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Featured DVD Review: Petty Blue

September 19th, 2010

Petty Blue - Buy from Amazon

Petty Blue is a TV documentary about the rise and fall of arguably the greatest legacy in NASCAR history. I only say arguably, because it might be hard to debate dominance across different eras of the sport. While the Petty family was at its peak, there was clearly no one else that came close. This film talks about the rise, and the fall, of Petty Enterprises. However, will the movie entice fans of the sport? Will it be able to intrigue those who are not fans of the sport, people like me?

The Show

The documentary begins at the very beginning of the Petty racing legacy, which like so many at the time had its origins in moonshine. However, unlike many other moonshine runners turned racers, Lee Petty, the patriarch of the Petty clan, was a family man. As one of his contemporaries but it, he didn't get into fights, he didn't drink he didn't chase... skirts. I think that's a good euphemism, as well as a good synecdoche. Lee Petty would win more than 50 races on his way to 3 Grand National titles, but an injury sustained in a crash in 1961 ended his career.

At that point, the baton was passed to his son, Richard, who at the age of 23 was needed to carry on the Petty name. Lee Petty was the first super star of the sport, but it was Richard that rewrote the record book eventually earning seven national championships, which still ties him for the record. However, while Petty Enterprises was still a dominate force in the sport, they were no longer the dominate force to deal with. Richard's son, Kyle, got into racing and they decided to have two full-time drivers. Without enough time and resources to support both, the team suffered and wins became harder and harder to come by. There was one last glory day, July 4, 1984, when Richard Petty would win his 200th race, which is still nearly twice as many as the second place racer, David Pearson. Eight years after his 200th, and his last win, Richard retired.

Petty Enterprises was already in decline at that point, and while Kyle Petty had a respectable career, he was overshadowed by his father's career and arguably never given the respect he deserved. Then in 1999 Adam Petty, Kyle's son, Richard's grandson, and Lee's great-grandson, became the first fourth generation racer in motorsport history. He has a natural talent for the sport and the desire to be just as dominate a driver as his grandfather was. But as the documentary looks at the end of the Petty family legacy, you know it just wasn't to be.

Documentaries like Petty Blue have a fine line to walk when it comes to balancing information that will intrigue neophytes, as well as hardcore fans. This movie does an excellent job of that by focusing on the more human side of things. We hear from Richard Petty's wife and daughters talking about the family almost as much as we hear from people talking about racing. There is also an important balancing act between being a documentary for the fans, and being a haliography. The Petty family were not exactly saints. Granted, Lee Petty was a family man and that helped the sport become mainstream, but he was also a bit of a dirty driver and wasn't afraid to bump a competitor out of the race. Also, when it looked like his son earned his first win, he challenged the outcome and took it away. It was a bit of a dysfunctional family.

If you are a big fan of the sport, or of documentaries in general, then Petty Blue is worth checking out. Whether or not it is worth buying or just worth renting depends on how big of a fan you are, but the extras help.

The Extras

Extras are mostly deleted scenes / bonus interviews, some of which are audio only. You hear more about racing, how they came up with that trademark color, his rivalries, etc. I'm surprised some of these didn't make it into the final cut. The film itself is about 90 minutes long, not counting credits, while there are more than 70 minutes here, which is impressive.

There are other extras like a music video, an ad for The Richard Petty Driving Experience, and an extended ad for Hunt Brothers Pizza.

The Verdict

For fans of Richard Petty, Petty Blue is a must have. For fans of NASCAR in general, it is worth picking up. For fans of sports documentaries, it is at least worth checking out.

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