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Richard Lee Petty was born July 2nd, 1937 to Lee and Elizabeth Petty. His father Lee Petty had already made a name for himself throughout the decade of the 1950's by winning three Grand National Championships and fifty-four races.
Richard desired to follow in his father's footsteps, knowing that he would be a tough act to follow.
On July 18th, 1958, Richard, at the ripe age of 21, competed in his first Grand National event in Toronto, Canada. He would drive his Petty Oldsmobile with the now legendary #43, to a 17th place finish. Just a year later he would become the NASCAR Rookie of the Year. He did so by impressively recording nine top ten finishes along with six top five finishes.
In 1960, Richard Petty won his first of 200 career victories at the Southern States Fairgrounds. His sophomore season in stock car's uppermost echelon of competition proved that his 1959 rookie season was no happenstance as he finished second in the final NASCAR Grand National Points standings.
His career continued to soar throughout the early 1960's as he quickly became to sports most prolific winner. In 1964, he would not only win his first ever Daytona 500, but he would win eight additional races and bring home his first of a record-tying seven NASCAR championships.
Richard won his second Daytona 500 in 1966 after falling two laps off the pace at one point during the race. A year later Richard won his second Grand National Championship. The year of 1967 is forever cherished by Richard- not only did he win the championship, but he dominated the NASCAR circuit by winning 27 out of 48 races he competed in. Ten of those races were won consecutively. Never has a NASCAR driver displayed so much supremacy as he was acknowledged as the 'King', a nickname that has remained up until present-day.
After driving Dodge's and Plymouth's predominantly throughout the 1960's, Richard and his team switched to a rival manufacturer, Ford. The Petty's felt that the Ford's displayed more horsepower on the Super Speedways.
Throughout the 1970's, Richard continued to post wins and championships. But rivalries simmered with other big name drivers such as Bobby Allison, Bobby Isaac, Cale Yarborough, Buddy Baker, Benny Parsons, Darrell Waltrip, and especially David Pearson.
Richard won championships in 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975, and 1979. In 1972, STP motor oil became affiliated with Petty Enterprises and they became one of the most recognizable coalitions in auto racing history. Also, the 1972 season embodied the inaugural year of the NASCAR Modern Era, which only races over 250 miles in length were recorded in the stat books.
In 1975, Richard Petty won 13 races, which became a record for most wins in a single season in the NASCAR Modern Era. That record stood for twenty-three years. Jeff Gordon matched that milestone in 1998.
In 1976, Richard Petty and rival David Pearson was involved in what was arguably the most electrifying finish in NASCAR history. On the last lap of the Daytona 500, Petty attempted to pass Pearson in turn four. Unfortunately, the two cars made contact and both drivers would spin out and hit the outside wall. Petty, just yards away from the finish line in the infield grass, was unable to re-fire his car, while Pearson limped to the finish line in his scathed Mercury.
As the 1980's commenced, Richard began to reach to twilight of his illustrious career. Victories became fewer and far between as a new generation of NASCAR stars such as Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, Terry Labonte, and Bill Elliott, began to peak.
In 1981, Richard won his seventh and final Daytona 500. In 1984, Richard Petty won his 200th and final race by edging out Cale Yarborough in the Pepsi Firecracker 400 at Daytona, while President Ronald Regan watched as a spectator. The win, however, was not Petty prepared, as he drove for Curb Motorsports that season.
In 1986, Richard witnessed his son Kyle win his first career NASCAR Winston Cup event at Richmond in February and become the first ever third generation driver to accomplish that feat. Later that same season, Richard would make his 1,000th career start at Michigan.
The year 1992 would mark Richard Petty's concluding season in NASCAR competition. Petty's career was celebrated at Atlanta, the final race of his career, as he paced the field on the pace lap.
After he retired from driving, Richard was still a presence each week at the racetrack as the owner of Petty Enterprises. In 1996, Bobby Hamilton gave Petty Enterprises their first Winston Cup victory since 1983 by winning the Checker Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix.
In 1997, Richard's son Kyle rejoined Petty Enterprises as a driver, and later as an owner.
In 2000, Richard may have endured the most heartbreaking year of his life. In April of that year, he lost his father Lee, patriarch of the Petty dynasty, due to complications from surgery, which was to remedy his stomach aneurysm. Barely a month later, his grandson Adam was killed while practicing for a Busch Series event in Loudon, New Hampshire. Adam was his eldest grandson, son of Kyle, and was expected to carry on the Petty legacy into the 21st century.
In 2001, Petty Enterprises began to field the Dodge brand for the first time since 1978.
In 2006, the 2000 Winston Cup champion Bobby Labonte joined the Petty Enterprises camp to drive the famous #43 Dodge.
Richard continues to grace his presence at the racetrack each week with his trademark cowboy hat, groomed mustache, and the memorable grin that only King Richard Petty can give.
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