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Lee Petty Biography

Hard Times In The Rural South, Chronology, A Nascar Pioneer, The First Daytona 500

1914-2000

American race car driver

Lee Petty was a key figure in the early development of stock car racing and the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing Inc. (NASCAR). He contributed to the evolution of the sport from an illegal, back road event, to dirt tracks at local fairgrounds and other sites throughout the South and Midwest, to the latter-day super-speedways at Daytona, Florida, Charlotte, North Carolina, and other cities. By the time Petty retired—after sixteen years behind the wheel and 427 NASCAR starts—he had racked up fifty-five wins, an all-time high that stood until his son Richard Petty passed him on his way to 200 NASCAR victories, a record that still stands. Lee Petty was the first NASCAR driver to win three national championships; he finished fifth or better 231 times. Besides being one of the best drivers in NASCAR history, Lee Petty played a significant role in the transformation of stock car racing from a sport to a business, testified most clearly by the continuing success of the family firm he founded, Petty Enterprises.

Sketch by Gerald E. Brennan

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsAuto Racing