'King Richard,' Queen Elizabeth II to meet at Derby?

Updated: May 4, 2007, 5:58 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

Mayne: Open Invitation
Mayne
Dear Queen Elizabeth II, Kenny Mayne would love to spend a few minutes of his Kentucky Derby Saturday with you. Kenny once was a King. Seriously! It would behoove you to read on. Blog Insider
RICHMOND, Va. -- Great Britain's Queen Elizabeth II won't be the only royalty at the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

Richard Petty, otherwise known as King Richard in NASCAR circles, will fly to the Derby to hopefully meet the Queen after a special invitation from Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher.

"If I meet the Queen, it'll probably be a nod and that's about as far as it'll go," Petty said on Friday at Richmond International Raceway. "I don't know if I could talk to her because I don't speak English. I speak Southern American, and I don't know if she would understand that or not."

Petty will return to Richmond in time for Saturday night's Nextel Cup race in which he has two cars, the No. 43 of Bobby Labonte and No. 45 of Kyle Petty.

Richard Petty
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesThe King will ensure a most royal welcome for Queen Elizabeth II at the Kentucky Derby.
He'll wear the same familiar cowboy hat to the Derby -- black with a peacock feather in the front -- that he wears to the race.

"She wears one of them great big hats," Petty said of the Queen. "She might outdo me on the hat deal."

Asked how he'll act in front of the Queen, Petty laughed and said, "I've got a queen at home that I have to act to. The rest of them don't make a whole lot of difference."

The Queen was in Richmond on Thursday to address the Virginia General Assembly. She and Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, then went to Jamestown to help commemorate the 400th anniversary of America's first permanent colony.

Petty is as close to royalty as there is in NASCAR. He is the sport's all-time leader in victories with 200 and is tied with the late Dale Earnhardt with seven championships.

But he doubts the Queen knows who he is.

"I doubt it very, very seriously," Petty said. "But I know who she is."

David Newton covers Nextel Cup racing for ESPN.com.

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ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter