A familiar face was back in the NASCAR garage Friday, as Richard Petty has returned following a month's absence brought on by the death of his wife.
"I am back in the saddle again," Petty said at Richmond International Raceway. "I'm just learning to live all over again."
Lynda Petty, 72, died March 25 following a long battle with cancer. She and Richard were married in 1958 and her passing prompted the seven-time NASCAR champion to miss races at Martinsville, Texas and Darlington, a rarity for a man who cherishes his time at the track.
"I am surviving," Petty said. "It is going to be different. After 55 years I have to start all over again."
Petty spent the Easter holiday with his four children and 12 grandchildren. He fondly recalled his wife's kindness and ability to make friends.
"It is great that so many people knew Lynda so well," Petty said. "She never met a stranger. Every once in a while I would come in the house and see people I didn't even know. She would invite them in the house to spend the night or whatever. It's just going to be different."
The co-owner of Richard Petty Motorsports, which fields cars for Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose, Petty returned to work this past week. He made sponsor appearances in Georgia, Tennessee and Wyoming before arriving at the Virginia short track.
Even in his absence, though, Petty was kept abreast of the happenings within RPM.
"(The team) kept me informed," Petty said. "They called every day about what was going on and I watched some of it on TV. It was still not the same as being there though."