Along with winning the first Daytona 500, Lee Petty also was the first driver to capture three championships in what now is the NASCAR Cup Series.
- Inducted: 2011
A Pioneer of NASCAR
Lee Petty's career was a long list of “firsts” and “mosts.”
It took a while—three whole days—for officials to declare Lee Petty the winner of the first Daytona 500. So in many ways, we have Petty to thank for the yearly spectacle that is “The Great American Race.” That’s because he created the very first spectacle.
On the final lap, Petty and Johnny Beauchamp barreled toward the finish line, in what would become one of the closest finishes in the prestigious race’s history. So close, in fact, that race officials put a hold on the results for three days. A photo snapped at the finish line confirmed Petty’s win, his first in another championship winning season.
But that first Daytona 500 is only one of many Petty accomplishments. Along with winning the first Daytona 500, Petty also was the first driver to capture three championships in what now is the NASCAR Cup Series. And up until the time his own son, Richard, caught and passed him, Lee won more races than any other driver—54. That number still ranks ninth all time.
But maybe his greatest legacy is his own name—and lineage. Petty, who started Petty Enterprises, is the father of “The King” Richard Petty and the grandfather of Kyle Petty.