Richard Petty: The King of NASCAR
Richard Lee Petty (born July 2, 1937) in the Level Cross community of Randleman, North Carolina to Elizabeth (Toomes) and Lee Arnold Petty, also a NASCAR driver and the older brother of Maurice Petty. Richard is nicknamed "The King" for a reason. He is the most respected and accomplished driver of all motorsports. A second generation driver he accomplished more and set the standards for the Stock/Grand National Era as well as the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. He holds 7 NASCAR Championships (Dale Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson are the only other ones to reach this milestone). He won 200 races, won the Daytona 500 a record 7 times and a record 27 races with 10 being consecutively in the '67 season alone. He had a record number of poles at 127, over 700 Top 10 finishes in 1184 starts including 513 consecutive starts from 1971-1989. He was inducted into the first class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010. He has also been inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame (1997), named one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers (1998), sole stock car representative in the first class inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (1989) and awarded the Medal of Freedom by President George Bush (1992), the first motorsports athlete to ever receive this honor.
He began his career on July 18, 1958 only 16 days after his 21st birthday. his first race was in CNE Stadium in Toronto, Canada. In 1959, he was named NASCAR's Rookie of the Year after producing 9 Top 10 finishes, including 6 Top 5. On July 4, 1984 he won his 200th victory at the Firecracker 400 in Daytona. President Ronald Regan was in attendance and celebrated with the family in victory lane. In 1988 a horrific wreck in Dayton found Richard going end over end spreading debris over the front straight away and after the flips Petty walked away with no serious injuries. October 1, 1991 came the dreaded news that Petty would retire after the 1992 season. His year long Fan Appreciation Tour took him across country where he attended special events and received numerous awards. His final race was in Atlanta at the Hooters 500. On the 94th lap, Petty was in a wreck in which his car caught fire. He was uninjured from the accident and his team worked diligently to get the car running again and Petty finished the race. After the race he circled the track to salute fans and one last lap in the trademark STP Pontiac.
Petty is not only known for his racing but also his film and TV appearances in such shows as Modern HotrodZ and movies like Swing Vote, Days of Thunder (1990), Stroker Ace (1983), 43: The Richard Petty Story (1972), Speed Zone (1989), with Elvis in Speedway (1968), Petty Blue and the voice of Strip Weathers, also known as "The King" in Disney/Pixar animated movie Cars (2006) also wife Lynda was featured in the movie as well. Richard has been featured on many sponsors ads over the years among many other media outlets.
Petty married the former Lynda Owens in 1958. She passed away on March 25, 2014 at the Petty home after a long battle with cancer at the age of 72. They had four children Kyle, Sharon, Lisa and Rebecca. Richard resides at the Petty estate in Randleman a short drive to the Petty Historic Site/Compound that houses the Petty Museum, Petty Garage (custom modification & restoration), Petty Offices and Homestead in the Level Cross community of Randleman. Victory Junction Camp is also located in Randleman, a camp founded after the tragic death of Richard's grandson Adam in a practice run in New Hampshire on May 12, 2000, five weeks after the death of Lee Petty.
The Petty family legacy runs deep with four members in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Richard, his father Lee, brother Maurice (Chief) and cousin Dale Inman. No other sport or city has four Hall of Fame members but right here "In the center of it all" - Randleman, NC does thanks to the Petty's outstanding racing careers. Richard signs autographs at the annual NASCAR Day Festival each October in Randleman and depending on race schedules Dale does.
Does "The King" really wear his trademark Charlie One Horse Cowboy Hat and sunglasses around town ? Absolutely !! He may sport around town on his Harley Davidson or any array of cars he owns. He may be spotted at a favorite dining establishment or special event and most definitely the Petty Museum. A collections of clothing, jackets, books and gift items can be purchased at the museum also. Does he really sign autographs ? Most definitely - that is why he is the most beloved driver of all time - he takes time with the fans - young and old alike - of course we like to respect his privacy also.
This is only a brief introduction to our hometown hero. We invite you to visit the Petty Musuem at 309 Branson Mill Road, Randleman, NC 27317 (rpmuseum.com) to tour the facilities where it all began, the artifacts, history, activities and offerings of the legend, the one, the only, "The King" of NASCAR Richard Petty.