Born near the town of Randleman, North Carolina, Lee Petty was thirty-five years old before he began racing.
One of the pioneers of NASCAR, and one of its first superstars. He was the father of Richard Petty, who would become NASCAR's all-time race winner. With sons Richard and Maurice, he founded "Petty Enterprises" which became NASCAR's most successful racing team.
Racing became a family business. Everyone became involved. Shops were constructed and maintained on the family's home grounds in Level Cross, N.C. From there, Petty ventured forth on the NASCAR circuit.
His best year was 1959. He finished 41 of 49 races and won 12 times. It was in that year he won at the fabulous new Daytona International Speedway in the inaugural Daytona 500. Petty had won on the beach course during Speed Weeks, but no one had ever seen the likes of the new Daytona monster. The race ended in high drama - a photo finish between Petty and Johnny Beauchamp. It took three days' worth of study before Petty was officially declared the winner.
During a 100-mile qualifying race at Daytona the next year, Petty was seriously injured after his and Beauchamp's locked cars went hurtling through the guardrail into the parking lot. Petty left the hospital after four months. His driving career might have been over, but he still maintained management of Petty Enterprises which, with able assistance from sons Richard and Maurice, was beginning to flourish as NASCAR's most powerful and successful racing organization.
He never finished lower than sixth in the championship standings. In addition to his three titles, he was second twice, third three times and fourth three times. He was sixth in 1960. In 1990, Lee Petty was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. He was also elected to the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.