Health Problems Continue to Hold Back Petty

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After recurring problems with carbon monoxide poisoning, bronchitis and flu, Kyle Petty was just happy to complete the Pepsi 400.

Petty had to be carried from his car after a 1993 race in Martinsville and was administered oxygen in victory lane after his win at Dover last month.

"You feel good about finishing, know what I mean?" said Petty, who finished seventh in the race last weekend at Daytona International Speedway, only his fourth top-10 showing in 15 races this year.

All of Petty's health woes contributed to talk that he had contracted AIDS, a rumor he addressed head-on in a recent interview with Winston Cup Scene.

"You know how rumors are in racing," Petty said. "They get started here and the next thing you know they're in Iowa and then there in Spokane, Wash., and once a rumor starts you don't stop it.

"The best thing to do is give them your two cents' worth and let them go on down the highway."

Petty speculated that the rumor started because he is a renegade on the conservative Winston Cup circuit, sporting long hair and several earrings.

"I think people perceive you run with a faster crowd than you really do," he said. "I think a lot of times people forget that I'm married and have three children."

Petty recalled how others viewed the late Tim Richmond, who died from AIDS in 1989 at age 34.

"I just think Richmond was way ahead of his time," Petty said. "PR-wise, driver-wise and even in the way Tim died, he was way ahead of his time. If he had died of AIDS now ... people would be a lot more understanding of it than they were at the time and not ostracize him."

Respiratory problems run in Petty's family. His maternal grandfather died of lung cancer, while his maternal grandmother had sisters who suffered from emphysema and lung cancer.

"As far as giving blood and having my insurance physicals ... nothing came back that said I was HIV-positive or I had AIDS or anything like that," Petty said. "I have to assume that I'm just a wimp."

Hendrick Update: The Hendrick Motorsports Team continues to dominate the Winston Cup circuit heading into Sunday's race at Loudon, N.H.

Jeff Gordon's victory in the Pepsi 400 was his fourth of the year and the sixth overall for Hendrick drivers. Combined with Ken Schrader's sixth-place showing, the team which also includes Terry Labonte has finished in the top 10 53 percent of the time (24-of-45).

Here's a few other mind-boggling numbers:

- Gordon, Schrader and Labonte have led 2,610.73 miles out of a possible 5,990.14 (44 percent).

- The trio has been in the lead 79 different times in 15 races.

- Gordon is the top money-winner on the Winston Cup circuit with $1,416,800, while Labonte is sixth with $662,490.

- Gordon (second with 2,193 points) and Labonte (seventh at 1,855) are both in the top 10, with Schrader right on the fringe at 1,739, good for 11th position.

- Hendrick also supplied engines for Bobby Labonte's two victories, accounting for eight wins overall.

Helpful Marcis: While Dale Earnhardt pursues a record eighth Winston Cup title, he's getting some behind-the-scenes help from veteran Dave Marcis. …