Kyle Petty's Charity Ride stops in Raymond
RAYMOND — NASCAR fans turned out en masse Thursday to Apol's Harley-Davidson in Raymond to see Kyle Petty, a former NASCAR driver and sportscaster, on his 23rd annual Charity Ride Across America.
Petty, along with several other sports celebrities, rides motorcycles across the country to support his charity Victory Junction, a camp in North Carolina for children with disabilities and chronic diseases.
This year the entourage of 125 motorcycles and 250 people started in Portland, Oregon, and are driving to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and making stops along the way. Among the celebrity riders are Herschel Walker, Rick Allen, George Rogers and others.
Apol's Harley-Davidson owner Joe Apol, who has been selling Harley-Davidsons in Raymond for 45 years, said he was surprised at the turnout.
"We're just glad they stopped here, and given us the opportunity," Apol said. "I couldn't believe all the people into NASCAR."
Many of the hundreds of fans in Raymond donated to Petty's charity.
Petty created Victory Junction in honor of his son, NASCAR driver Adam Petty, who died in a racing accident in 2000.
"I've been motorcycle riding, and my oldest son Adam was killed in a racing accident, and so we started the Camp Victory Junction," Petty said.
Actor and race car driver Paul Newman was part of the inspiration behind the charity as well, Petty said.
"We had done some stuff, and when Adam's accident happened, we just decided we were already doing a motorcycle ride going to a children's hospital, and we figured we'd just build a camp and bring kids to camp," Petty said.
With Petty on Thursday was former Minnesota Vikings player and Heisman trophy winner Herschel Walker, who is a motorcycle and vintage car enthusiast. Walker collects motorcycles and vintage cars, and was happy to ride along.
For Walker, the reason to ride is the smile on the children's faces.
"When you've got a kid who has been with his parents 24/7 and he gets the chance to go to Victory Junction camp, and they drop him off at camp and they come back, and he has a smile on his face, that's special," Walker said.
The favorite part of the ride for both Petty and Walker is the people they meet along the way.
"The best part, no joke, obviously we get to ride, and we meet local people, but it's meeting local people," Petty said.
Walker was glad to be back in Minnesota, he said. He claimed that Minnesota is one of the best places he has lived. Walker also said that riding with the entourage has taught him a lot about the mechanics of riding a motorcycle.
"I've really learned to ride from some of these guys here," Walker said. "They've really taught me the proper way to ride."
The Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America has been fairly successful in the past 23 years. 7,950 riders have logged over 11 million cumulative miles and raised over $17.5 million for Victory Junction.
"A great man said, if you take something out of society, put something back in," Walker said. "You're not just riding a motorcycle, you're giving back."