At 85, Richard Petty's long ride continues - NBC Sports (2022)

RANDLEMAN, N.C. — Mario Andretti remembers racing behind Richard Petty in the 1967 Daytona 500, which Andretti won.

“I remember one time him being very loose in front of me and catching the car,” Andretti said. “I thought, ‘That was a really good catch.’ ”

That was 55 years ago. Andretti was 26, Petty 29. They were near the start of auto racing careers that would make them wealthy, internationally famous and iconic in the eyes of millions of fans and their peers.

Andretti now is 82. On Saturday, Petty will be 85.

A.J. Foyt is 87. Bobby Allison 84. Cale Yarborough 83.

Racing’s Old Guard now is an Even Older Guard. To imagine decades ago that all of them would reach their 80s would be to defy good sense. All cheated death on many occasions, and their hard-charging, fuel-soaked, inches-from-disaster lifestyles weren’t the kind that typically lead to long residencies on Earth.

Yet, not only are many octogenarian former racers still moving above ground, but some also remain key pieces in the ever-changing, personality-driven, high-wire world of auto racing.

Petty clearly stands among – and above most – of them. He hasn’t driven a race car in anger since the 1992 season, but a typical NASCAR weekend will find him in the garage area, signing autographs, meeting old friends, sharing the same stories with others who were there in stock car racing’s growing years.

He remains part owner of a race team (Petty GMS Motorsports), but his role at tracks generally is that of ambassador and friend, a devoted racer who stepped inside a race track as a young child and never left.

(Video) Richard 'The King' Petty on Daytona's significance | Motorsports on NBC

Eighty-five, to Richard Petty, is just another number. Like the number 43 on the front of the Level Cross Fire Department (Station 43) near the Petty shop, honoring the race car number Petty drove through most of his glory years.

“Racing and being at a race track and being around race people is who Richard Petty is,” said his son, Kyle Petty, also a retired driver. “If you took all of that away from him, I’m sure there’s no doubt he would have sat down in a chair and passed away. But he just had the driving part taken away. It took him a while to deal with that, but once he did, he’s still Richard Petty. That’s who he is and what he does.

“Racing was his single focus. All he’s ever wanted to do.”

Although most top-level drivers are obsessively devoted to racing, most also have other interests. Golf, maybe, or fishing. Restoring old cars. Operating businesses that have little or nothing to do with racing.

For Petty, nothing else has mattered.

“All he’s ever done his whole life besides go to school and high school is be around racing,” Kyle said. “Same with all the other Pettys – my grandfather (Lee Petty), my uncle Maurice. None of them had any hobbies. I’m the anomaly of the group. All I had was hobbies. They had none.”

Those who thought Richard might move away from the sport after his driving career ended were quite surprised. He remained in team ownership and rarely missed more than a few races per season until the pandemic forced him to stay home.

“That was the hardest two years ever on him,” Kyle said.

Andretti’s post-driving life has been much the same. He has remained involved in the Andretti family’s various racing pursuits, attends virtually every IndyCar race and continues to make appearances for sponsors.

(Video) Looking at Richard Petty's legacy and his iconic Plymouths | Motorsports on NBC

“My passion for the sport never vanished in any way,” Andretti said. “The fact that we have family continuing and being part of it gives me even more reason to stay close to it. That will be for the rest of my days. It’s our life.

“I imagine Richard thinks the same way. There have been battles but great battles with great memories. I only remember the positive things. That’s what keeps me going. I keep loving what has been the most important part of my professional life.”

Petty’s weekly schedule has returned to what it was prior to the pandemic. He typically visits the team shop in Statesville, North Carolina, on Tuesday, makes sponsor or charity appearances during the week, spends time at the Petty Museum in Randleman signing hundreds of autographs and travels to the Cup race site during the weekend.

At 85, Richard Petty's long ride continues - NBC Sports (1)

“I don’t really have to do anything, but to keep things going for the garage (Petty’s Garage, which deals in high-performance parts and vehicle restorations), for the museum, for Victory Junction (the children’s camp the Petty family runs) and for the race team, I obligate myself to do things,” Petty said.

“As far as turning 85, it’s just another number. The way I look, the way I act, the way I dress – it’s all the same as it was 15 or 20 years ago. What you see is what you get. In my mind, I haven’t changed. My personality, what I do, where I go – it hasn’t changed much. I don’t think I’ve changed, but obviously I have.

“I feel as good as I did 10 years ago. I can’t see as good or hear as good, but that change has been gradual so you just adjust to it.”

