Jack Petty

Ray Cunningham collection

 

 

Petty in his second jalopy in 1954

George McDowell collection

 

Petty in Cecil-Hamilton-owned jalopy at 77 Speedway, Arkansas City, KS in late 1950s

Gary Virden photo

 

Jack Petty

Jack Petty collection

 

Petty in the Torson & Carroll sprint car #6 at a B.C.R.A. race at  Air Capital Speedway in Wichita, KS on May 22, 1965.

Jack Petty collection

 

Petty in the Torson & Carroll sprint car #6 during the feature race at a B.C.R.A. race at Oklahoma City in September, 1965.  He took the car in too deep a couple of laps later and flipped, the car landing on its left side.  A broken panhard bar shattering the bones in Petty’s right arm and a broken fuel line also showered him with fuel.

Jack Petty collection

 

Jack Petty in a Larry-Nulf-owned 1956 Ford at Golden Belt Speedway at Great Bend, KS in 1971

Paul Kruse collection

 

Larry Nulf’s 1963 Ford Fairlane that Petty raced in 1973

Great Bend Tribune

#59x Shelby Steenson leading #77 Petty at Hutchinson, KS on July 28, 1974

Billie Wells photo

 

Petty in Larry Nulf’s 1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1 at Hutchinson, KS on July 28, 1974

Hutchinson News

 

Petty with trophy queens and Larry Nulf’s 1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1 after winning the third late model heat at Hutchinson, KS on July 28, 1974

Larry Nulf collection

 

Car owner Vern Swenson seated on a rear tire of the #96x super modified lined up for Petty at Hutchinson, KS on July 28, 1974

Billie Wells photo

 

Petty in Larry Nulf’s 1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1 in 1976

Warren Vincent photo

 

#08 Steve Lutkie and #77 Petty make up the front row of the late model feature on

August 1, 1976 at Hutchinson, KS

Merrick racing program

 

#23 Jeff Scott, #77 Petty, and #59 Shelby Steenson at Hutchinson, KS during the “Hutch 100” in June of 1977

Warren Vincent photo

 

The Larry-Nulf-owned late model stock car at Enid, OK that Jack Petty drove in 1977.  That was the only year the car had blue numbers on it.

Facebook

 

The former Torson & Carroll sprint car #6, now owned by Jeremy Petty, on display at the Kansas Auto Racing Museum at Chapman, KS

Jack Petty collection

 

Petty in the former Torson & Carroll sprint car #6 at a vintage race meet

Jack Petty collection

 

The former Torson & Carroll sprint car outside the Kansas Auto Racing Museum at Chapman, KS

Wichita Eagle photo

 

Petty’s replica of Tim Flock’s 1952 Hudson Hornet N.A.S.C.A.R. Grand National stock car

Jack Petty collection

 

Petty speaking to the assembled at the dedication of a plaque installed on the old crash wall at the former site of Cejay Stadium in Wichita, KS on September 26, 2015.  L to R:  Fellow former competitors Chuck Jones, Clark Racer, Larry Hall, Petty, Bill Curless, Dick Walker and Forrest Coleman

Connie Lawrence photo

 

Petty’s first jalopy in 1953.  Note the name “Ray” painted on the door.  Click your mouse on the photo to see what the car looked like after a couple of races.

George McDowell collection

 

#89 Petty driving Rocky Rockhold’s 1934 Ford stock car chasing #55 Bill Curless in his family owned jalopy #55 at 77 Speedway, Arkansas City, KS in 1955.

Gary Virden photo from the Larry Brooks collection

 

Petty with the George-Hibbs-owned

modified he raced in 1962

Lies collection

 

Petty just after winning the Semi-Nationals race at Hutchinson, KS on July 26, 1964.  The car was owned by Neil Swander while the Ford Flathead V-8 engine was owned by Dick Hendershot, Sr.

Petty family collection

 

Car owners Buddy Carroll left and Al Torson flank Petty in the Torson & Carroll sprint car #6 at Belleville, KS in August of 1965.

