Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images

Pete Wright carries son’s legacy with him in Martinsville return

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — He says there are times when his phone will vibrate and wake him in the middle of the night and he picks it up, fully expecting to find a text message from his son.

But Adam Wright died Aug. 20.

“It’s tough. It’s been really, really tough,” Pete Wright says and if you’ve got any compassion at all you feel terrible for bringing up something so personal and so heartbreaking.

“They say you aren’t supposed to ask why, but I can’t help it. He was one of the nicest kids in the world who never hurt anyone.”

Adam Wright was just 33 when he lost his life in a single-vehicle crash near his home in Troutman, N.C.

He had followed his father’s footsteps into NASCAR, worked for a few teams, then left to start his own business. But the sport eventually drew him back and he was most recently working with driver Michael Annett and JR Motorsports in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.

• • •

Pete Wright has been here many times. Too many to count. But this time it was different for Wright, a longtime crewman and mechanic who has seen the underside of more race cars than he can recall.

Wright was at Martinsville Speedway Tuesday, working with his Hendrick Motorsports teammates on the Wheel Force Transducer car for Chevrolet.

It’s data gathering and nowhere near as exciting as when 40 cars go rushing off into the first turn under bright, sunny skies. WFT testing consists of logging laps and recording data. And repeating the process again and again and again.

But for Wright, it was the first time he had been back to a race track, he said, since his son’s death.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up my phone and started to text him,” Wright said, his voice trailing off.

The phone rang that night and it was friends of the youngster calling to tell the father that his son had been killed.

Then it rang again and it was the police telling him his son had died.

These days when Pete Wright hears it ring, he says doesn’t know what to think. He says he has nightmares.

A native of nearby Franklin County, Wright has been around race cars most of his life. He was a part of Terry Labonte’s championship-winning effort. The one in 1984. Who else on a crew in ’84 can still be found at the track today? Not too many, I can guarantee you that.

There are several teams here at Martinsville on this muggy Tuesday, testing for the upcoming First Data 500 at month’s end. Some are still in contention for this year’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship and looking to get any advantage they can before returning in less than three weeks.

Others aren’t Playoff contenders and simply hope to improve and end the year on a strong note.

In the meantime, conversations with Wright start and stop as fellow crewman stop by to say hello and express their regrets.

We’re told that going back to work and getting back into old routines will help in such situations. The mind will stay busy.

“That’s what they say,” Wright said, “but I can’t say it’s really helped any.”