CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- How great is the interest in Richard Petty's last race before retirement and the six-driver chase for the NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship?
According to spokesman Richard Sowers of Atlanta Motor Speedway, where the season finale Hooters 500 is scheduled Sunday, approximately 800 journalists have requested credentials for the event. This doesn't include the 100-or-so person crew of ESPN, which will televise the historic 500.
In addition to the U.S. press, print media from Canada, France, Japan, Latvia and even Ghana have indicated plans to file stories.
The power of satellite television never ceases to amaze.
Most of the press undoubtedly would be there for the finale of Petty's fabulous 200-victory, seven-championship career even if an unprecedented half-dozen drivers didn't have a mathematical chance at the $1 million championship.
Davey Allison leads the standings, with Alan Kulwicki and Bill Elliott in closest striking distance, 30 and 40 points back, respectively. Following are Harry Gant, 97 down, and Kyle Petty -- Richard's son -- who is 98 behind. Mark Martin trails by 113.
"If it's meant to happen, it will. If it isn't, it won't," said Allison, who has rallied from wrecks and injuries to lead the standings entering the finale of the 29-race season. "Whichever way it goes, if we do our best, then I can be happy with it."
Until the green flag falls, most of the attention, understandably and deservedly, will be on the elder Petty, 55, the legend from Level Cross, N.C.
For fans wishing to catch every aspect possible to the end of King Richard's 35-year career, he'll be a guest at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow from Atlanta on CBS This Morning. And the current issue of People Magazine contains a profile.