Jack Petty collection

 

Petty at Hutchinson, KS in July of 1966 with a jalopy he drove for Neil Swander

Ray Cunningham collection

 

A victory lap for Petty after winning the trophy dash at Winfield, KS on

September 22, 1968

Jack Petty collection

 

Petty after winning the trophy dash in “White Lightning” at Winfield, KS on

September 22, 1968

Spencer – Yarbrough VFW Post 3544 collection

 

Car owner Orbin Mashaney at left with trophy girl, Petty, and “White Lightning” #77 after winning a trophy dash at Winfield, KS c1968

Jack Petty collection

 

Petty with Vern Swenson’s super modified at Hutchinson, KS in 1969

Ken Gretteman photo from the Bob Mays collection

 

Petty at right with car owner Vern Swenson at time trials for the 1971 Hutchinson Nationals

Darryl Swenson collection

 

Petty with Miss National Modified Deborah VanCampen and the trophy she presented him for winning the first heat race at the 1971 Hutchinson Nationals

Darryl Swenson collection

 

L to R:  Larry Nulf, Sid Taylor, Jim Tomlin, Petty, Nick Whitter, and Ron McVey with Nulf’s 1963 Ford Fairlane in 1973

Warren Vincent photo

 

Don Kreie leading Petty in the 2nd heat race at Golden Belt Speedway, Great Bend, KS on June 2, 1974

Great Bend Tribune

 

#59x Shelby Steenson, #77 Petty, Hutchinson, KS on July 28, 1974

Billie Wells photo

 

After the Fire

Smoking remains of Vern Swenson’s super modified sedan Petty had been driving are to the right of the police officer after the fire at Hutchinson, KS on July 28, 1974.

Hutchinson News

 

 

Petty, left, with Bob Lawrence, holding trophies Petty won at races co-organized by Lawrence.  Lawrence is holding Mashaney’s car owner trophy presented back to him by Petty on November 26, 2000

Connie Lawrence photo

 

 The former Torson & Carroll sprint car #6 now belongs to Jack Petty’s grandson, Jeremy Petty.

Wichita Eagle photo

 

It appears like the whole family is involved in auto racing.  Left to right are Jerry Petty, Jeremy Petty, Jack Petty and Jeremy’s brother-in-law, Jamie Helsel at the Kansas Auto Racing Museum at Chapman, KS.

Wichita Eagle photo

 

Petty’s replica of Tim Flock’s 1952 Hudson Hornet N.A.S.C.A.R. Grand National stock car #91 parked on a street in Enid, OK in August of 2009

Photobucket.com

 

Petty walking along the edge of the backstreatch of the Kansas State Fairgrounds racetrack in Hutchinson, KS on March 22, 2016.  This photo acompanied a story by Amy Bickel in the Hutchinson News about the uncertain future of the historical old racetrack.

Lindsey Bauman photo for the Hutchinson News

 

Jackie Rea “Jack” Petty

Billed early in his racing career at Plaza Speedway at Junction City, Kansas as:

“The Bearded Wonder from Wichita”

 

 

Jack Petty was born on September 28, 1934 at Perrin in Clinton County, Missouri and moved to a ranch five miles north of Utica, Kansas on August 1, 1942.  He was the oldest of four children born to Opha Gilbert “Gib” Petty (1912-1983) and Lena Geneva (Christian) Petty (1913-1996).  His interest in racing cars began to develop while playing in an abandoned Model T Ford shell on the family farm at the age of four.  He attended his first car race, a midget race on pavement, at Pueblo, Colorado when he was 12 years old and was soon practicing his technique in a 1929 Chevrolet on the streets of Utica.  In three years, he went through three engines, six transmissions, one rear end, and even managed to turn the car over once.  Through all of that, he was able to continue driving it.  He didn’t see his first dirt track race until he attended a “Hot Rod” race at Dighton, Kansas c1951.  The only competitor that he can remember in that first race was Charlie Lutkie of Wichita, Kansas whom Petty would eventually compete against himself.

