On May 12, 2000, Petty was practicing for the Busch series Busch 200 race at the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. While entering turn three, Petty’s throttle stuck wide open, causing the car to hit the outside wall virtually head on. Petty was killed instantly due to a basilar skull fracture.
Petty’s death, along with 1998 Winston Cup Rookie of the Year Kenny Irwin, Jr.‘s in the same corner at the same track eight weeks later, led NASCAR to mandate the use of a kill switch on the steering wheel and the adoption of the Whelen Modified Tour restrictor plate for the September Cup race; the plate was abandoned after that race. These two adjustments addressed the cause of the deadly accidents, but did not address the basilar skull fractures suffered by both drivers. The HANS or Hutchens devices, designed to prevent the rapid-deceleration head-and-neck movements associated with the injury that Petty and Irwin Jr. suffered, was not mandated by NASCAR until 2001, after the similar injuries and deaths of Tony Roper, Dale Earnhardt and ARCA driver Blaise Alexander.
Kyle Petty, Adam’s father, who drove the #44 car at the time of the crash, drove Adam’s #45 car in the Busch Series for the remainder of 2000. He then used the #45 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series throughout the rest of his driving career.
- July, 10, 1980
- Trenton, New Jersey
- May, 12, 2000
- Loudon, New Hampshire
Cause of Death
- Basilar skull fracture from crash in Turn 3 of practice for the 2000 Busch 200
- Cremated, Ashes given to family or friend