04/09/1979 at 01:00 AM EST
Kyle Petty, 18, is a chip off the old engine block. His grandfather Lee founded the racing dynasty by winning three Grand National Championships, while father Richard has pocketed over $3 million in career winnings and last year was voted the most popular driver on the NASCAR circuit. In February Kyle entered his first race, the ARCA 200 at Daytona Speedway, behind the wheel of one of his dad's old cars repainted with number 44. (Richard's number is 43, Grandpa's 42.) It was Kyle's first professional outing, and though he won he made his share of mistakes. At his first pit stop he choked the engine; the crew had to push him to restart. "I didn't even know what gear to put it in to get going," he laughs. The oldest of four children, Kyle encountered a few roadblocks when he decided to race. "My mother wanted me to be a pharmacist or a doctor or something safe," he says. His dad wanted him to go to college, but he turned down several football and basketball scholarships, opting instead for night courses in business administration. Married to Patti Huffman, eight years his senior, a week before his first race, Petty only plans one or two more races this year, but hopes to be a regular next year. "Just because his name is Petty doesn't mean he can win," notes his father. "No two people can drive alike," agrees Kyle, "but I'll pattern myself after Dad. I figure he's the best."
Mayra Casales, 22, was born in pre-Castro Cuba into a musical family—her father played guitar, her mother sang and her older brothers, Raymond and George, played bongos and maracas. As a child Mayra was taken along to parties where the entire clan would entertain. When the Casaleses fled to Miami in 1963, Raymond and George saved enough money from paper routes to buy themselves congas—and Mayra caught the beat of the traditionally male instrument. Soon she was tagging after her brothers at rehearsals and jam sessions. A brief marriage at 17 stilled her progress for two and a half years ("I gave up playing for him but I never gave it up in my heart"). After the divorce she landed her first professional gig with Latin virtuoso Louis Varona at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. She has since played percussion for some of the biggest names in Latin music—Joe Cuba, Salsa queen Celia Cruz and Patato Valdez. Last year Mayra headed for New York on a promised recording deal. It fell through, but she met jazz pianist Walter Bishop Jr. and was asked to join his band. She is now featured with hot new singer Phyllis Hyman on a national tour. "I've never approached the congas as a masculine thing," says Mayra. "You don't have to be anything but what you want to be."