It's hard to believe that Adam Petty's death occurred 11 years ago during a practice session for a NASCAR Nationwide race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, an occasion that reminds anyone in the sport about the preciousness of life.

After all, Petty's life ended far too early and soon for a promising individual who'd make his mark in racing in some form, be it as a solid stock car driver or a philantrophist like his father Kyle.

Alas, it was not to be, and on an overcast Friday afternoon at Loudon, NH, that glow of promise and optimism became obscured in a grinding, high speed crash that changed stock car racing forever.

A lot has happened to the Petty clan since the death of their fourth generation ray of light, such as Kyle Petty's departure from the driver's seat and his family organization to Richard Petty managing the survival of his team.

Partnering with Boston Ventures, George Gillett and Ray Evernham and now with financial companies DGB Investments and Medallion Financial, the Petty name still lives on, albeit, without their namesake behind the wheel.

What would NASCAR be like if Adam Petty hadn't perished in New Hampshire back in May 12, 2000?

Would he be racing the No. 45 car in the Cup series in 2001, ushering in the Petty/Mopar alliance of the 21st century?

Perhaps so, as the ride was intended to be his, with the 2000 season serving as his final "tune up" in the Nationwide Series to prepare for elite, fender-to-fender NASCAR Cup racing.

No matter how competitive he might have been as a Cup driver, it's painful knowing that one of the sport's youngest stars never had the chance to fulfill his dreams.

About the only sampling that fans and observers of the sport had with Petty in a Cup car was the April 5 race at Texas that same year, in which he ran respectably in the middle of the pack before his engine expired.

Making that moment special was great-grandfather Lee, the patriarch of the Petty clan, lived to see the family's next generation have his shot in a competitive Cup field.

Just three days later, Lee succumed during the early morning hours, just weeks following his surgery for a stomach aneurysm.

Who'd knew that the Petty family would experience another heartbreak and tragedy in the span of two months, albeit with the oldest and youngest of the racers of the clan?

For as much as May 12th marks the passing of Adam Petty, it also serves as a commemoration and celebration to the young man he was to all who knew him, as well as those who followed his career.

One of the touching stories about Adam's last days was how his younger sister, Montgomery, gave him a haircut. Finding her results "dreadful," their mom Pattie told her that Adam was gushing over his new look.

Some of Adam's finer moments as a driver included that ARCA victory at Charlotte, NC on Sept. 30, 1998, where Adam's parents in Kyle and Patti, as well as his grandfather Richard, celebrated and relished that win.

He may have been a rookie entry in the EasyCare Certified 100 but he drove like a veteran, going three-wide with the likes of Mike Wallace and Bobby Hamilton, Jr. under the lights.

It wasn't the most exciting race nor one that paid millions of dollars, but for those who saw the race on TV or at the track, it was a treat to see the Petty name atop the scoreboard once more at the racetrack.

Perhaps just as memorable or even more impressive than that ARCA win was his first NASCAR start at Daytona International Speedway just four months later.

Driving the No. 45 Spree Chevrolet in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for a full, rookie season, Petty kept his nose clean in the crash-marred NAPA Auto Parts 300 from his 21st starting position.

Avoiding the melee and carnage, Petty found himself in a position to win before slightly grazing the outside retaining wall and finishing sixth in the final race rundown.

Truly a family affair, Adam's race was video taped from the pits by his father Kyle, who took in the sights and sounds of that race almost like his first venture at Daytona back in 1979, when he won the ARCA season opener at age 20.

Those are memories of yesterday, and like the song goes, "And yesterday's gone."

However, if it's one of the lasting legacies of Adam Petty as a racer, then there's one more thing to consider with his name and beliefs.

Four years after his passing, one of Adam's dreams came to fruition when the Victory Junction Gang Camp was opened in Randleman, NC.

A camp dedicated to terminally ill and chronically ill children, it serves as a reminder of happiness to its campers, with facilities that have swimming pools, a recreational game room, computer lab, and a medical clinic.

Open all year-round, the VJGC is that immortal candle that flames the life, legacy, and soul of Adam Petty, who on this 11th anniversary of his death, will never be forgotten with each passing year.

And for those that know the Petty family, a bit of Adam lives on with his grandparents Richard and Lynda, parents Kyle and Pattie, as well as his siblings in brother Austin and sister Montgomery.