By Ryan Lengerich
TEXICO — NASCAR driver Kyle Petty is accustomed to being approached by adoring fans out for an autograph.
Tuesday morning, the tables were turned.
Clovis residents Lexie Meyers, husband Kevin and six-year-old son Lance made a short trip to a gas station in Texico. There, Petty, two other NASCAR drivers and about 200 motorcycle riders made a short pit stop during a cross-country charity ride.
Lance’s Honda XR50R mini dirtbike and a sign were all he needed to score a Petty autograph.
“We got off work, hauled his motorcycle over there and we’ve got a sign over there that says, ‘I’m following NASCAR to Victory Junction,’” Meyers said. “We held it up and Mr. Petty got off his bike and went straight to him.”
The stop at Town and County gas station was part of the 10th-annual “Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America,” a motorcycle trip to benefit the Victory Junction Gang Camp in North Carolina.
Petty founded the camp for children with chronic or life-threatening illness in memory of his son Adam, who died in a racing accident in May 2000.
The ride began Saturday in Palm Desert, Calif., and will finish in Randleman, N.C., this Saturday. The riders stayed overnight Monday in Roswell. Tuesday’s stop in Texico was part of the journey’s leg from Roswell to Oklahoma City.
NASCAR drivers Steve Park and Jeff Green were also along for the ride. Organizers said about 200 riders participate at a cost around $10,000 per rider. The event has raised more than $4 million since its inception in 1995.
Don Knobler is participating for the second year and rides from his home in Dallas to California only to travel back across country. Last year, he met Bob Felts, a native of Ivor, Va., and the two became friends.
“I met him last year we just fell in love with each other, I mean the camaraderie,” Felts said. “It’s all for the cause, think about the cause.”
Rebecca Blacklock, a NASCAR fan for six years, came from Lubbock to meet the drivers. She waited more than an hour for the brigade to arrive and landed all three drivers’ autographs on her racing jacket.
Petty said fan turnout has been strong and the ride safe. He is encouraged to see racing fans in the southwest where there has not been as much following in the past.
“There is NASCAR everywhere now,” Petty said. “It used to be not that way but now it is.”
Park, who has two Winston Cup victories in his career, said he is not surprised by the NASCAR support in this region because of the sport’s growth, and noted the ride helps him meet those fans.
“This is what it is all about to travel cross-country on a motorcycle and meet all the great race fans and raise money,” he said. “We were in Roswell and there were a ton of race fans.”