Richard Petty's No. 43 car comes to Westminster

Tim Berezovsky and his children Aiden, 5, and Nicole, 12, check out the No. 43 NASCAR race car driven by Aric Almirola at the Safeway in Westminster Wednesday.
Tim Berezovsky and his children Aiden, 5, and Nicole, 12, check out the No. 43 NASCAR race car driven by Aric Almirola at the Safeway in Westminster Wednesday.(DAVE MUNCH/STAFF PHOTO , Carroll County Times)

NASCAR fans and Safeway shoppers got a chance to see one of the most iconic cars in the sport up close on Wednesday. Richard Petty's No. 43 car came to the Westminster store as part of a promotion through sponsor Smithfield.

Steven and Norma Johnson, of the Mobile Marketing Division for Richard Petty Motor Sports, said they drive the car all over the country to stores with the highest sales of Smithfield products. They hand out coupons, pictures of driver Aric Almirola and foam pig key chains to fans and passers-by.

The couple has been a part of the company for nine years, bringing the race car to promotions like the one today ahead of a race.

"We are kind of like the pre-show," Steven said.

Some people made a special trip to Safeway just to see The King's car, while others were surprised to see the setup when they pulled into the parking lot for some shopping.

Tim Berezovsky was shopping this morning when he heard about the car and decided he would bring his children back to see it. Aiden, 5, and Nicole, 12, said they thought the car was cool.

"I like the back where it says 'fueled by bacon,'" Nicole said about her favorite part.

The family decided to take part in the Smithfield promotion, going into the store to buy three products so they could get a hat. Berezovsky ended up buying six so both children could have a hat.

Seven-year-old Mason Smith was excited to be able to check out a race car up close.

"It's really cool, I like the stickers," he said. "I like the U.S. Air Force sticker because my cousin is in the Army."

While Petty was not there to meet people, Steven said he does sometimes accompany the car on special promotions for the Helping Hungry Homes program. He goes out to shelters and delivers hams from Smithfield, according to Steven.

Even without The King there, the car drew a steady flow of visitors. Joan Carver and her granddaughter Reba Wolfe, of New Windsor, were happy to get to see a part of NASCAR history.

Every weekend, Carver's family gets together to eat dinner and watch NASCAR. "We all have different drivers, so it gets really loud," Carver said.

While Carver likes Kyle Busch, because he drives the M&M car, her granddaughter is a Carl Edwards fan. But neither of them minded seeing another driver's car.

"The car belongs to The King, so you gotta think great things," Carver said.

Even though most of the crowd was filled with children jumping up and down with excitement to be able to see and touch a race car up close, there were some adults that thought seeing the car was a special treat.

Antwoin Tyson, a security guard at the store says he just recently got into NASCAR and was interested to see Petty's car in person.

"It's a lovely attraction," Tyson said. "More of it needs to be seen around Maryland, it's a nice learning experience."

Travis Dency, owner of Big Mountain Auto Parts in Westminster, said he brought his boys out to see the car because they know who Petty is from the "Cars" movies. He also has a connection to the racer, having once sold a part to The King for his jeep. Dency even has a voicemail saved on his phone from when he did business with Petty.

Steven and Norma spend more than 300 nights each year in hotel rooms across the country meeting new people and sharing their love of the sport with the fans. Norma said she doesn't mind all the travel because they get to be together. Steven said they have met people they never dreamed of meeting.

"I get to see the whole country on Richard Petty's dime," he said.

The couple will soon be heading to Dover, Del., for the next stop on No. 43's itinerary for the AAA 400 Sunday.