“What you see” with Richard Petty is a man in a cowboy hat and sunglasses, a shirt sprinkled with sponsor names, well-worn jeans and cowboy boots. It’s an image that will forever shout RICHARD PETTY, one that emblazons all manner of souvenir items still popular with fans.

And the autograph. Petty has signed his looping signature millions of times across the years, and people still covet it, even kids who have no concept of this man in the cowboy hat. On a recent Wednesday, he sat in his office and signed more than 1,000 items for distribution at a future event. The daily mail, even 30 years after Petty drove a race car for the final time, typically brings from 20 to 100 requests for that autograph.

Darrell Waltrip, who left driving in 2000 and almost immediately moved into television with Fox Sports’ NASCAR broadcasts, took a different track from that walked by Petty. Waltrip worked in racing television but said he rarely “hangs out” at races now because so many of the people he raced for, with and against are no longer in garage areas. But, he said, he understands Petty’s situation.

“This is all he knows,” Waltrip said. “He knows racing. I just always felt like no matter who you are or what you do, stick to what you know. And he’s still the King. I guess he’ll be the King until the day he dies, and there will never be another King. He’s got 200 wins, so many things he has that nobody else has. That’s what helped his longevity. He’s King Richard. He’s an icon.”

(Video) 'The King' Richard Petty and Dale Inman reflect on racing accomplishments I NASCAR I NBC Sports

At 85, Richard Petty's long ride continues - NBC Sports (2)

Continuing on the long road that has been Petty’s life is his cousin and former crew chief Dale Inman. Inman, almost a year older than Petty, is as close to being Richard’s brother as a cousin can be. They traveled together through their competition careers, wound up in the NASCAR Hall of Fame together, and now that ride continues.

Virtually everywhere Petty goes, Inman tags along. It’s the ultimate long-running buddy trip. The King drives, by the way, as he always has.

“As we were growing up, a 50-year-old man was an old man,” Inman said. “The trends of time change all that. We’re older, but we’re still out there. It keeps both of us going. I’ve been with him all over the planet, and it’s still amazing how he’s recognized with that hat and sunglasses.

“The track promoters, the sponsors, team owners – they still want him around because he draws attention wherever he goes. He enjoys going to the races. He wants to be around the people.”

Petty’s health is good considering his age and the gauntlet he pushed his body through over the racing years. He has broken his neck twice, broken most of the bones in his body, lost 40 percent of his stomach to ulcers and overcame prostate cancer. He has a checkup by a raft of doctors every year, and Petty says they tell him he’s physically 10 years younger than his age.

“I picked him up from the hospital after the prostate surgery, and he had to stop and get ice cream,” Inman said. “He tells people he had two ulcers and they had names – Lynda and Dale.”

Lynda. Petty’s wife and a bright light in garage areas and victory lanes across the Petty championship years and beyond. Known as the First Lady of racing, she died in 2014 after a long struggle with cancer.

The Petty family had lost its center.

The weeks that followed were low moments for Richard, who, when Lynda’s diagnosis was revealed to the public, asked media members in an emotional press conference at Daytona International Speedway, to “pray for Lynda.”

After her death, Petty retreated from a life that always had been very public.

(Video) July 7, 1989 commercials

“I got back in a Richard Petty shell,” he said. “I didn’t go anywhere. I wasn’t interested in anything. My daughters all came in one day and said, ‘Daddy, you have to get your butt up and do something. You can’t sit here for the rest of your life.’ ”

Petty soon returned to being The King, the very public figure his fans expected. Eventually, a new woman came into his life. He describes Ellen Hill, who grew up in the same area as the Pettys, as his companion.

“Ellen had been on trips with Lynda when Lynda was involved with the 4-H Club and the Girl Scouts and such, but I didn’t really know her,” Petty said. “She came up at church one day and introduced herself. We got to be friends. My girls knew her. They’re upside-down, anyway, but not as much as if I’d gone out and got a girlfriend somewhere else. They’re still trying to protect Daddy, but they know her.

“Ellen lives a life. I live a life. She lives in her house. I live in mine. But we do things together. It entertains me and her both.”

Racing has been everything to Petty, but it also has hit him in the heart. Randy Owens, Lynda’s brother, died in 1975 in a pit-road accident at Talladega Superspeedway (a track Petty generally avoids because of that incident). And then in 2000 there was the death of Adam Petty, Richard’s grandson and the bright and shining star of the Petty clan. The fourth generation of drivers in the family, Adam was killed during practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He was only 19.

At 85, Richard Petty's long ride continues - NBC Sports (3)

“That was probably the lowest point of my life,” Petty said. “I didn’t leave the house for five or six days. I’d get up in the morning and just sit there. My world quit. Then I got a letter from a lady I didn’t even know. She said, ‘Don’t put a question mark where God has put a period.’ That brought me back to the real world. Before that, I was blaming myself for Adam’s death because if I hadn’t been in racing Adam wouldn’t have. She lifted a burden off me.”

As a tribute to Adam, the Petty family built the Victory Junction Gang Camp, which serves children with chronic illnesses.

“The camp came out of that, so his life was worth something,” Petty said. “Thousands of kids have gained from that camp. It was what he wanted.”

So, at 85, Petty rolls on. He has obligations to meet, hands to shake, photos to autograph. His days are much like they were at 65 and 75. For the King, the road seemingly goes on forever.

(Video) Richard Petty's greatest NASCAR Moments | Best of NASCAR

FAQs

How much is Richard Petty's car worth? ›

Petty's 1971 Plymouth Road Runner in which he won that year's NASCAR Grand National Championship sold at the auction for $412,500. That was a bargain given its estimated value of $1 million to $1.5 million, according to the auction website.

Who won Richard Petty's last race? ›

Petty is a second-generation driver. His father, Lee Petty, won the first Daytona 500 in 1959 and was also a three-time NASCAR champion. His son Kyle was also a NASCAR driver.
...
Richard Petty
Last race1992 Hooters 500 (Atlanta)
First win1960 untitled race (Southern States)
Last win1984 Firecracker 400 (Daytona)
18 more rows

What was Richard Petty's last car? ›

Petty's Last Ride in the famed blue and red No. 43 was one of the most memorable events in NASCAR history. He started 39th and was moving through the field before his race took an unexpected turn. Just before the 100-lap mark, Petty was involved in a multi-car crash going into Turn One.

Who is richest NASCAR owner? ›

1. Hendrick Motorsports – $350 million. Rick Hendrick started the American Hendrick Motorsports or HMS auto racing team in 1984. Before that, it was called All-Star Racing.

How fast is 5000 rpm in a NASCAR? ›

The first lap was to be run at 5,000 rpm, which is right about 100 mph, with speeds increasing gradually throughout the eight-lap run.

Who is considered the greatest NASCAR driver of all time? ›

Richard Petty is the best NASCAR driver of all time.

Although his record of seven championships is tied with Dale Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson, Petty holds the records for most wins, poles, career starts, wins in a season (27), consecutive wins (10), and Daytona 500 wins (7), among other distinctions.

Are there any Petty's still racing? ›

The most recent driver in the Petty family to compete in a NASCAR race was Richard's son, Kyle. Kyle Petty's son, Adam, was sent to be the next in line for the Petty legacy, but he was tragically killed in an accident at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2000. Must Read: Dale Earnhardt Jr. still annoys Martin Truex Jr.

What was Richard Petty's favorite race car? ›

The history of the 1970 Plymouth Superbird

Richard Petty's skills and reputations made him a hot commodity in the world of NASCAR. When Petty had expressed that he wished to use a winged car for his races, Petty's Plymouth team decided that it wouldn't be a good idea.

Where is Richard Petty's car? ›

43 car, which has become iconic in NASCAR history. After an extreme makeover in the Petty Garage, the car looks like it's ready to race again. Instead, it has been placed as the centerpiece display in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America at Daytona International Speedway.

What year did Richard Petty drive a Buick? ›

By that point, Petty had earned the moniker of "The King", but in the '80s he slammed the record books closed, obtaining records he still holds today. Last weekend at the ARCA Menards 200 in Daytona, Petty's Garage unveiled a 1981 Buick Regal to honor The King's historic 7th Daytona 500 win—the most wins by any driver.

How rich is Danica Patrick? ›

She has also made appearances in IndyCar series races, and she is also the only woman to win the championship. Danica Patrick is America's most successful open-wheel racer by far. Currently, she has a net worth of $85 million.

How many cars can a NASCAR owner have? ›

A NASCAR team is limited to four cars in each of the NASCAR national series. Teams mostly utilize one manufacturer (Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota) for all of their cars, but have a different car number and crew chief for each driver.

How many car dealerships does Dale Earnhardt Jr own? ›

The company operates 84 dealerships across the country, including the Earnhardt locations.

How much does a NASCAR car cost? ›

A NASCAR car can cost anywhere from $180,000 to $344,000 to build, with additional costs for tires and maintenance not factored in here. The cars are built with high-quality materials to meet NASCAR's safety and performance specifications. The costs over the season are in the millions of dollars.

