For Charlotte Race Week, the Hall is open Friday 10AM – 6PM and Saturday 9AM – 6PM.

Opens at 10am


Opens at 10am


Opens at 10am

Curator's Corner / NASCAR 75th Anniversary

‘Chief’ Powered Petty Enterprises

Maurice Petty built the engines that powered his father, brother and others to Victory Lane.

Ask any NASCAR driver and chances are he’ll tell you that having the fastest car is more critical to winning races than having the best driver. To that end, making lots and lots of horsepower and torque are key ingredients to having a fast race car.

When it came to horsepower and torque in NASCAR, few could match the engine-building prowess of NASCAR Hall of Famer Maurice Petty (Class of 2014), who for decades built the Petty Enterprises powerplants that won races and championships for his father Lee Petty (Class of 2011) and his older brother Richard Petty (Class of 2010).

The 1964 season was huge for Petty Enterprises as Maurice Petty (from left) was Mechanic of the Year, Lee Petty the Cup Series championship team owner and Richard Petty the championship driver. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images

Known simply as “Chief,” Maurice Petty was a master at building fast, reliable engines for his father and brother, who collectively won 10 Cup Series championships and 254 races. Maurice was officially credited with building 212 race-winning Cup engines for Lee and Richard, as well as for Petty Enterprises drivers Buddy Baker (Class of 2020), Jim Paschal and Pete Hamilton.

Petty Enterprises was a family business, and as such “Chief” wore a several hats with the team, including engine builder, pit crew member and mechanic. He was crew chief on the team’s second car in 1970, when New England driver Pete Hamilton won the Daytona 500 and both races at Alabama International Motor Speedway (now Talladega Superspeedway) in the No. 40 Petty Enterprises Plymouth Superbird.

Changing tires for his brother Richard was one of Maurice Petty’s responsibilities. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images

When needed, Maurice even drove for Petty Enterprises, making 26 Cup Series starts from 1960-64, earning seven top-five and 16 top-10 finishes.

Out of all those roles, though, Petty was best known for his work in developing Chrysler Corp.’s legendary 426-cubic-inch Hemi engine, so named for its hemispherical-shaped cylinder head combustion chambers. Introduced in 1964, the Hemi would dominate NASCAR into the early 1970s.

Which brings us to the subject of this blog post, Maurice Petty’s 1964 Mechanic of the Year award, which is on display in the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Heritage Speedway.

Maurice Petty (left) was crew chief for driver Pete Hamilton when he won the 1970 Daytona 500. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

The 1964 season was a huge one for Petty Enterprises and Chrysler Corp., the parent company of Plymouth, the brand of cars the Petty family then raced. After finishing second in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings in 1960, ’62 and ’63, Richard broke through in ’64, winning his first of a record seven Cup championships and the first of a record seven Daytona 500s. In the 1964 Daytona 500, Hemi-powered Plymouths swept the top three finishing spots, along with Jim Paschal fifth in a Hemi Dodge fielded by Hall of Famer Cotton Owens (2013).

All told, Maurice’s 426 engines powered his younger brother to nine victories, 37 top-fives and 43 top-10 finishes during the 1964 season. That earned Maurice the Mechanic of the Year award, a beautiful bronze sculpture of a mechanic with a torque wrench in his hand. The award was presented by P.A. Sturtevant Co. (now Sturtevant Richmont), an Illinois-based maker of mechanic’s tools that was incorporated in 1940.

With Maurice Petty serving as both his crew chief and engine builder, Pete Hamilton won three superspeedway races in 1970. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images

The company’s co-founder, Paull Sturtevant, believed that mechanics didn’t get anywhere near the attention of drivers, and he wanted to change that.

Thus, Maurice Petty’s Mechanic of the Year trophy contains this eloquent and heartfelt inscription: “Mechanics Award A Tribute to Mechanics. This is the highest award a mechanic in the motor sports field car receive. The Master of Mechanics Trophy stands as a tribute to all mechanics who seldom have the opportunity to share in the prestige and glory of the winner. It has become an accepted custom for the winning driver to receive the trophy, kiss the queen, be interviewed by the press, and admired by everyone. This trophy is an inspiration to every mechanic and gives special recognition to the master of mechanics, for his all important contribution to the winning machine. It is the hope of the P.A. Sturtevant Co. that mechanics will someday share an equal position with the drivers, and we hope to make mechanics immortal by symbolizing them with an instrument of their trade, the torque wrench.”

Maurice Petty’s Mechanic of the Year trophy. Photo courtesy of Kevin Larribee.

Fitting words for a talented mechanical mastermind like Maurice Petty, who is forever enshrined in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Plan a visit to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and purchase tickets at

Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen

Tom is the Curatorial Affairs Manager at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. For more than 25 years, he has been part of the NASCAR media industry.

Related Articles