 

Petty graduated from Utica high school in 1952, moved to Wichita, Kansas and lived with an aunt and uncle.  He found work at the Boeing Aircraft Company.  He attended the races at Cejay Stadium in Wichita in 1953 and, one week later, he purchased a 1932 Ford 2-door sedan for $25 and invested less than $75 more to get it ready to race.  His plan was to have friend Otis Raymond “Ray” Smallwood (1923-1999) drive the jalopy for him at Cejay Stadium.  Smallwood’s wife nixed the idea their first night at Cejay so, even though the car was entered under Smallwood’s name, Petty and Smallwood exchanged shirts and Jack drove the #64 Ford that night.  He finished third in his heat race knocking a few other cars off the racetrack in the process.  That drew a crowd at his pit after the race where some other drivers explained to him emphatically that was not the way he should be driving race cars.  Petty’s rebuttal was that it had appeared to him that they all drove that way.  Jack competed in the feature race that night but his finish in that event was not memorable.  That 1932 Ford sedan was the only race car he ever owned.  After that, he drove for other car owners.

 

Race promoter Carl Johnson called a meeting of the pit personnel on August 11, 1955.  He asked if anyone at the meeting had any ideas as to how they might be able to bring more people in to see the races.  Darrell Graeff suggested a head-on collision be staged in front of the bleachers.  Johnson said he thought it was a good idea but who could they get to perform such a stunt?  Without even mentioning it to Petty beforehand, Graeff said he and Petty would do it.  Johnson gave his permission so Graeff and Petty set about seeking advice and cars to perform the stunt.  Neff Auto Salvage in Wichita donated two cars for the event while a professional stunt man suggested they use the hand throttles on the dashboards of the old cars and chain the front seats in place so they would not move.  He also suggested that, after they performed a couple of near misses, they should each slip into the back seats of their cars and close the throttles just before the collision.  They should then drop to their knees between the front and back seats and brace themselves for the collision.  Graeff agreed to take the high line around the racetrack while Petty would stay on the lower part of the track to make the near misses.  At the conclusion of the first lap though, Petty saw Graeff’s car on the low line headed straight for him at about 50 m.p.h.  Not having enough time to get into the back seat, Petty jerked the steering wheel hard to the right just before they collided head-on.  The force of the collision and the steering wheel being turned to the right threw Petty against the driver’s door and then out of the car but landing on his feet.  Sore all over, Petty was sure he had some broken ribs.  When he checked on Graeff, he found him wedged under the dashboard of his car complaining of a large gash on his back.  Both men were transported to the hospital where Graeff was treated for the large cut.  X-rays revealed that Petty did not have any broken ribs so he was released.  The stunt must have been successful though as the bleachers were full.

 

That same year, Petty purchased his first Hudson as a family car.  It was a 1954 Hudson Hornet and it began a lifelong affection for that make of automobile.  Petty also raced at least eight Hudson racing cars in several different classes of racing.  Just some of those included 1932 and 1933 (or 1934) Hudson coupes, 1938 and 1939 Hudson Terraplane coupes, a 1948 Hudson full body stock car, and Hudson-Hornet-powered modified jalopies.

 

Petty made his first start on the historic half-mile dirt oval at the Kansas State Fairgrounds on Memorial Day 1955 and that continued to be one of his regular venues for the next 23 years.  He competed in the second annual Hutchinson Nationals at the state fairgrounds in July of 1958 and continued to appear in that event until the 22nd Annual Hutchinson Nationals in July of 1978.  He also competed in the First Annual Kansas State Modified Jalopy Championship at the 1965 Kansas State Fair and continued to compete in that event until 1973.  He entered the First Annual Kansas State Super Stock Championship at Hutchinson in September of 1970 and competed in that event until 1976 when it was known as the Kansas State Late Model Championship.  He then returned to Hutchinson in 1977 to compete in the “Hutch 100” for late model stock cars.

