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Richard Petty a fixture at the track, and that's not changing anytime soon

Richard Petty still attends races each week, including the season-opener in Daytona on Feb. 25, 2017. Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP Photo

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Richard Petty, surrounded by decades of Petty history at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, chuckles a little bit when asked if he would ever decide not to go to the race track, that his land in Wyoming would be a much more peaceful option to spend months during the year rather than the chaos of a NASCAR race weekend.

"Tell them I'm going to have a big announcement at Daytona," said Petty, who will turn 80 on July 2, a day after the summer race at Daytona. "[I'm announcing] that's it. Don't call me. Don't look for me. I ain't making no appearances. I ain't going nowhere."

Petty thinks for a moment.

"That would go over like a lead balloon," Petty said.

With an ownership piece of Richard Petty Motorsports and lifelong tie to the sport through his father and his own incredible accomplishments, the member of NASCAR's inaugural Hall of Fame class has no idea of what life would look like not going to the race track.

His last Cup race as a driver came in 1992, capping a career that started on the national level in 1958 and included a record 200 victories and seven championships. Beyond some of his own health issues and also tending to his wife, Lynda, who died in 2014, Petty has been a constant figure at race tracks.

"I retired from driving -- I did that for that many years and I don't want to start a new life," Petty said. "I've been going to the races for 68 years, since 1949.

"I don't know that I wouldn't cut back on going to all the races, but I still am interested enough to be nosy enough to see what's going on, who is doing what."

That's not just a media line he gave as he sat at the new NASCAR Hall of Fame display that chronicles his family's role in the sport.

AJ Allmendinger, who drove for Petty from 2009-11, said he once asked Petty why he comes to the track.

"He said, 'What else have I ever done in my life? I mean this is all I've ever done since I was born is come to a race track?'" Allmendinger said. "He was like, 'I have nothing else to do.'

"I never considered doing anything except what I was doing. I grew up in it. ... If I grew up a farmer's son, I probably would have been a farmer. If we ran a grocery store, I probably would have been involved in that."

Richard Petty, NASCAR Hall of Fame member on racing

"It was kind of eerie the way he said it, but he was like, 'If I don't come here, what do I do? Just sit at home and pass away?' This is the way that he stays alive and I appreciated that, and I didn't really think about it until he said it the way he said it."

Petty also feels responsibility. His name still graces a race team, although he doesn't have the majority ownership. He remains the face, though, of Richard Petty Motorsports and when a sponsor calls, it often wants Petty to be part of the program.

"If you own a team and you're not interested in seeing what's happening, that can't be good morale for the team," Petty said. "I go because I want to go, too. I enjoy being around, watching all the stuff. I go in there and try to give them -- they don't listen to what I want them to do -- but at least [I am] able to give them support: We can do this, y'all can do it, just keep working at it.

"It's a confidence-builder, I hope, for them to know that I don't only help pay the bills, but I'm also interested in what comes out in the end."

At some point his health might require Petty to stay at home. But he said physically, he feels good and doesn't feel any different than 30 years ago. He might take some Goody's for the occasional headache, but he is on no medications.

"I've got really good DNA I guess as far as healing up," said Petty, who has had several broken bones and operations in his life. "[They] have had to take my stomach out. They took my gall bladder.

"I had what kind of cancer? Prostate? They took all that out. Ain't that much left. I'm doing good. I wander around and don't think of age. I just do what's normal. If I run around with you, I'm your age."

His son Kyle said his father does keep up with the younger crowd in the family activities.

"When we go out to Wyoming at Christmas and we go snowmobiling, he goes snowmobiling," Kyle Petty said.

Growing up in the small town of Level Cross, North Carolina, Richard Petty describes his family's role in the farming community -- "We just happened to farm a race car" --- and Kyle Petty said it wasn't unusual for the farmers whose vehicles needed some welding to stop by the shop for a complimentary weld.

"I never considered doing anything except what I was doing," Richard Petty said. "I grew up in it. ... If I grew up a farmer's son, I probably would have been a farmer. If we ran a grocery store, I probably would have been involved in that."

Often alongside Petty at the track is his cousin and former crew chief fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer, Dale Inman. They are a walking and talking history of the sport.

"I think everybody in the garage, whether you've worked for him before or you have never worked for him, just seeing 'The King' walk through the garage every weekend is pretty special for the sport and we appreciate it," Allmendinger said.

The King plans many more of those walks.

"Mentally, I couldn't [leave]," he said. "I'm a strong believer in mind over matter. You do what your mind tells you to do, whether your body wants to do it or whatever. That's what kept me going."