Twenty-five years after his final victory, Richard Petty has forgotten much about the race.
He remembers the important stuff, though.
The last few laps. The post-race celebration. The presidential visit. The impromptu picnic.
The King has relived all of those memories this week as part of the milestone anniversary of his 200th and final NASCAR win. It came July, 4, 1984, in the Firecracker 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
"We won 199 (races); that was the cake," Petty said, clad in his trademark dark sunglasses and feathered cowboy hat. "Then the Fourth of July in '84 was the icing that went on the cake. That's the way I look at it."
It remains one of the more notable races in Daytona's storied history and certainly ranks high on Petty's list of accomplishments.
And for good reason.
President Ronald Reagan became the first sitting commander in chief to attend a NASCAR race that day, and Air Force One made quite an impression landing at a nearby airport.
Reagan stuck around until the end _ he even did a few laps of radio play-by-play during the race _ congratulated Petty on his 200th win and then ate chicken with drivers, crew members, NASCAR employees and their families in the garage area.
"I guess we couldn't have a better script if we wrote it ourselves," Petty said. "Everything just fell in place. Back then, it was a big deal. It's probably still a big deal now in a lot of people's minds."
To commemorate the anniversary, NASCAR will have Petty lead the field before the start of Saturday night's Coke Zero 400. And he'll be driving a replica of his famed, blue and red No. 43 STP Dodge, the one he took to Victory Lane so many times during his distinguished career.
Petty already has a plan for it, too.
"It's going to be interesting," Petty said. "They're going to start me in the front and I ain't got a restrictor plate. What I ought to do is when they throw the flag, go around them and when I get ready to start lapping them, come in and tell them something's a matter with the car. I'd be one of them start-and-park cars."
The way things have unfolded for Petty in recent weeks, he might want to set his goals even higher. After all, he returned to Victory Lane for the first time in 364 races when Richard Petty Motorsports driver Kasey Kahne won a road-course race at Infineon Raceway last month, a breakthrough victory for a team that has struggled for years. Petty also earned one of 25 nominations to be inducted in the inaugural class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Petty's considered a lock to be one of five inductees announced in October.
He won seven Cup Series championships in a 35-year driving career that included 555 top-five finishes and an eye-popping 712 top-10s in 1,184 starts. No wonder it took Petty eight winless seasons to realize it was time to step out of the car for good.
"I'm hardheaded," he said. "I thought I could still win races. After three of four years, it finally sunk in that I wasn't going to win a race no matter what, but it still took me seven or eight years to get out of it. Driving the race car was my hobby. I worked and done all the promotional deal, worked on the race car and done all that so I could go Sunday and enjoy my hobby. It was hard for me to get out and give up my hobby."
Petty definitely left his mark on the sport.
"He's larger than life," driver Carl Edwards said.
Edwards remembers his father bringing home a plastic, Petty replica helmet. Edwards wore it everywhere, even after he broke the visor and ripped off all the decals, and pretended to be his favorite driver _ even if he was doing doughnuts on his Big Wheel.
"To me, he was a mythical figure," Edwards said. "Now, I get to see him and talk to him. He's just a regular, down-to-earth guy. That's Superman, really, to all of us."
His final win was legendary, too.
Petty and Cale Yarborough were locked in a tight battle for the lead over the final 40 laps. Yarborough appeared to have the faster car and was waiting right behind Petty to make his move in the closing laps. But the caution flag came out with three laps remaining _ Doug Heveron crashed in turn one _ and set up a sprint to the finish line. There was no green-white-checker finish back then, so the first car to the line won. Yarborough briefly grabbed the lead, but Petty took it back and then edged him by a few inches at the finish.
Yarborough ended up third after he assumed the race was over and pulled into the pits during the caution. Harry Gant took second.
Petty, meanwhile, parked his car on the high-banked track and headed to the press box to meet President Reagan. Later, after finally celebrating in Victory Lane and some interviews, Secret Service agents established a secure area for Petty, Reagan and hundreds of others to eat in the garage.
"It was just a big picnic," Petty said. "I probably remember that as much as you do the race because it's not every Fourth of July you get to sit down with the president of the United States and have a chicken wing or something. It was a pretty neat deal. It wasn't that formal or any of that kind of stuff. It was just a great day. Even the guys that didn't win the race, I think they still remember that particular day because it was a special, special day for a lot of people."
Especially for Petty, even if he only remembers the highlights.