A NASCAR mainstay returns to Martinsville, still grieving after a devastating loss

In the heat of the Cup Series playoffs, it's sometimes easy to forget that life - real life - is going on all around you. Spend just one minute with Pete Wright and you're quickly reminded of priorities.

Pete remembers August 20th vividly. His phone rang. It was a friend of his 33-year-old son, Adam, telling Pete that Adam had been killed in a car accident. As soon as he hung up, the police called to tell Pete the same thing.

"It's tough. It's been really, really tough," Pete tells NASCAR.com. "They say you aren't supposed to ask why, but I can't help it. He was one of the nicest kids in the world who never hurt anyone."

RELATED: JR Motorsports team member has died in a car accident in NC

Pete has been in NASCAR a long time. The Hendrick Motorsports mechanic and crewman dates back to working Terry Labonte's championship in 1984. Adam followed his dad into racing, working as a mechanic most recently with driver Michael Annett and JR Motorsports in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.

"I can't tell you how many times I've picked up my phone and started to text him," Wright starts to say.

This week, Pete is doing testing at Martinsville Speedway, much like so many other teams. It's the first time he's been back to a track since Adam died. Back among long-time friends, back in familiar and comfortable surroundings. Hendrick Motorsports is right in the thick of a championship push and they've got a big race coming up in Martinsville at the end of October. And Pete thought maybe getting back to work and keeping busy would help take his mind off his pain.

"That's what they say," Wright said, "but I can't say it's really helped any."