Photo of Lee Petty, circa 1959
|Born||Lee Arnold Petty
March 14, 1914
Randleman, North Carolina, U.S.
|Died||April 5, 2000
Greensboro, North Carolina, U.S.
|Cause of death||Abdominal aortic aneurysm|
|Achievements||1954, 1958, 1959 Grand National Champion
1959 Daytona 500 Winner (inaugural race)
|Awards||Inducted in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame (1990)
Inducted in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (1996)
North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame
Inducted in the NASCAR Hall of Fame (2011)
|NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career|
|427 races run over 16 years|
|Best finish||1st (1954, 1958, 1959)|
|First race||1949 Race No. 1 (Charlotte)|
|Last race||1964 The Glen 151.8 (Watkins Glen)|
|First win||1949 untitled race (Pittsburgh)|
|Last win||1961 untitled race (Jacksonville)|
|Statistics current as of December 21, 2012.|
Petty was born near Randleman, North Carolina, the son of Jessie Maude (née Bell) and Judson Ellsworth Petty. He was thirty-five years old before he began racing. He began his NASCAR career at NASCAR's first race at the three-quarter mile long dirt track, Charlotte Speedway. He finished in the Top 5 in season points for NASCAR's first eleven seasons. He won the NASCAR Championship on three occasions and the inaugural Daytona 500 in 1959.
1959 Daytona 500
In the inaugural race at Daytona International Speedway, Petty battled with Johnny Beauchamp during the final laps of the race. Petty, Beauchamp, and Joe Weatherly drove side by side by side across the finish line at the final lap for a photo finish. Petty drove a 1959 Oldsmobile Dynamic 88 (#42), while Beauchamp drove a 1959 Ford Thunderbird (#73) and Weatherly did so in a 1959 Chevrolet (#48), all coupés. Beauchamp was unofficially declared the winner, and he drove to victory lane. Petty protested the results, saying "I had Beauchamp by a good two feet. In my own mind, I know I won." It took NASCAR founder Bill France, Sr. three days to decide the winner. In the end, with the help of the national newsreel, Petty was officially declared as the winner. His son Richard drove a 1957 Oldsmobile convertible (#43) and finished 57th out of the 59 starters after blowing an engine after eight laps.
In a 1999 interview over the controversial finish, Petty expressed his belief that France Sr. purposely called Beauchamp the winner to intentionally cause controversy stating "France would have done anything to generate publicity for his racetracks."
He is the father of Richard Petty, who became NASCAR's all-time race winner. With sons Richard and Maurice Petty, he founded Petty Enterprises, which became NASCAR's most successful racing team. He was the grandfather of Kyle Petty, and the great grandfather of Adam Petty who died in a crash during a NASCAR Busch Series practice session at New Hampshire International Speedway. He is also the grandfather of Ritchie Petty, who ran a few races in NASCAR. His nephew Dale Inman worked for Petty Enterprises as Richard's crew chief from the early 1960s until 1981 and during the 1990s.
- In 1990, Lee Petty was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.
- He was inducted in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1996.
- He was elected to the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.
- He was selected as one of Nascar's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998 along with his son, Richard Petty.
- He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on May 23, 2011.
Petty Enterprises 1949–1964
Gary Drake 1954
Carl Krueger 1955
Lee Petty died at 4:50 a.m. on April 5, 2000 at Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital in Greensboro, North Carolina, at the age of 86, several weeks after undergoing surgery for an abdominal aortic aneurysm—a tear in the aorta vessel near the stomach that grows until cardiac arrest. Despite the surgery the condition deteriorated and he died of abdominal aortic dissection. He was buried at the Level Cross United Methodist Church Cemetery in Randleman, North Carolina. Lee died just three days after his great-grandson Adam made his Winston Cup Series debut.
Daytona 500 results
- Lee Petty article from the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame
- Lee Petty's statistics at racing-reference.info
|NASCAR Grand National Champion
|Daytona 500 Winner