 

Petty was walking through the pits at 77 Speedway at Arkansas City, Kansas before the races on July 2, 1955, carrying his helmet and looking for anyone who might let him drive their car, when Cecil Hamilton mistook him for driver Buddy Quick and asked Petty if he was going to drive his car that night.  Petty said “Yep” then put his helmet on and climbed into the car.

 

Hamilton then leaned in the car window and said, “You’re not Buddy Quick.  Who are you?”

 

Petty replied, “I’m Jack Petty.”

 

Hamilton said, “I don’t know you.”

 

Petty told him, “I don’t know you either so we’re even.”

 

Hamilton then asked, “If I let you drive my car tonight, will you wreck it?”

 

Petty replied, “Well, not on purpose, I won’t.”

 

Hamilton decided to go ahead and let Petty drive his car that night.  Petty finished fourth in the A feature and wound up driving cars for Hamilton for the next couple of years.

 

Petty continued to race jalopies at Cejay Stadium until it closed in 1957.  After that he branched out, competing in jalopies, semi-late model stock cars, modified jalopies, super modifieds, sprint cars, and late model stock cars on dirt ovals all over Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and Oklahoma for the next 23 years.  He drove so many different cars for so many different car owners that he can’t remember them all.  Petty was soon joined in the auto racing wars by his brother-in-law, Bud Haehn.  (Petty and Haehn’s wives were sisters.)

 

Race promoter and former driver Orval Beckel, closed the Frontier Speedway at Wichita mid-season in 1963 without naming an official track champion that year but Petty was leading the point standings in the modified sportsman class when the racetrack ceased operations.

 

On September 24, 1964, Petty was competing in the B feature for modified sportsman jalopies at the Kansas State Fair when a rear wheel came off his car in the fourth turn, bounced over the fence, and onto the fair midway.  Miraculously, no injuries were reported.

 

Petty was also scheduled to drive the yellow #6; a 283 cu.in. Chevrolet sprint car, for owners Al Torson and Buddy Carroll in a Big Car Racing Association (B.C.R.A.) sanctioned race at WaKeeney, Kansas in July of 1965 but, when that car suffered engine failure in time trials, Grady Wade introduced Petty to Wes Vandervoort of Colorado Springs assuring him that Petty would do a good job driving for Vandervoort.  Vandervoort’s young driver was afraid of the pipe fence around the WaKeeney racetrack so Petty wound up driving Vandervoort’s 348 cu.in. Chevrolet-powered sprint car #3 in his first sprint car appearance.  (National Sprint Car Hall of Fame inductee Bill Hill was the public-address announcer at that sprint car race.)

 

Going from the 283 cu.in. power of the #6 Torson & Carroll car to the fuel-injected 348 cu.in. Chevy powered sprint car of Vandervoort’s required some adjustment.  Petty started on the outside front row of the consolation race and was in the first turn before he knew it.  Just managing to keep the car under some semblance of control, Petty decided that he needed to let off a little sooner going into the third turn but then he was in that turn too, before he knew it.  By the time he reached the front straightaway, his crew was signaling that he had a big lead so he settled down still winning the race handedly.  Next, he worked his way up from his last place starting position in the 21-car starting field to finish fifth in the feature.

 

Sometime later, Petty would drive Vandervoort’s sprint car one more time at 81 Speedway at Wichita.   Vandervoort often drove the car himself, entering the annual USAC sanctioned Pikes Peak Hill Climb 12 times between 1961 and 1976.  He finished in the top five in all but one of those occasions including winning the event in 1967.

 

Petty won the first heat race in a B.C.R.A. sprint car race at Belleville, Kansas on August 29, 1965.  The sprints were also to race at WaKeeney, Kansas the next day while late model stock cars raced at Belleville.  A multi-fatality late model stock car accident at Sedalia, Missouri on Saturday resulted in the late models canceling their appearance at Belleville.  Fair officials at Belleville asked B.C.R.A. if they would consider rescheduling their race at WaKeeney and stay at Belleville to race on Sunday.  Negotiations resulted in men being sent to both Lincoln, Nebraska and Wichita, Kansas to retrieve more tires and fuel.  Since Belleville was dry; Milton Motors of Belleville also provided a new Oldsmobile for Petty to make a “Beer & Whiskey” run to Scandia, Kansas to bring back “supplies” for the rest of the weekend.

