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Petty to play at Willow Tree on Thursday

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Apr 18, 2018 at 9:05 PM

Kyle Petty is best known in the Tri-Cities for driving his race car at Bristol. On Thursday night, he will be strumming his guitar in downtown Johnson City.

Now an analyst for NBC Sports, Petty made 829 NASCAR Cup Series starts over his career which rank him fifth on the all-time list. Fifty of those starts came at Bristol Motor Speedway, where his best finish was third behind Rusty Wallace and Dale Earnhardt at the 1993 Food City 500.

Petty returns to the Tri-Cities to play alongside David Childers at The Willow Tree Coffeehouse and Music Room, located at 216 East Main Street in downtown Johnson City, for a show from 8-10 p.m.

The retired driver has played music for decades, recounting the story of how his first guitar was a gift from a traveling preacher at the race track.

Petty had a RCA recording contract in the 1980s and made appearances on the old Nashville Network and Hee Haw. He has influences from classic country singers like Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash and pop artists like James Taylor and Gordon Lightfoot.

Petty is best known for his performance of the song "Oh, King Richard," originally a Rodney Crowell song which paid tribute to Petty's father, seven-time NASCAR champion Richard Petty. It was accompanied by a music video which featured his father and racing clips of the famous No. 43 car.

Ironically for a chunk of Kyle Petty's career, he drove the No. 42, the same number which country music star Marty Robbins sported during his forays on the NASCAR circuit.

Petty, who had eight wins on NASCAR's premier circuit, was a third-generation star as the son of Richard Petty and the grandson of Lee Petty, NASCAR's first three-time champion. Petty's son, Adam, was a fourth-generation racer before getting killed in a crash at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2000, which led to Kyle Petty racing the No. 45 for the rest of his career.

Also known for his charity work, Petty has an annual cross-country motorcycle ride to raise money for the Victory Junction Gang Camp in North Carolina. The camp, which was founded in memory of Adam Petty, allows chronically ill children to enjoy experiences and adventures of camp life. It has enjoyed a partnership with Niswonger Children's Hospital in Johnson City.

Musically, Petty has performed at different venues throughout the Southeast in recent years and even performed with the Salisbury (N.C.) Symphony Orchestra last June.

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