and so on. Whether you love NASCAR or find it to be a boring exercise in driving around in circles for 500 laps, it would do you no harm to learn about a very important family in the history of the sport and you might even be touched along the way.
If you’re like me, you probably don’t know a lot about NASCAR. I know as much about NASCAR as I do about quantum physics. It was never in my house growing up, and you had about as much of a chance of finding gold in a pile of shit as you did seeing my dad and me watching a NASCAR race on a Sunday afternoon. To me, it didn’t ever seem as interesting as other sports. I guess I never saw the strategy in it, and to some degree that still holds true. I mainly just see it as, you have to finish first, and make sure the other guys don’t. It’s a race, after all. But it means a lot to some people, more than most of us might ever know, and at the center of what’s meaningful in the sport of NASCAR, you’d probably find the Petty family.
Lee Petty was a stock car racer who essentially made a name for the fledgling NASCAR brand, becoming the first ever winner of the Daytona 500 and working harder than anyone to do so. He was actually one of the first to do it for a living, and using it to support his family. Believe it or not, back then athletes didn’t have the luxuries that they do today, and since air travel was so expensive, Petty would often drive his race car (sometimes cross-country) to each race that he was to participate in. He was also an incredibly strict father, and having grown up during the Great Depression, taught his sons that nothing comes easy and was therefore hesitant to throw heaps of praise on them, even when they did something good or right. But he was definitely a family man, and projected a family image, and along with that family led the sport into the prominence it enjoys today.
Richard Petty took up the mantle after his father was told by doctors following his crash that he could never race again. In a sense he worked for his father, and since his father was now strictly focusing on the business end of the races as opposed to actually racing in them, he often treated Richard and his brother Maurice (who did not race but was part of the crew) as employees and it was hard to separate son from employee. This might be what made Richard a great driver, and no sooner did he sit behind the wheel did he begin to stake his claim as the best racer in NASCAR. He didn’t just leap out of his father’s shadow, he erased that shadow. To many, he is the “best there is and ever will be” and not long after his dominance began was almost officially granted the title “King Petty”. At one point Richard Petty discusses signing autographs, saying that when he signs his name for a fan, he isn’t signing his name so much as he is thanking them for buying a ticket and paying for his house and sending his kids to school. After races he would wait around until the last fan left signing autographs. I’m not sure that there is an athlete today in professional sports that would do the same, and for that alone Richard Petty is a legend.
Kyle Petty decided to join the family business and become a racer in 1979 not because he was a natural talent (which some say he wasn’t) but because he felt that he should try to become good at it. And growing up no one thought he would become a driver, least of all himself. He played all 4 main sports growing up but never aspired to become a driver. Once he made his debut in 1979, though, controversy and scandal befell the Petty team and having been accused (and proved to have done it) of using a modified illegal engine, Maurice Petty had to be the scapegoat for this offense and as a result the team broke up, since because of this scandal they could not generate the income necessary to survive and still have both Kyle and Richard racing together. Kyle went out on his own and without his father’s leadership to fall back on, things proved difficult. He never attained the fame and success that his father did, but he certainly left a mark on the sport.
Adam Petty, Kyle’s son, was poised to carry on the Petty name and become possibly more successful than his grandfather Richard. Working side by side with his dad, who he had an exceptionally loving relationship the likes of which Kyle wishes he and Richard would have had, he made a very promising debut and was well on his way to his first career win. On April 5th, 2000, the Petty family said goodbye to patriarch Lee, and as sad as that was, nothing could prepare anyone for what would happen 3 weeks later. Adam Petty’s first win was not to be, as he died tragically in a head-on crash into a wall during a practice run in New Hampshire. I have to admit, I was totally caught off-guard by this because I do not remember hearing about it. And as I was watching this whole story unfold, I honestly thought to myself that after the film I would read about where he is at in his career today, and what he has accomplished while i’ve totally ignored the sport. Imagine my surprise, then, when I figured out what happened. I can absolutely remember hearing about Dale Earnhardt’s tragic death, but somehow this had passed me by. It’s extremely sad when you consider what a bright future this kid had, and at just 19 years old his life was tragically lost.
I honestly did not expect to enjoy this documentary as much as I did, since i’m totally ignorant of everything NASCAR or racing. Narration, music, and really beautiful cinematography came together to form a film worthy of 91 minutes of your time. I was not prepared for the emotional tone that was set in this film, and came away knowing a lot more about probably the greatest family in the history of the sport. Richard Petty Motorsports was bought out at one point but later reaquired by Richard Petty in 2010. Whatever the case may be, though, the legacy of this family lives on in racing in one way or another. Even if you have absolutely no interest in racing or sports of any kind, you owe it to yourself to check this out.
A very good helping of deleted scenes, some unused interviews, and an interesting sitdown with brothers Richard and Maurice Petty as they go over old family documents. One of them is a bill from a restaurant in the 1960s in which all crew members ate, and the amount was only $60. There’s also a music video with Kevin Costner (5 dollars to the person who knew Kevin Costner sang in a band!) in which he sings a song called “Backyard”.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars