Richard Petty - A Profile of The King of NASCAR
Known worldwide as "The King" of stock car racing, Richard Petty is one of the most popular figures in all of sports. Born July 2, 1937 in Level Cross, North Carolina, Petty established many records that will likely never be approached. However, it is Petty's special relationship with the fans and his accessibility to the media that have been just as much responsible for his popularity as was his success on the track. Petty has been known to stand for hours signing autographs until each and every fan who wants an autograph is accommodated.
Petty is easily recognized by his trademark sunglasses and cowboy hat. He is also known for his association with longtime sponsors STP and Goody's Headache Powders.
Petty, brother Maurice, and cousin Dale Inman formed the crew for father Lee Petty's cars in the early days of NASCAR. Lee was a 3-time NASCAR champion.
Richard drove his first professional race in 1958, and was named Rookie of the Year in 1959. Maurice was the engine builder for Richard's famous #43, and Inman served as the crew chief on "Old Blue" as the cars became known for their light blue color . The trio remained together for all of Petty's 7 NASCAR championships and most of his 200 victories, the majority of which were won driving Plymouths and Dodges. Petty retired from driving in 1992, but continues in the sport as the owner of Petty Enterprises, which fields cars for son Kyle and Bobby Labonte. Petty also operates the Richard Petty Museum and is involved with the rest of the family in the Victory Junction Gang Camp, for which Petty donated the land for construction.
- 200 Wins (95 more than 2nd place on the career list - David Pearson)
- 7 NASCAR Points Championships (1964, 1967, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1979)
- 7 Daytona 500 Victories
- Dominated 1964 Daytona 500 by leading 184 of 200 laps in a Plymouth with a Hemi engine
- 27 Wins in 1967
- 10 Consecutive Wins in 1967
- 127 Pole Positions
- Top-5 Finisher in 356 Races
- 1,185 Races Started
- 513 Consecutive Starts from 1971-1989
- After retiring, Petty was awarded the Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian award. He is the first motorsports athlete ever to be honored with this award.
- One of the inaugural inductees into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1963.
- Inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1997.
- Named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998.
- Inducted in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1989.
- Petty's voice and his 1970 Plymouth Superbird are prominent in the 2006 Pixar file Cars. Petty's wife Lynda plays his wife as a station wagon in the movie as well.
The President & The King
In a script too unbelievable for Hollywood, Petty's much-anticipated 200th and final victory came:
- At his favorite track - Daytona (during the Firecracker 400)
- On America's birthday - July 4, 1984
- Driving a red, white, & blue car
- In a fender-banging photo-finish duel with long-time competitor Cale Yarborough
- With President Ronald Reagan in attendance. This marked the first time that a sitting president had attended a NASCAR race.