As her devastated parents, stunned stock car racers and more than 1,000 other mourners looked on Monday, 14-year-old Montgomery Lee Petty bade a final farewell to her brother Adam.
"We not only lost a fourth-generation driver, we lost a great friend, and my brother," she said tearfully. "It's not the same without Adam here. Things will never be the same."
Adam Petty, 19, the rising star in NASCAR's most famous family, was killed Friday when his Chevrolet crashed into the wall during practice for the Busch 200 at New Hampshire International Speedway.
His death came less than six weeks after he made his Winston Cup debut and followed the death of his great-grandfather, NASCAR pioneer Lee Petty, who April 5 at age 86 of complications from a stomach aneurysm.
On Monday, Adam's parents, Kyle and Patti, and paternal grandparents, Richard and Lynda, sat stoically as the family's pastor, Douglas Carty, recounted memories of Adam's short life his baptism, his 16th birthday, his sense of humor and his determination to continue the family legacy of championship stock-car racing.
"'From the time he was a little kid, I can remember that all he wanted to do was race,"' Carty quoted Adam's 18-year-old brother, Austin, as saying. "He wanted to grow up and be a race car driver just like my daddy."
Also in the audience was Ernie Irvan, who barely escaped death in a 1994 crash at Michigan Speedway and retired last year upon the advice of doctors.
Kyle and Patti Petty held hands and sobbed quietly, their eyes hidden by sunglasses, as they led family members into the university gymnasium.
Adam's crew members wore dark polo shirts with his car number, 45, embroidered on the sleeves.
Montgomery Lee was the only familmember to speak, her words difficult to discern at times as they flowed together with her tears.
"Everyone loved Adam, and he will always be with us, no matter what," she said haltingly, vowing that her first child would bear her brother's name.
As his grief-stricken granddaughter walked off the stage, Richard Petty rose to escort her back to her seat.
A duet sang several songs, including "I've Been on a Mountain With Jesus," and one of Adam's favorites, "When All Is Said and Done," during which Lynda Petty broke down and sobbed.
Carty, who quoted from the apostle Paul and the Book of Revelation, told mourners they could be comforted by the fact that even though Adam was absent from them, he was with the Lord.
"Adam is in the presence of God, think about that," he said.
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