Richard, Kyle cheer up paralyzed vets

RICHMOND, Va. - The smiles on the faces of the veterans in wheelchairs were unmistakably broad Thursday as they posed for pictures with NASCAR icon Richard Petty.

But the smiles coming from 'The King' and son Kyle Petty were just as wide as the two leaders of Petty Enterprises paid a visit to McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

'It's funny how every story you hear always ends on a high note,' Kyle Petty said as he signed autographs and posed for pictures with giddy patients, doctors, nurses and physical therapists. 'They're always overcoming something - 'I made it over that mountain.'

'It's not the type of story where you look at a guy and you feel sorry for him ... because they don't feel sorry for themselves, and they don't want you to feel sorry for them.'

The stories, he said, invariably are motivational.

Richard Petty, a seven-time champion in NASCAR's premier series and still probably the most famous face in stock car racing, has made several visits to the hospital in suburban Richmond, and the team announced last November that Paralyzed Veterans of America will serve as the primary sponsor for Kyle Petty's No. 45 Dodge for two Sprint Cup races this season.

The first comes Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway.

Randy Pleva, the national president of the organization, said, 'For them to take their time out to come out and visit with the guys here and the women, it's fantastic.'