TALLADEGA, ALA. -- He's 50 and hasn't had a victory in more than three years, but Richard Petty refuses to admit he no longer is the king of stock car racing.
The victory that Petty wanted so badly -- No. 200 -- came at Daytona Beach, Fla., on July 4, 1984. Since, there has been mostly frustration.
After more than a quarter century of racing and winning, NASCAR's all-time victory leader has been unable to find the winner's circle. He has found several track hospitals, however.
He suffered a concussion in practice in Charlotte, N.C., last year, then was cleared to drive and competed in a rented car.
Earlier this season, he broke ribs in a crash in Dover, Del.
He kept alive his string of consecutive races -- 469 going into Sunday's Talladega 500 and dating to late 1971 -- by driving the pace lap in several races, then turning over the driving to Joe Ruttman.
Petty is back to driving full time now, but a recurring question is, "Why?"
Petty has won more than $5 million in his career; he has involved in local politics and even has been mentioned as a possible candidate for governor in his home state of North Carolina.
And son Kyle, 27, is a third-generation Petty racer who has blossomed this year, winning the Coca-Cola 500 in May in Charlotte. But there is no indication that the day of Petty's retirement is close at hand.
"I still pull on my helmet, get in the car and feel like things are the way they should be," Petty said. "I'll know when. It isn't time yet. I still like driving the car, and I still think I can race with them other cats and win."
Of his recent setbacks, he said, "It's just that something seems to always happen. We have an engine go, a shock break, a seal leak, somebody crashes and I wind up in it. But that's the way it goes in racing."
Bobby Allison won the Firecracker 400 at Daytona Beach earlier this month at age 49, becoming the oldest man to win a Winston Cup event. Asked if that gives him renewed hope of winning again, Petty said: "I know I can win more races. Age has nothing to do with it, really. As long as you can still get in there and be competitive.
"A lot of younger drivers go out there and drive fast and look spectacular and get in all kinds of trouble. They drive into trouble and trust their young reflexes to get them out of it.
"The older guys get a sense of anticipation. You sense some deal is going to happen ahead of you and maybe avoid it, instead of having to drive through it."