LEGENDARY NASCAR champ KYLE PETTY and his wife PATTIE are living apart, and in an EXCLUSIVE ENQUIRER interview, Pattie revealed that the tragic death of their son was just one of the heartbreaks that led to their split after 33 years of marriage.
In May of 2000, 19-year-old Adam Petty smashed into a wall while practicing for the Busch 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series at the New Hampshire International Speedway. He died on impact.
“Losing Adam was our family’s worst nightmare, especially for Kyle,” Pattie says. “It changed Kyle and changed our family dynamic in ways most people can never imagine.”
Pattie, who has two other adult children with the racing legend, confirmed that she and Kyle are “currently living separate lives.”
“I’m in Nashville and he’s living in North Carolina, but we’re still married and have no plans to divorce,” she insists.
She said that rumors in the racing world of Kyle’s cheating had nothing to do with their breakup. Although Pattie, 61, did admit that she wouldn’t be surprised if they were true, she added: “I don’t have any direct knowledge that Kyle has ever cheated, and another woman is certainly not the cause of our split now.
“Kyle is a very confused and personally conflicted man who’s been suffering for a long time with a series of unfortunate setbacks that were out of his control.”
In addition to Adam’s death, Kyle was dismissed from Petty Enterprises, which his father, driving legend Richard Petty, had founded. Pattie was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and later she was ousted from the nonprofit children’s camp she had co-founded in Adam’s honor.
Earlier this year, the board of directors of Victory Junction Gang Camp, a nearly 100- acre retreat for terminally and chronically ill children, in Randleman, N.C., fired Pattie as CEO. Kyle serves as the board’s director.
“I learned later that the general consensus among board members was the Parkinson’s disease had affected my decision-making abilities, and that I had completely lost all my wits, which couldn’t be further from the truth,” Pattie explains.
“I could have fought their decision, but I didn’t because it was evident that they’d lost faith in me and what I had to offer the organization.
“I don’t believe Kyle had anything at all to do with their decision to fire me, but at the same time, he wasn’t in a position to protect me from that.”
Pattie says her reason for stepping down quietly was the same reason Kyle walked away without a fight from Petty Enterprises after he was fired from his driver position of the No. 45 car after a company merger in 2008.
“They lost faith in his ability to do the job on the track, so Kyle left without a fight,” Pattie says. “He was let go without pay and basically stripped of the one thing outside of his family that he loved and cherished the most – racing.
“It was devastating for Kyle to have something so important taken away from him, and I think it was particularly embarrassing that it happened on a team that his father owned.
“He was essentially fired by his father without pay, and that triggered a series of financial setbacks that we’re still feeling today.
“I think he feels a sense of helplessness because he wasn’t able to come to my rescue when I was fired from Victory Junction, and I believe he’s having a very difficult time seeing me struggle with Parkinson’s.
“My disease is very advanced and presents a fair share of challenges, but I am optimistic about the future and grateful to be doing as well as I am.”
While there is no cure for Parkinson’s, Pattie says she manages with medications.
Kyle and Pattie married on Feb. 4, 1979, just four days before he kicked off his NASCAR career with a win at the Daytona International Speedway. He went on to win more than $32 million during his 30-year racing career. Now 52, Kyle is currently a featured analyst on TNT’s live NASCAR coverage and hosts a variety of programs for the Speed Channel as well as a weekly radio show.
“I don’t judge Kyle for any of the decisions he’s made,” said Pattie. “He’s a good man with a great heart, always with selfless intentions, and I love him with all of my heart regardless of what happens.”