Jim Petty may now be known as the executive director of BlackTop Nationals, but he’s had a role that he’s been better known for going on almost 30 years: Santa Claus.
Petty was at a soap box derby meeting in 1985 when the person who was supposed to play Santa didn’t show. That started a new hobby for Petty, and it has turned into a side job, too.
How serious is Petty? Look up Kris Kringle in the Wichita phone book, and the number rings to his phone. Petty points out that the last four digits of his number – 686-4646 – spell “ho-ho.” The phone works for his day job, too, since 4646 also spells “go-go.”
Petty spent the better part of three decades working in the photographic world, mostly with Douglas Photographic Imaging.
He’s always been interested in cars, though.
“I came from a little different perspective than most car guys,” Petty said. “I grew up in garages around Wichita. My dad started racing the year I was born.”
Petty, too, used to race motorcycles.
“A few broken bones … took care of that desire.”
Petty generally handled public relations for his family’s racing team, which included his nephew.
He also volunteered for BlackTop Nationals when Rick Nuckolls and some friends started the car show in 2010.
“Evidently they must have liked what I was doing,” Petty said.
He said his biggest hurdle now is “making everything work on the financial side of things.”
“My goal is to make it bigger and better and bring more people to Wichita … with people bringing their dollars to Wichita,” Petty said.
“What I like about it most is the people. I love to go to car shows and talking to people. Seeing cars is kind of secondary. … Car guys are kind of a breed of their own. … They’ve all got interesting stories. They’re all fascinating people.”