 

Petty continued driving the Torson & Carroll #6 Chevrolet as either a super modified or a sprint car (depending on the rules of each particular event) until 1966.  He also drove Orbin Mashaney’s 1957 Ford semi-late model stock car nicknamed “White Lightning”, from 1967 until 1971 and, when the occasion called for a modified jalopy or a full body modified, he drove a Chevrolet #69 (known for its sponsor, Zephyr Transfer) in those races for car owner George Hibbs from 1962 through 1966.

 

With Petty on the outside and Ed Schauf on the inside, the two drivers were racing side-by-side down the front straightaway in their super modifieds at the Trego County Fairgrounds in WaKeeney, Kansas on August 10, 1966 when the two cars got together and Schauf’s car crashed into the outside wall.  Petty was not hurt but Schauf received serious injuries that left him a paraplegic.

 

A large hole encompassing almost the entire racing groove, developed in the first turn at the Mid-America Fairgrounds in Topeka, Kansas during the super modified races in September of 1966.  Most of the other drivers slowed and drove through the hole during the warmup laps but Petty put his right-side tires just above the hole and feathered the left side of the car across the hole.  By doing so, he did not have to slow nearly as much as the other drivers were.  The placement of the right-side tires was critical though with there being only a couple of inches leeway between hitting the hole or sliding into the loose stuff above it.  Petty tried that same move in his heat race and passed enough cars to qualify for the A feature.  He then came from the back of the A feature to finish in fifth place.  After the race though, he was physically and emotional drained.  He was just coming off a 12 day stent where he had competed in 16 different race meets of super modified, sprint car, and late model stock car racing in 3 states.  It had been a long couple of weeks and the taxing races in Topeka had not helped the situation.

 

Although the racetrack never did run regular auto races, Petty competed on most of the standalone race dates that were run on the historic half-mile dirt track at the Cowley County Fairgrounds, Winfield, Kansas between 1967 and 1970.  They were sanctioned by the Auto Racing Association of Kansas (A.R.A.K.).  During that time, he won the trophy dash six times including five consecutively.  The sixth was on August 16, 1970 and identical trophies were presented to Petty and his car owner, Orbin Mashaney, by trophy girl Marilyn Edwards who was a sister-in-law of co-race organizer Bob Lawrence.  After Mashaney passed away, and some 30 years after Petty had won his last trophy dash at Winfield, the Mashaney family decided to present the car owner trophy back to Bob Lawrence.  Petty was called on the make the presentation at a reunion for former auto racers in Wichita.  That trophy is still on display in Lawrence’s office.

 

Petty moved from George Hibbs’ modified to Lee Swenson’s super modified #95 in 1966 and stopped driving the Torson & Carroll sprint / super modified #6 in 1967.  He also moved from Mashaney’s 1957 Ford semi-late model #77 “White Lightning” to Larry Nulf’s red 1956 Ford semi-late model #77 in 1971.  The new team placed fourth in the season points at Salina Speedway that year, Nulf was named the “Mechanic of the Year” and Petty was presented the sportsmanship award as well.

 

Nulf, of Hutchinson, had joined the Mashaney Racing Team as a crewman c1970 and built a set of exhaust headers for the car.  That early relationship blossomed into Nulf building his own 1956 Ford semi-late model stock car #77 for Petty to drive.  The engine was a 289 cu.in. Ford that had been in Pat Haskard’s #86 super modified.

 

The car number 95 was not available at 81 Speedway in Wichita in 1971 so Vern Swenson changed the number on his car to 96.

