Career Chronology: Lee Petty
- 1948: Wins first race.
- 1954, 1958-59: Wins NASCAR championship.
- 1959: Wins Inaugural Daytona 500 in a photo finish.
- 1961: Seriously injured in a qualifying race.
- 1964: Retires from stock-car racing.
- 1990: Inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.
- 1998: Selected as one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers.
- 2011: Inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
- One of the pioneers of NASCAR, driving the very first Daytona race in 1959.
- At the time of his retirement in 1964, Lee Petty had accumulated 16 years behind the wheel, and 427 official NASCAR starts.
- In 1959, he entered the inaugural Daytona 500, where he had to campaign for his close-call victory against Beauchamp.
- Finished in the Top Five for season points during his first eleven seasons.
Lee Petty was an early American stock car driver that helped to pioneer the start of NASCAR in the 1950’s, as one of its first racing icons. He was born in a small town in North Carolina to humble beginnings. He began his career as a mechanic, tinkering with cars, before getting behind the wheel to race them. When he started his career officially, it was at Charlotte Speedway in 1949 during NASCAR’s first racing competition. Petty’s first, official win at the NASCAR Championships happened in 1954, during what was then called the Grand National Series. He won the title again in 1958 and 1959, for a total of three times. In the event he is perhaps best known for, at the inaugural race of the Daytona 500 in 1959, he completed a photo-finish race against Johnny Beauchamp that led to three days of deliberation to finally determine the results as Petty’s win.
After a serious accident during a qualifying event at Daytona in 1961, Lee Petty was seriously injured, and only raced a few more times before eventually going into retirement in 1964. He was selected as NASCARS’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998, and was eventually inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011. In the year 2000, at the age of 86, Lee Petty died in Greensboro, North Carolina from cardiac arrest. His son, Richard Petty, took after his father’s illustrious career, and has gone on to become one of the most successful NASCAR drivers in the sport of racing.
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