What is the max RPM of a NASCAR engine? ›

Maximum torque is delivered at 7000 rpm, while peak power typically comes around 9000 rpm, though the engine is capable of revving considerably higher depending on the track.

What RPM do Nascar engines idle at? ›

But you may be wondering at what RPM NASCAR engines run. NASCAR engines typically run between 8,500 and 9,000 revolutions per minute (RPM). They idle at about 2,500 RPM, and they can rev up to 10,000 RPM.

Who Wrecked the most in NASCAR? ›

We examined 36 drivers, and found Michael McDowell to be the guy with the highest career rate of failing to finish races, at 35%—though he has some extenuating circumstances; more on that later—while Kevin Harvick is at the opposite end, failing to finish just 5% of his career starts.

Has a woman ever won a NASCAR Cup race? ›

At least 125 women have qualified for and started a race in one of NASCAR's touring series, including 16 in the NASCAR Cup Series. As of April 2021, Shawna Robinson, Hailie Deegan, Manami Kobayashi, and Gracie Trotter remain the only women to have won a race in one of NASCAR's touring series.

Who is the goat of NASCAR? ›

1. Richard Petty – 200 wins.

What does Richard Petty do now? ›

Today, he is as busy as ever and spends much of his time overseeing the operations of Petty GMS, a race team competing at NASCAR's highest level, as well as Petty's Garage high performance speed shop.

How old is Richard Childress? ›

Does Richard Petty have a wife? ›

What does Austin Petty do for a living? ›

Executive Director

Austin Petty grew up in the world of racing watching his father, Kyle Petty, race in NASCAR's elite series, and traveling with his older brother Adam while he toured the NASCAR Busch Series circuit.

Who is Kyle Pettys wife? ›

Kyle Petty

Did Kyle Petty's wife just have a baby? ›

Wow what a day. The picture on Twitter said it all, but Austin Petty added, “Today of all days.” Petty, whose brother Adam died exactly 22 years earlier, welcomed a baby girl, Ellington Montgomery Petty, into the world on Thursday. Petty, 40, is one of three children from Kyle Petty's first marriage.

How much horsepower does a Plymouth Superbird have? ›

Superbirds had three engine options: the 426 Hemi V8 engine producing 425 bhp (431 PS; 317 kW) at 5000 rpm and 490 lb⋅ft (664 N⋅m) at 4000 rpm of torque, the 440 Super Commando Six Barrel with 3X2-barrel carburetors producing 390 hp (290 kW) and the 375 hp (280 kW) 440 Super Commando with a single 4-barrel carburetor.

What brand of car did Richard Petty drive? ›

43 in 1963. Richard Petty stands beside his 1957 Oldsmobile before the first Daytona 500 in 1959. Cars from the NASCAR Convertible Division competed alongside hardtops; Petty dropped out with engine failure after just eight laps and finished 57th in the 59-car field.

What Dodge did Richard Petty drive? ›

Richard Petty drove his Plymouth Belvedere to an incredible 43 wins during the 1967 and 1968 NASCAR Cup seasons.

How much does it cost to do the Richard Petty Experience? ›

Track Time Advanced Experience

Retail: $3999.99. Daytona & Talladega $4499.99. To Book or Buy a Gift Certificate call customer service for assistance. *Track Time 32, 40 or 48 minute requisite.

Who owns Richard Petty Driving Experience? ›

Owned and operated by Petty Holdings, LLC, RPDE is the worldwide leader in NASCAR stock car drive and ride entertainment, available at more than 20 major speedways in the U.S. It hasbase locations in Las Vegas, Orlando, Concord N.C. and Kansas City.

How old is Mark Martin? ›

What years did Richard Petty drive a Pontiac? ›

Richard Petty's 200th NASCAR Victory Car

His attendance was indicative of the sport's popularity at the time. Petty's custom-built 1984 Pontiac is a Generation 3 race car, a regulation vehicle for the NASCAR circuit from 1981 to 1991.

Who won the 1981 Daytona 500? ›

Richard Petty won his record seventh (and final) Daytona 500 in 1981.

What was Richard Petty's car number? ›

The driver and the car numbers go together. While it's common knowledge that Petty leads all NASCAR premier drivers with 200 career race victories, what's less well-known is that Petty's iconic No. 43 is not the car number with the most wins in the sport's top division.