 

Petty drove Nulf’s 1962 Ford Fairlane #77 in the Kansas State Semi-Late Model Stock Car races at the Kansas State Fair on September 21, 1972.  He finished first in the third heat race over Steve Lutkie of Wichita; second in the trophy dash behind J. D. Martin of Dodge City, Kansas; and led the first half of the 20-lap A feature race before throwing a right front wheel in the first turn and dropping out of the race.  Second place running Dick Hendershot, Sr. of Hutchinson assumed the lead and won that event.

 

On September 24, 1972, Petty drove Nulf’s Ford #77 at the Golden Belt Speedway at Great Bend, Kansas to win first place in the A feature over Don Kreie of Dodge City.  That finish also gave Petty the semi-late model track championship there for 1972 to go along with his runner up placing to Dick Hendershot, Sr. for the track championship at Salina Speedway.

 

By this time, Petty was the father of seven children so it seemed inevitable that his 17-year-old son, Jerry Petty, started racing at Salthawk Speedway and Golden Belt Speedway in 1973.  Then, another son, Joe Petty, started racing at Salina in 1976 and at Hutchinson in 1977.  Joe would go on to win 40 races and three track championships* during the twelve years he that drove in the 1970s and ‘80s.  Jacks son, Jeff Petty, also tried his hand at driving for a time.

 

1973 also saw the Nulf Racing Team switch to a new red and white 1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1 #77 late model stock car for Petty to race and he went on the win the track championship at Salthawk Speedway in Hutchinson that year.

 

Vern Swenson put a six-cylinder engine in his modified for 1973 and Petty raced it as a junior modified that year.  Since there was already a car #96 in the junior modified class, Swenson also changed the number on his car to 96x.

 

Vern Swenson installed a V-8 Chevrolet engine in his super modified #96x for the 1974 racing season.  Petty timed in the #96x in 23rd place in a field of 56 super modifieds at the 18th Annual National Modified Championship races in Hutchinson that July.  Both super modifieds and late model stock cars were on the card for the first time that year at the Hutchinson Nationals.  Petty also time trialed Larry Nulf’s 1973 Ford Mustang late model stock car and set the quickest time of the 53 cars entered in late model stock car time trials.  His time was 26.70 seconds which was a new one-lap track record for that class.  Petty won the third 10-lap late model heat race over Oren Haas that day but was involved in a skirmish with Steve Lutkie’s 1972 Chevy late model on the front straightaway on the first lap of the trophy dash.  Both cars were too heavily damaged to restart that race.  The car repaired, Petty started on the pole of the late model A feature and led the first 17 laps before being passed by Don Kreie while exiting the second turn onto the back straightaway.  Petty passed Kreie back for the lead one lap later and led for another four laps before Kreie took over the lead for good.  Petty completed the 30-lap race despite his left rear tire blowing out on the 23rd lap from contact between his car and that driven by Kreie.

 

The racetrack had been very dusty all day and there was talk of canceling the 50-lap championship race for super modifieds but the promoter promised to wet the racetrack down before the start of that race so Petty decided to take his place in the outside column, eight rows back in the 44-car field, as the cars lined up on the racetrack.  He again thought about not running the race when he saw that only the inside edge of the racetrack was being watered.  By then though, he noticed that his car was pinned in against the outside wall by the three cars that would start around him so he stayed put and started the race.  Visibility was nil when he came down the front straightaway to complete the first lap and then he crashed into a car stopped in front of him.  As other cars piled into the stopped cars, 15 in all, a fuel tank erupted and fire engulfed the pile of cars.  Petty was able to free himself but, as he climbed from his flaming car, another car joined the pile knocking him back into his car’s seat.  Petty felt that, if he didn’t make it out of the car on his next attempt to do so, he would not be able to get out of the car at all and would surely burn to death.  Then, with his fire suit ablaze, he managed to extract himself and stumble from the inferno.  He was one of three drivers critically burned that day as he received burns over 60% of his body.  40% of those were third degree burns and the doctors only gave him a 20% chance of surviving his injuries.  Vern Swenson’s #96x sedan was destroyed in the fire.  At Petty’s request, what was left of his hands was shaped so he would be able to grasp a steering wheel upon his return to driving race cars.  Although he was upgraded from critical to serious condition in September and then released from the University of Kansas Burn Center in Kansas City on August 31, 1974; there were still many more skin grafts and reconstructive surgeries to come.

