Cover story for Professional Sport Wives Magazine, by Bess Auer.
“Sacrifice,” states Rebecca Petty Moffit of the most important lesson her mother taught her. “I grew up watching my mother sacrifice for the sport.” Daughter of legendary driver Richard Petty and wife of Brian Moffit, Vice President of Marketing for Petty Enterprises, Rebecca grew up in NASCAR. “Thirty-six weeks a year, somebody in my family is traveling. I have an advantage, though,” she says. “After watching my grandmother and mother both handle NASCAR, I knew what I was getting into. It is all I’ve ever known. It is different for women who marry into the sport and then suddenly find themselves at home alone for most of the time.”
Like her grandmother and mother, Rebecca now sends her husband off each week, usually on Wednesday, not seeing him home until the following Monday. Sometimes she travels with him; other times she stays home with her children. “It’s a tough choice, especially with three young children.”
Rebecca says she sometimes takes her children on the road, but she picks her destinations carefully. “There’s a race in Texas over the kids’ spring break, so we’ll go there. And, I’m planning to take them to San Francisco, where we can see a lot of educational things, like the Sequoia forest.”
Middle child Thaddeus, age 6, is into the regular boy sports, like football and baseball, but recently discovered a bit of racing as well. He placed second at the local soap box derby. Did Thaddeus have an unfair advantage? Rebecca laughs no. However, her husband confides with a wink that the Petty crew chiefs were hard at work. Thaddeus is a Petty, after all!
Rebecca has plenty of help at home from the large Petty family, as well as the Moffitt side. Brian was her high school sweetheart, and both families live close. “My parents live in the same area where my dad was raised, and all the land around is owned by cousins, so we have plenty of relatives close by to watch the children when I travel with Brian.” In addition to family, Rebecca relies on an occasional cleaning service, but most valuable of all, she says, is the lady who does laundry and ironing once a week. Cleaning up after the children, however, is a nonstop job which she proudly does herself. “My children are my main focus right now.”
Whether traveling or at home, Rebecca relies on her strong faith. She is an ardent supporter of the Motor Racing Outreach program (MRO), which provides trackside church services. “It’s nice for drivers, mechanics, or anyone on the teams to be able to attend when they are on the road.” A church-on-wheels, MRO comes by Petty Enterprises once a month, where along with a potluck lunch provided by the Pettys themselves, the whole race shop gets to renew their faith. Rebecca states, “My sister Sharon was even married by one of the MRO preachers. They play a great role in our lives.”
Rebecca is also active in NASCAR’s Women Auxiliary Motorsports (WAM). This organization acts as a support group for the women involved with the sport, including the owners, drivers, and mechanic’s wives. “If a mechanic gets hurt, WAM can provide financial assistance and other support, because the whole family is affected, not just the mechanic.”
The entire Petty organization also supports the Victory Junction Gang, started in memory of Adam Petty, Rebecca’s nephew who was killed in 2000 when his racecar hit a wall during testing. This camp enriches the lives of children with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses by providing life-changing camping experiences that are exciting and fun. “We saw Boggy Creek, which is a similar camp in Florida, and Adam thought it was such a neat idea. It seemed the perfect way to honor him.”
Safety is an issue in all sports, especially NASCAR, but Rebecca says having grown up with racing, she takes it in stride. “I’ve never known anything else,” she points out. “And, NASCAR has come such a long way with safety and is always looking for the latest technology to keep the drivers safe, that I really don’t think about it with my brother Kyle.” Kyle currently drives the #45 Marathon Dodge on the Nextel Cup circuit.
It has been said that NASCAR was built by the Petty family, starting with legendary racer and family patriarch Lee Petty, whose wife Elizabeth set the first example of women sacrificing for the motor sport. “NASCAR is considered a boys’ sport, but women have always played a valuable role. My grandmother kept the books and made all the travel arrangements, so my dad and his friends could tinker with the car.” Elizabeth also invented the window net. “My father’s arm kept coming out when he’d crash, and so she just sewed some netting on the window.” Drivers today still use the window net for safety.
For nearly 60 years, the entire Petty family has been a testament to the value of wives supporting their husbands in professional sports. Rebecca certainly has continued that tradition today