For the fourth consecutive year, Triumph will have a strong presence on the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America. Al Pearce, the long-time NASCAR writer for AutoWeek magazine and a 17-year veteran of the event, will be along for the ride on a 2012 Thunderbird, providing updates daily. Check us out on Facebook for the latest from Al and this worthwhile event.
It began as something of a lark, an impulsive change from the usual plane ride from North Carolina to Arizona for a NASCAR race. Kyle Petty, a fairly successful Sprint Cup driver at the time, asked some motorcycle-riding pals to join him on a mad dash from Charlotte to Phoenix in October of 1994. He recruited his crew chief, Robin Pemberton, fellow driver Harry Gant, motorcycle dealers Don Tilley and the late Click Baldwin, and several other pals for the cross-country ride.
Needless to say, nobody had any idea what was to come from that first ride.
“Along the way, we had bikers recognize us and ask if they could ride along for a while,” Petty said. “People would hook up and ride along for a while, then peel off and go their own way. The next gas or meal or overnight stop, we’d get a handful of other bikers who wanted to ride. Somewhere during that ride I began to realize how cool it was that people wanted to ride motorcycles with a bunch of NASCAR people.”
Weeks later, Petty and his wife, Pattie, agreed that a well-planned, well-organized, cross-country ride would be a good way for the NASCAR Wives Auxiliary to raise money for their charitable activities. So it was in the spring of 1995 that Petty unveiled his inaugural Charity Ride Across America.
The first one left from Santa Clara, Cal., on May 8 and reached Charlotte, N.C., eight days later. The small group – no more than 35 that first year – stopped along the way to present checks to several children’s hospitals. Riders paid an entry fee for eight days and nights of riding, meals, fuel and lodging. Everything after expenses went to charity.
In 2003, the Charity Ride began focusing its fund-raising on the Victory Junction Gang Camp in Randleman, N.C., in honor of Kyle’s son Adam Petty. The 65-acre facility serves children with physical limitations or terminal illnesses that disqualify them from mainstream camps. Adam had already started planning VJGC when he died in a single-car accident at New Hampshire International Speedway in May of 2000.
To date, the camp and its staff of volunteer doctors, nurses and therapists have served without charge more than 14,000 ailing children from all 50 states and four foreign counties. All told, the Charity Ride has donated more than $14.5 million to the camp and other children’s charities. Since the first Charity Ride in 1995, approximately 7,000 motorcyclists have logged more than 10.1 million miles and touched all but three of the lower 48 states.
This year’s seven-day trip begins April 28 in Napa, Cal., then heads northward, up and around the Sierra Mountains. It will cover Nevada, slip down through Utah and Colorado, then cross New Mexico and most of Texas. It ends on May 5 at Texas Motor Speedway near Fort Worth, about 2,400 miles from its starting point.
For more information, or to make a donation, please visit kylepettycharityride.com.
For daily updates, please visit our Facebook page.