 

A Petty Family Benefit night of racing was held at the Salina Speedway on August 11, 1974 and the near capacity crowd raised $3,700 for the Petty family that night.  Mel Potts of Salina drove the Nulf Ford Mustang #77 to second behind Shelby Steenson of Abilene, Kansas in the fourth heat and then to third in the A feature; a race that was won by Gary Holbert of Concordia, Kansas who was driving a #77x Chevrolet Camaro late model stock car.

 

At the time of the accident in Hutchinson, Petty was leading the late model stock car season point standings at both the Salina Speedway at Salina, Kansas and at the Golden Belt Speedway at Great Bend, Kansas.  Since the points were accumulated by the cars at those racetrack, rather than by the drivers, other drivers filled in to drive the Nulf Ford #77 at those racetracks preserving’s Petty’s lead in the points and, eventually, the track point championships at those two racetracks for Petty in 1974.

 

Petty tried driving again himself in 1975 but he could only make a few laps before the skin on his hands began to fall off.  On May 4, 1975, Dale Reed, driving Nulf’s 1973 Ford Mustang #77; won the second heat and the A feature at Salina Speedway.

 

Petty returned to the seat of Larry Nulf’s 1973 Ford Mustang late model stock car #77 at the first race of the new season in the early spring of 1976 at Enid, Oklahoma.  He didn’t win that day but at least he was back racing, and now, he had one of the first late models in the Midwest equipped with power steering.  The grandstand was packed that night and a large crowd gathered at Petty’s pit after the races to congratulate him on his return to racing.  Several times, fans told Petty that they had witnessed the horrific accident at Hutchinson in 1974 and swore that they would never watch another race BUT, if he was crazy enough to race again, they were crazy enough to come watch.

 

Petty raced Nulf’s late model Ford Mustang #77 at the 20th Annual National Modified Championship races at Hutchinson in the summer of 1976 as the late model stock cars were again on the card there with the super modifieds.  He turned in a time of 26.32 seconds in time trials which was second only to the 25.99 turned in by Steve Lutkie in the field of 61 cars.  It has not been recorded how Petty did in his heat race but he finished second to Steve Lutkie in the late model stock car trophy dash.  Petty started outside of the front row in the A feature but did not place in that race which was also won by Lutkie.  Petty returned to Hutchinson with Nulf’s late model stock car #77 to race in the 12th Annual Kansas State Late Model Stock Car races on September 26, 1976.  He won the third heat race over Larry McDaniel of Chanute, Kansas but did not place in any other races that day.

 

On August 16, 1977, Petty, in the Nulf Ford Mustang #77, was the sixth fastest qualifier in the 33-car field for the late model stock car races at the Belleville High Banks racetrack in Belleville, Kansas and won the trophy dash.  The following night, he started on the pole of the A feature race.  At about the halfway point in the race, he was leading and lapping slower cars when he bumped one of those slower cars.  Petty bounced across the racetrack and into the outside wall in the third turn.  Clayton Petersen of Grand Island, Nebraska inherited the lead after Petty’s mishap and held it to win the event.

 

Petty moved to Salina in 1977 and continued to drive Nulf’s Ford Mustang #77 another year.  Bothered by the fact that his reflexes were diminishing, Petty decided to retire from driving at the end of the summer of 1978 even though he was crowned the point champion at Golden Belt Speedway at Great Bend again that year.

