Petty, who is a colleague of Earnhardt’s with broadcaster NBC, was speaking ahead of practice for this weekend’s Bristol night race. He said seeing the images of Earnhardt’s crash reminded him of the death of 1992 Winston Cup champion Alan Kulwicki in a private jet crash at the nearby Tri-Cities Regional Airport in 1993.
“[Private jet transport] a part of this sport, it’s become an intricate part of this sport, you get through with a race on Sunday and you need to be back at the shop at 6:30am on Monday – whether you’re in California or Michigan or Daytona,” said Petty on NBCSN. “And I think we just take it for granted. We’ve had wake-up calls through the years, but the one yesterday chilled me.
“Twenty-six years ago I was sitting in a hotel room here when Alan Kulwicki’s plane crash happened. So it brought back so many memories that I thought… they were just raw.
“So we are very blessed. We’re very blessed to have the pilots we have in the organisations, who get people there safely and return them home safely. It’s a wake-up call, but at the same time we’re a very blessed bunch of individuals who get to do this.”
NBC reported that Earnhardt is now back home with his wife and daughter, who were also on board the plane that crashed, and said it hopes Dale Jr will be back in the commentary booth at Darlington.