CONCORD, N.C. -- Still mourning the death of his son, Kyle Petty said Tuesday he will honor him by permanently taking over Adam's race car -- a move that signifies a major restructuring at Petty Enterprises.
Petty, 40, has been driving Adam's car on the Busch Grand National series since the 19-year-old was killed in a May crash in practice at New Hampshire International Speedway. He will remain in the No. 45 car for the rest of the year, and stay in it next year when they move the car up to Winston Cup.
''I couldn't see putting someone whose last name wasn't Petty back into the car,'' Petty said. ''It's a healing process. Emotionally for me it's been a pretty big boost being in that car.
''We didn't change one thing on that car -- not the seats, not the steering wheel. When I sit in the car, I'm sitting in the same seat (Adam) sat in, holding the same wheel, and I feel close to him.''
Petty will only drive his No. 44 Winston Cup car until September, then focus solely on the rest of the Busch season. Steve Grissom, who drives on the Craftsman Truck series for Petty Enterprises, will take over Petty's Winston Cup car starting Sept. 3 in Darlington, S.C.
''I felt like it was important to get into the 45 and continue something we had worked hard to begin and Adam had begun,'' Petty said. ''And I have to admit I get more enjoyment driving the 45 car than running Winston Cup.''
Adam Petty, the fourth generation of his family to race, was considered the future of Petty Enterprises before his death. The family had planned on moving him up to Winston Cup next season as the third car in the stable, joining his father and John Andretti, who drives the No. 43 car, a number made famous by Kyle's father, Richard.
Now the team will search for a full-time driver for Kyle Petty's car. Petty wasn't sure if Grissom, a former Winston Cup driver, would permanently take over his car in 2001 or remain with the truck team.
''Right now he is a truck driver and a car driver,'' Petty said. ''Right now that's all I know.''
Petty's decision to step out of his car means Hot Wheels, his longtime primary sponsor, will give up that role starting in 2001. Hot Wheels will instead be an associate sponsor on all three of Petty Enterprises' cars.
Petty said the search for a new primary sponsor for the No. 44 cars would begin immediately, but admitted any deal could hinge on who will be driving that car next season.
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