 

During his racing career, Petty drove for several car owners including Clare L. “Rocky” Rockhold (1924-2007) of Arkansas City, Kansas; Neil Swander (1931-1989) of Salina, Kansas; Wesley Albert “Al” Torson (1924-2004), Johnnie T. “Buddy” Carroll (1929-2010), George Leonard Hibbs (1916-1975), and Cecil W. Hamilton (1916-1983), all of Wichita, Kansas; Orbin Thomas Mashaney (1922-1992) of Maize, Kansas; Larry Nulf of Hutchinson, Kansas; Leland “Lee” Swenson of Lindsborg, Kansas; LeVern “Vern” Swenson of Haysville, Kansas; Steve Dunsworth of Hutchinson, Kansas; Wesley Charles “Wes” Vandervoort (1926-1993) of Colorado Springs, Colorado; Jerry Bird and Roland “Roly” Bird, Jr., both of Salina, Kansas.

 

Petty formed Petty Racing Promotions in 1979 and became the new promoter at the Salina Speedway in April of that year.  He successfully promoted auto races there for two years before the track owner sold the racetrack.  He also promoted late model stock car races at the Belleville High Banks at Belleville, Kansas during the Republic County Fair in the late summer of 1980 and again in 1981.

 

Although Petty had been involved in auto racing for much of his life, he had never seen the Indianapolis “500” in person so he traveled to Indiana in May of 1981 to do just that.  He was not all that impressed with what he saw though so he never returned to watch it again.

 

After leaving the Boeing Company, Petty had worked as a Maytag appliance repairman for much of his life with some saying that his “loneliness” in that profession gave him plenty of time to race.  Now that he was residing in Salina though, he worked on heating and air conditioning units.  Petty went to work delivering motor vehicles for ElDorado National, a bus manufacturer based in Salina.  His next job was that of auctioneer for Vestal’s Auction Service of Salina.  Jack Petty also succeeded son Joe as president of the Salina Noon Optimist Club in 1989 and served in that capacity for a two-year term.

 

In 2000, Audie Karst Promotions announced that Petty would flag the races at the Osborne County Speedway at Osborne, Kansas and Petty served as Grand Marshall of the modified races marking the centennial auto races at the Belleville High Banks in Belleville, Kansas in July of 2010.

 

Petty’s grandson, Jeremy Petty (an A.R.C.A. and N.C.R.A. late model stock driver himself), purchased the old yellow #6 Torson & Carroll sprint car that Jack drove back in the 1960s and Jack has made several appearances with that car at antique auto racing events around the state.  He also keeps his hand in the sport by watching his grandchildren compete in racing, regularly participating in Kansas Antique Racers club events, attending other “old timer” events and racing reunions as far away as Texas.  Besides grandsons Jeremy, Jaime, and Royce, Jack Petty’s granddaughter, Crystal Petty (daughter of Jack’s son, Jeff) has been competing in the various Hornet classes of racing at 81 Speedway since 2008.  Jack also collects and restores antique Hudson automobiles including a 1952 Hudson Hornet Coupe which is a duplicate of the car that Tim Flock drove to the N.A.S.C.A.R. Grand National Championship in 1952.

 

Jack Petty was one of the charter members inducted into the 81 Speedway Hall of Fame in Park City, Kansas in 2000.  He was also inducted into the High Banks Hall of Fame in Belleville, Kansas in 2011 and both the Big Car Racing Association (B.C.R.A.) Hall of Fame in Lincoln, Nebraska and the Marble Wall of Fame at Winfield, Kansas, in 2013.

 

Jack Petty passed away on May 17, 2016 at Salina, Kansas and is buried in the Smolan Evangelical Lutheran Cemetery north of Smolan, Kansas.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I’ve never loved anything and I never will love anything as much as I like driving race cars.”

                                                                                                                               - - Jack Petty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jack Petty

Petty family collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Joe Petty won late model sportsman track point championships in cars owned by Jack Petty at Salina Speedway in 1982 and at Golden Belt Speedway at Great Bend in 1983 and 1984.

 

 

 

 

 

 

To View Jack Petty’s Known Racing Record – Part 1

1953 - 1967

To View Jack Petty’s Known Racing Record – Part 2

1968 - 1988

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank You to

Ruth Everhart, Jack Petty, Jim Petty and Dwane Wolf