Father of Mopar Racing

Richard Petty has most wins ever, many in Plymouths

Eric Kaminsky - June 02, 2014 08:30 AM


Richard Petty, in his trademark cowboy hat and sunglasses, with one of his Petty Garage Challengers

Photo: Andy Bolig

Petty Garage turns out a modern rendition of the Challenger, improving on what came from the factory.

Photo: Andy Bolig

The 1970 #43 Plymouth Superbird, which now resides inthe Richard Petty Museum on Randleman, North Carolina.

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His achievements speak for themselves: most races won (200, almost twice as many as the nearest competitor, David Pearson, with 105); seven wins at the Daytona 500, another record; seven-time NASCAR Champion (only Dale Earnhardt has matched that accomplishment); and winner of 27 races in one season (1967, in which he also won 10 in a  row).

He is known as “The King,” for good reason. He is Richard Petty, instantly recognizable for his large cowboy hat with snakeskin band and sunglasses, and for his long association with Mopar products.

You could say that racing is in his blood, or at least in his bloodline. His father, Lee Petty, won the first Daytona 500 in 1959, and Richard himself began racing less than three weeks after his 21st birthday in 1958. His only son, Kyle, followed him into NASCAR, as did his grandson, Adam, who was tragically killed in an accident at the New Hampshire International Speedway in 2000.

After Adam’s death, Richard and his wife, Lynda, founded the Victory Junction Gang Camp, a Hole in the Wall Camp that enriches the lives of children with serious illnesses by providing life-changing camping experiences that are exciting, fun and empowering, at no cost to children or their families.

Many people associate Petty with the #43 Plymouth Superbird. But his association with Mopar goes back to 1964, when he drove a Hemi-powered Plymouth, and led 184 of the 200 laps at the Daytona 500 to capture his first win there. He would stay with Mopar products until 1969, when he briefly switched to Ford. He returned to the Plymouth camp a year later, when he drove the all-new Superbird. He would win his third Daytona 500 in 1971, driving a Plymouth Road Runner.

The iconic Superbird is now on display at the Richard Petty Museum in Randleman, North Carolina. It was also featured in the animated Disney/Pixar movie, "Cars"; Petty himself voiced Strip Weathers, “The King” and his wife Lynda voiced The King’s wife, portrayed by a Town & Country station wagon.

Petty would win his last race, the 200th of his career, on July 4, 1984 at the Firecracker 400 at Daytona. He continued to race, but would not reach the winner’s circle again. He retired at the end of the 1992 season after competing in all 29 races. After he finished racing, he went on to be a team owner and did a brief stint as a TV announcer.

He has also appeared in a number of movies, including “Stroker Ace” (1983) with Burt Reynolds, and “Days of Thunder” (1990) with Tom Cruise.

These days, you’ll find him busy with Petty’s Garage, which builds limited editions of the Dodge Challenger; the Richard Petty Driving Experience, which offers enthusiasts the opportunity to feels what riding in a racecar feels like; at his museum in North Carolina; and as a spokesman for a number of products.