How much is Kyle Busch Motorsports worth? ›

His career earnings for 2018-2019 were approximately $16 million and earned him a spot as the second-highest-paid NASCAR driver for that year. When you combine his income and everything he owns, it is estimated that Busch has a net worth of around $80 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

How rich is Danica Patrick? ›

She has also made appearances in IndyCar series races, and she is also the only woman to win the championship. Danica Patrick is America's most successful open-wheel racer by far. Currently, she has a net worth of $85 million.

How much is Petty Enterprises worth? ›

Quick Facts
Age83 Years
NationalityAmerican
TeamPetty Enterprises
Championships7
Net Worth$65 Million
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How much is Bubba Wallace NASCAR worth? ›

Darrell Wallace, Jr., better as Bubba Wallace, has made his mark on the world of NASCAR over the last few years with high finishes in some of the sport's top races. His success on the racetrack has helped him rack up a net worth of $3 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

How much money does a NASCAR driver earn? ›

Through the purse split, the winner, on average, takes home $47,500 a race while the loser makes close to $8,500. Kyle Busch became the highest-paid NASCAR driver when he won the 2019 Cup Series. He pocketed earning of $17.8 million from his salary, endorsements, share from winning, and licensing.

What is Chase Elliott salary? ›

Aside from the All-Star race, NASCAR does not disclose the prize purse for its competitions. However, Forbes reported that Elliott earned $10.2 million in 2020, with $8 million of that from his salary and winnings, and another $2.2 million from endorsements.

How do NASCAR drivers get paid? ›

NASCAR Purse Money

Drivers would negotiate contracts with team owners for a salary, plus they could receive a percentage of each week's purse. The purses depended on the size and importance of the race; big tracks had big payouts, and small tracks had smaller payouts.

How rich is Tony Stewart? ›

What is Tony Stewart's Net Worth and Career Earnings? Tony Stewart is a retired American race car driver and businessman who has a net worth of $90 million. Tony Stewart is best known for his past activities within the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR).

Did Danica Patrick come from money? ›

Danica Patrick's net worth is estimated to be $60 million. In 2017, she was listed as the 7th richest NASCAR driver. She recorded a total earning of $12.2 million, and $7.2 million in salary.
...
Danica Patrick Net Worth, Salary, Earnings and Endorsements.
Age37
ChildrenNone
5 more rows

Where is Danica Patrick's Winery? ›

Does Danica Patrick Have A Winery? A vineyard in California's Napa Valley was purchased by Patrick in 2009. Somnium, a wine company founded by the former racer, sits on Howell Mountain, and it is one of more than 400 wineries and vineyards in the area.

How much did Richard Petty sell his team for? ›

Richard Petty Motorsports sells majority of team to Gallagher Motorsports for $19M.

Where is Richard Petty's ranch? ›

ALPINE, Wyo. — Near a mountain summit in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, Richard Petty takes in the view.

Are there any Petty's still racing? ›

The most recent driver in the Petty family to compete in a NASCAR race was Richard's son, Kyle. Kyle Petty's son, Adam, was sent to be the next in line for the Petty legacy, but he was tragically killed in an accident at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2000. Must Read: Dale Earnhardt Jr. still annoys Martin Truex Jr.

Do NASCAR teams pay entry fees? ›

Teams pay a $4,300 “entry and inspection fee” to have their primary car approved for competition during a NASCAR weekend. If an inspected/approved car is wrecked beyond repair, the team must pay another $4,300 to have the backup car inspected and approved for competition.

What is the average cost of a Nascar Cup car? ›

A NASCAR Cup car built with top-notch equipment costs roughly $344,000. The costs include the engine, chassis, and 12 sets of tires for a single race at the highest prices. Multiply $344,000 by 39 and the cost is more than $13 million to run a car for an entire season, which includes only the maintenance of the car.

What is Bubba Wallace's annual salary? ›

In addition to that, he helped found the “Live to be Different” foundation. In terms of driver salary, Bubba Wallace reportedly makes around $2.2 million with his 23XI Racing contract.

Videos

1. Kyle Petty talks racing with legendary Allison brothers | Coffee with Kyle | Motorsports on NBC
(Motorsports on NBC)
2. Remembering Adam Petty's Corvette
(Matt Yocum)
3. Richard Petty 1:16th Scale '73 Dodge Charger Model Finished
(TrekWorks)
4. Earnhardt and Waltrip collide at Richmond in 1986
(NASCAR)
5. Kyle Petty shares harrowing family racing story | Motorsports on NBC
(Motorsports on NBC)
6. This 70's Star Was Every Man's Dream Girl. Try Not to Gasp When You See Her Now
(Facts Verse)

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