Lee Petty

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Lee Petty
Photo of Lee Petty, circa 1959
Born Lee Arnold Petty
(1914-03-14)March 14, 1914
Randleman, North Carolina, U.S.
Died April 5, 2000(2000-04-05) (aged 86)
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)
Monster Energy NASCAR 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)
Wins Top tens Poles
54 332 18
Statistics current as of December 21, 2012.

Lee Arnold Petty (March 14, 1914 – April 5, 2000) was an American stock car racing driver who competed during the 1950s and 1960s. He was one of the pioneers of NASCAR and one of its first superstars.


Lee Petty's No. 42 1956 Dodge Coronet

Petty was born near Randleman, North Carolina, the son of Jessie Maude (née Bell) and Judson Ellsworth Petty.[1] 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 five in season points for NASCAR's first eleven seasons, and won the NASCAR Grand National Series driver's championship three times. Petty was also the winner of the inaugural Daytona 500 in 1959.


Twice in his career, Petty was declared the winner of a race after scoring errors were discovered following the race. The two races were the 1959 Daytona 500 and the 1959 Lakewood 500.

1959 Daytona 500[edit]

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 Super 88 (No. 42), while Beauchamp drove a 1959 Ford Thunderbird (No. 73) and Weatherly did so in a 1959 Chevrolet (No. 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."[2] 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 (No. 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. knew Petty won, but purposely called Beauchamp the winner to intentionally cause controversy. Petty stated, "France would have done anything to generate publicity for his racetracks."

1959 Lakewood 500[edit]

During a stock car race at Lakewood in Georgia, Petty's son Richard raced against Lee, a teammate to his father on Petty Enterprises. After a side-by-side duel with his father, Richard passed Lee with less than 10 laps to go and went on to win the race. It was one of Richard's first races and he became a first-time Cup series winner during his rookie year. Hours after the race was over, officials changed the official results after a protest was filed by Lee. Lee protested that Richard was actually one lap down and was credited with an extra lap. Richard was demoted to third and Lee was declared the race winner. In the days that followed, Lee was quoted as saying in a newspaper, "I would have protested my mother if I needed to."

Petty Enterprises[edit]

Main article: Petty Enterprises

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 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.




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 his 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.

Motorsports career results[edit]


(key) (Bold – Pole position awarded by qualifying time. Italics – Pole position earned by points standings or practice time. * – Most laps led.)

Grand National Series[edit]

Daytona 500[edit]
Year Team Manufacturer Start Finish
1959 Petty Enterprises Oldsmobile 15 1
1960 Plymouth 14 4
1961 DNQ


  1. ^ http://www.wargs.com/other/petty.html
  2. ^ 1959: Petty's photo finish; Mark Aumann, Turner Sports Interactive; January 9, 2003; Retrieved October 24, 2007

External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Herb Thomas
Buck Baker
NASCAR Grand National Champion
1958, 1959
Succeeded by
Tim Flock
Rex White
Preceded by
Daytona 500 Winner
Succeeded by
Junior Johnson