Editor’s Note: ‘The Rapsheet’ is a new feature on Speed51.com, telling the background of certain personalities within the sport of short track racing. This will be a recurring feature on Speed51.com, giving fans the dirt on the new, the old, and even the forgotten personalities of short track racing.)
Thad Moffitt is just like your everyday 15-year-old kid from Trinity, North Carolina. He goes to school, he plays sports, and like many Tar Heel State teenagers, Moffitt is a race car driver. Like many race car drivers, Moffitt comes from a long line of racers. But Moffitt’s family isn’t a run-of-the-mill racing family. They’re the Petty’s.
“We call him Pee-paw Petty all the time,” Moffitt told Speed51.com powered by JEGS.
Pee-paw Petty has another moniker that anybody who calls themselves a race fan should know, “The King.”
Moffitt’s grandfather is Richard Petty. Lee Petty was his great-grandfather. The late Adam Petty was his cousin. Kyle Petty is his uncle. Two NASCAR Hall of Famers. Two NASCAR race winners. Now it’s Moffitt’s turn to make a name for himself.
The young driver’s racing career got started just five years ago when he was 10 years old. He ran quarter-midgets for a couple of month before taking a break for family reasons. When he came back to racing a year ago he hopped into go-karts on dirt. Now Moffitt is wheeling a Limited Late Model around pavement short tracks in the Carolinas.
“It’s really a big transition,” Moffitt said. “The go karts we raced were open-wheeled. So it’s really a big, big difference from a Stock Car to a little dirt go kart. It helps me with the feel. Limiteds race on old tires. We do the lottery tires and you never know how many laps your tires have on them. So it’s almost like racing on dirt at times. But from driving on dirt I know how to correct it when I do get loose.”
So far Moffitt’s foray into Limited Late Model’s has seen mixed results, but he has shown consistent improvement with each race. This past Friday night at South Carolina’s Anderson Motor Speedway was a perfect example of that as Moffitt qualified third and finished sixth in the Daytona1 Challenger 50 feature for the Southeast Limited Late Model Series.
“We went to Anderson Thursday and couldn’t get the car to turn at all,” he said. “Came back on Friday and we were fastest in practice and qualified third out of the eight cars that were there. We’ve had ups and downs already, but it’s been pretty good so far.”
Moffitt said that his family, and his Empire Racing Group team, have been nothing but patient with him as he tries to gain as much experience as possible every weekend.
“They have not ever put any pressure on me,” Moffitt said. “The only pressure that comes from anybody is what I put on myself, really. Even the guys here at Empire don’t put any pressure on me.”
Moffitt said the biggest challenge he’s encountered so far has been balancing schoolwork, school sports, and racing all at the same time. He explained that he and his family are thinking of pursuing alternative options, such as homeschooling.
“It’s been kind of tough lately,” he said. “We’ve been missing a couple days. We missed school on Thursday to go to Anderson. I think they’re trying to set up something where I can have some sort of home schooling like my cousin, Adam had when he was going up through the ranks. You still do school and you can play high school sports, but you can do online classes or have a home school teacher.”
But right now Moffitt remains enrolled as a student at Wheatmore High School in Trinity, North Carolina, where he plays middle linebacker on the school’s Junior Varsity football team.
However, with spring practices just over the horizon, Moffitt said he doesn’t know how much longer that can continue. Football may end up being sacrificed for racing, but Moffitt said he’ll be okay with that if it does happen.
“Spring practice starts in April, so that will be hard balancing racing and football, but I think we’ll be able to work out everything,” Moffitt said. “We’ll see. I might have to give up high school sports for racing, but I’m fine with that because there’s nothing I love more than racing.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Richard M. Roche photo