Harrison County

Kyle Petty's charity ride crosses the finish line in Biloxi

BILOXI -- The line of 100 motorcycles -- led by NASCAR ex-driver Kyle Petty -- stretched along the beach and past the Biloxi Lighthouse on Friday, the tail end of a week-long trek from California to the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino.

Fans of Petty and the celebrities who rode with him on the 2,264-mile Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America hung over the railings and waited in line for autographs.

Though most talked race cars with Harry Gant and Donnie Allison, NFL great Herschel Walker got off his bike and talked football with the fans.

"The Allisons and Pettys have given a lot for this sport," said NASCAR fan Linda Powell of Long Beach, who was there with her husband, David, and their son DJ.

"Bobby Allison lost two sons and Kyle Petty lost a son," she said, "and here they are giving to others."

The ride now honors Petty's son Adam, a racing driver and the fourth generation of racing Pettys, who was killed in a practice session in New Hampshire. The ride raises money for Camp Victory in North Carolina, where kids with cancer can go to summer camp at no cost to their families.

"My son was killed in 2000," Petty said. "We built the camp in 2004."

The ride started 22 years ago to support children's charities and since then has raised $16.5 million, said Marcus Glover, president of the Beau Rivage.

"In 22 years they've landed at the Beau Rivage three times," said Mary Cracchiolo-Spain, public relations director, although Petty joked that he could remember only one other time. While he was racing he sometimes missed part of the ride, he said.

Allison, now 76, said he rode his motorcycle out to California before joining the ride back to Biloxi, which he said is one of his favorite places.

"I have a farm in southwest Alabama," he said.

He's made the ride several years and said he does it for the kids -- "for the little kids, and us big ones."

He's known tragedy from accidents and tragedy from illness in his family and said riding and raising money for the camp is the most enjoyable thing he's ever done.

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