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Legend of NASCAR: Richard Petty

Updated on July 7, 2011

Recently, I've been getting into car racing. Living close to the Irwindale Speedway has that effect on me. NASCAR is out there a few times. Which is great, because I like stock car racing.

In the world of NASCAR, none, except maybe Dale Earnhardt Sr., is larger than Richard Petty. While Richard Petty has been retired from racing since the early 90s, his legend and fan base continue to grow. Perhaps that's why he is nicknamed "The King." which also led to his casting in the Pixar movie Cars as The King (and his wife Lynda as Mrs. The King).

Racing professionally from 1958 to 1992, Richard Petty holds many top NASCAR accolades. He heads the top with 200 victories, 7 championships (shared with Dale Earnhardt), 126 pole positions, 1185 starts, 10 consecutive wins in 1967, most Daytona 500 victories with 7, and other. Of course, Richard Petty is a NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee (class of 2010).

Pictures of Richard Petty's Racing Cars

Click thumbnail to view full-size
From the Richard Petty Museum, the Plymouth Road Runner Superbird.  Source: Photobucket, daleearnhardt1970The King from Pixar's movie Cars voiced by Richard Petty.Diecast Model of Richard Petty's late fifties Oldsmobile.  Source: Photobucket, statonflurry1967 Plymouth from Richard Petty Museum on display at Amelia Islands, Florida.  Source: Moparts.org
From the Richard Petty Museum, the Plymouth Road Runner Superbird.  Source: Photobucket, daleearnhardt1970
From the Richard Petty Museum, the Plymouth Road Runner Superbird. Source: Photobucket, daleearnhardt1970
The King from Pixar's movie Cars voiced by Richard Petty.
The King from Pixar's movie Cars voiced by Richard Petty.
Diecast Model of Richard Petty's late fifties Oldsmobile.  Source: Photobucket, statonflurry
Diecast Model of Richard Petty's late fifties Oldsmobile. Source: Photobucket, statonflurry
1967 Plymouth from Richard Petty Museum on display at Amelia Islands, Florida.  Source: Moparts.org
1967 Plymouth from Richard Petty Museum on display at Amelia Islands, Florida. Source: Moparts.org

Richard Petty's Cars

1957 Oldsmobile

The very first car that Richard Petty drove in his first professional race in 1958 was a 1957 Oldsmobile Convertible, No. 43.  It was given to him by his dad, Lee Petty, also an established professional driver in the burgeoning NASCAR circuit.

After driving Oldsmobiles for a very long time in many races, the father and son (Lee and Richard Petty) racing enterprise switched to a new sponsor, Plymouth. The relationship became legendary as Richard Petty went on to win many more NASCAR races in various Plymouth cars. The first he drove was a 1960 Plymouth Fury.

Plymouth Belvedere

In 1964, Richard Petty won the Dayton 500 with a Plymouth Belvedere.  The car was outfitted with a newly-introduced Chrysler 426 HEMI engine.  Plymouth cars also placed 2nd and 3rd in the competition, starting off the HEMI engine's popularity among racing fans.

In 1965, Chrysler boycotted the NASCAR races after NASCAR banned the 426 HEMI. Since Chrysler sponsored Petty racing, Lee and Richard were not able to compete, at least not at the beginning of the racing season. Fan lashback and failing revenue brought Chrysler back to the table and Richard Petty was able to compete in 14 races. He won 4 of them and placed top 10 in the others. He drove a Plymouth Satellite which were the premium package of the Belvedere.

Plymouth Road Runner

In 1968, Richard Petty drove a Plymouth Road Runner.  He won 16 races that year.  But he finished a disappointing 8th place in the Daytona 500.

Richard Petty made a deal to drive Fords for the 1969 season.  He was in a Gran Torino that year winning 10 races, including the Motor Trend 500 in Riverside, California.  Richard Petty also won his 100th career victory in a Ford Torino Talladega, a feat never reached before by any NASCAR racer.

Plymouth Road Runner Superbird

Richard Petty came back on board the Chrysler-Plymouth racing team again. This time, he was to drive the 1970 Plymouth Roadrunner Superbird. The cars massive spoiler made it looked like it could fly. Richard Petty won his 3rd Daytona 500 on 1974 in this car. His character, The King, in the movie Cars is based on the Plymouth Superbird.

In 1971, Chrysler announced that they were going to stop sponsoring factory race teams.  Thus, Richard Petty and his crew were free to use whatever they want so long as NASCAR standards were followed.  In 1972, Richard Petty drove a Dodge Charger in a handful of races, alternating with the Plymouth Superbird.

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