Petty Patriarch Passes

Lee Petty, from the News and Observer Collection, copyrighted by the N&OOn April 5, 2000, stock car racing legend and NASCAR pioneer Lee Petty died in Greensboro. He was 86.

It wasn’t until age 35 that Petty began his racing career, driving a borrowed 1946 Buick Roadmaster in NASCAR’s first “strictly stock” race in June 1949 in Charlotte. That same year, Petty established a garage in a repurposed reaper shed on his family’s farm in Randleman. Over the course of his career, Petty claimed 50 wins, including three NASCAR championships and the top spot at the inaugural Daytona 500 in February 1959.

A serious wreck during a 1961 qualifying race at Daytona left Petty with a punctured lung and a badly broken leg. He recovered but only participated in six more races before his retirement in 1964. Though his racing days were behind him, Petty continued to manage his garage. Eventually he was joined by his sons, Richard and Maurice, and grandson, Kyle. Known as Petty Enterprises, the complex grew to 16 buildings, including racing workshops and fabrication facilities.

Petty’s son Richard went on to become a seven-time NASCAR champion and claimed a record 200 career victories, including seven Daytona 500 wins.

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