LAS VEGAS Ė Pat Petrie Sr. plays many roles in life: a husband, father, grandfather, race car driver and heart attack survivor.
Petrie, who races in the Charger division at the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, suffered a heart attack one year ago during post-race technical inspection. On a hot August night (Aug. 5, 2000), Petrie finished third in the Charger main event. After the race Petrie drove his Camaro to "tech", for mandatory inspection, unaware of the soon-to-be life-altering event.
"He climbed out of his car, was talking and then collapsed," said Mike Stafford, head technical inspector at LVMS.
Track personnel immediately came to the 55-year oldís rescue. Stafford and LVMS securityís Izzy Menchaca responded quickly. Ron Line, a Las Vegas firefighter, and Dan Schools, a Charger driver, also were close by. Stafford and Izzy performed CPR on Petrie (who did not have a heartbeat for five minutes) and saved his life. Petrie was transported by ambulance to Valley Hospital. As a result of the quick response, he received only minor long-term damage.
"If it happened anywhere but here, I wouldnít be here. It happened at the right place at the right time with the right people. Put all that luck together, it is like winning the lottery," Petrie said. "You donít get money for it, but the lottery hit. What is the chance of it falling together that way?
" I owe it to those guys. They followed me through the whole thing. They all came to the hospital." Petrie was hospitalized for 19 days.
The grateful Petrie family gave a plaque to Stafford to express its appreciation. The inscription read: "Without your quick response, our lives would have been changed forever, thank you for saving our dad."
"Nobody likes to see a competitor hurt, yet have a serious medical problem," Stafford said. "I was glad I was there to help prevent a tragedy for the Petrie family."
"After something like that happens to you, I guess I could have walked away, like other people, but it is not like me to lay down," Petrie said. "Of course you arenít going to do everything you did before. You have to go back to being yourself. You feel so much better if you do. That is the whole trick."
Racing has been a Petrie family tradition for over a quarter of a century. Petrie became interested in racing after watching his older cousins. He began his racing career in 1963 in Colorado, while still in high school.
"I only had $225 in my first race car. I raced it for a year. It was a hunk of junk (1934 Ford)," Petrie said. "I played around with it for a year, sold it and actually made money. Probably the only car I made money with."
Although he raced at several different tracks in Colorado, Petrie called Lakeside Speedway home. In 1967, he won the Late Model track championship. In the late 1970s Petrie earned track champion status in the open-wheel Modified division. While Petrie brought home three championships, he also was top five in points for 10 years at Lakeside Speedway.
Prior to moving to Nevada, Petrie made several trips to open Late Model and Modified comp shows at Craig Road Speedway during the 1980s. He fell in love with racing in Las Vegas.
"You can come out here (Las Vegas) in February and go race. In Colorado in February you go outside to see snow," Petrie said.
In 1984, the Petrie family moved to Las Vegas.
"We were going to come out here and if we liked it we would stay. If we didnít like it, in six months we would go back," Petrie said.
The Petrie family found its racing heaven in Las Vegas. The family has resided in Henderson for 17 years. Petrie and wife Kathy have six children, three of which are involved in racing. When Petrie moved his family, he took a break from driving and helped three of his sons live their racing dream. Pat Jr., Jim and Joe Petrie had the desire to take after their father. Jim and Pat Jr. elected to drive while Joe worked on their cars. Three years ago, Petrie Sr. decided it was time to get back behind the wheel.
"They were having fun and I was doing all the work, so I said it was my turn to have some fun too and get back into it," Petrie said.
Today, Petrie is the Charger division points leader at the 3/8-mile Bullring. Petrie has five top 10 and four top-five finishes. The 56-year old looks to capture his first win of the season and hold onto the points lead to become the 2001 Charger track champion.
"Consistency is the trick," said Petrie. " You need to finish before you worry about being first. When you are running for points, being smooth is a big part of it. One bad night and you are done."
Petrie also competes in the Outlaw Stock class with Pat Jr. Both father and son enjoy family competition. Like father, like son: Pat Jr. is leading the Outlaw division while his dad is eighth.
"They just arenít my kids, they are also my best friends," said Petrie. "We have a close family."
Fellow drivers and crewmembers often seek Petrieís knowledge and experience.
"I enjoy helping these kids. Talking to them and trying to teach them," Petrie said. "As long as it is fun, it is worth doing. As long as you are having fun, do it. If the fun stops, stop doing it."