TALLADEGA, Ala. – There are names in racing that are instantly recognizable. Petty. Andretti. Foyt. Senna.
Those are the names that transcend the sport and have permeated popular culture worldwide. From success on the track to references in movies, television, and music, those names could be mentioned virtually anywhere on the globe and someone would recognize them.
Mario Andretti has long since been retired – his last laps in an Indy car coming in 1993. His son, Michael Andretti, retired in 2006. But there still is an Andretti racing actively in Indy car as Mario’s grandson Marco drives for Michael’s powerhouse organization.
Ayrton Senna, the three-time world champion, perished in 1994. But his nephew Bruno followed in his footsteps, racing in Formula One briefly before settling into a role in Formula E and the World Endurance Championship.
A.J. Foyt, the first four-time Indianapolis 500 winner, is still active in Indy car as a team owner. His son Larry is also a former ARCA and NASCAR driver, and is now in charge of A.J. Foyt Racing’s day-to-day operations.
And of course, there is Richard Petty. He has 200 NASCAR Cup Series wins. Seven Cup championships, and the son of another champion, Lee Petty. Brother to legendary engine builder Maurice Petty. Cousin to Dale Inman, the winningest crew chief in NASCAR history. Father of Kyle, an eight-time Cup Series winner. And grandfather to Adam Petty, who lost his life before he could make his mark in the racing world.
Adam’s death in 2000 left a void in the racing world. He was, by all accounts, a wonderful young man with a great sense of humor, empathy for his fellow man, and an infectious smile. He was also very talented and was seen by many as the future of the Petty racing dynasty. Like his father Kyle before him, Adam was an ARCA winner in his first career start, at Charlotte. Despite Richard and Kyle staying actively involved in the sport, Adam’s loss seemed to be the end of the road for Petty fans.
Four months after Adam’s tragic accident, another Petty was born. He would grow up with that same infectious smile and the Petty personality that drew so many fans to his great grandfather, grandfather, uncle, and cousin.
“I may not have the last name Petty, but I’m as Petty as they come,” Thad Moffitt said.
The one thing he didn’t share was the Petty last name. Moffitt, son of Rebecca Petty Moffitt and her husband Brian, is the second fourth-generation Petty to ascend through the ranks of stock car racing. Now in his third partial season in the ARCA Menards Series, Moffitt qualified second fasted and started second in the season opener at the Daytona Int’l Speedway before a punctured tire sent him into the wall and ended his day.
Moffitt had speed at Daytona. He ran up front throughout the early stages of the race before an unscheduled pit stop for a loose window net cost him a lap. He had raced his way back onto the lead lap and was ready to work back into the top-10 when disaster struck.
After concentrating on the short tracks in 2018, Moffitt and the Empire Racing team will concentrate on the superspeedway races in 2019. The General Tire 200 at the Talladega Superspeedway will be his second start of the season, and with the track’s similarities to Daytona he’s looking for another strong performance.
“I am really excited about the opportunity to race at the Talladega Superspeedway for the first time,” the 18-year old said. “After the speed our Empire Racing team showed at the Daytona International Speedway in February, I feel we have a good shot at a top-five finish in the in General Tire 200. As a team, we have been working hard to prepare for this race, and to try and get some redemption. I have high expectations to perform at a very high level, and we hope to have a strong showing with no mistakes.”
While me may not share the Petty name, his racing exploits are conducted under the watchful eye of his grandfather. His father Brian, CEO of Richard Petty Motorsports, is there as well to offer advice as needed.
“Continuing the Petty legacy is a really cool, but tall order to a part of. I am proud to honor the heritage, and create my own name to be added to the family history,” Moffitt said.