Richard Lee Petty (born July 2, 1937) is a former NASCAR driver who raced in the Strictly Stock/Grand National Era and the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. "The King", as he is nicknamed, is most well known for winning the NASCAR Championship seven times (Dale Earnhardt is the only other driver to accomplish this feat), winning a record 200 races during his career, winning the Daytona 500 a record seven times, and winning a record 27 races (ten of them consecutively) in the 1967 season alone. (A 1972 rule change eliminated races under 250 miles (400 km) in length, reducing the schedule to 30 races.) Petty is widely considered one of the greatest NASCAR drivers of all time and is one of the most respected figures in motorsports as a whole. He also collected a record number of poles (127) and over 700 top-ten finishes in his 1,185 starts, including 513 consecutive starts from 1971–1989.
Petty is a second generation driver. His father, Lee Petty, won the first Daytona 500 in 1959 and was also a 3 time NASCAR champion. Richard's son, Kyle Petty, is also a well-known NASCAR driver. Richard's grandson, Adam Petty, was killed in an accident at New Hampshire International Speedway on May 12, 2000, five weeks after the death of Lee. Meanwhile, Adam's brother Austin works on day-to-day operations of the Victory Junction Gang Camp, a Hole in the Wall Gang camp established by the Pettys after Adam's death. Petty married his wife Lynda in 1958 and they have four children – Kyle Petty, Sharon Petty Farlow, Lisa Petty Luck and Rebecca Petty Moffit – and 12 grandchildren. The family still resides in Petty's home town of Level Cross, North Carolina and operates Richard Petty Motorsports. The Richard Petty Museum is in nearby Randleman, North Carolina. Since January 7, 2008, Petty Enterprises has been the newest resident of Race City, U.S.A., moving their race team into the vacated Yates Racing 115,000-square-foot (10,700 m2) facility in Mooresville, N.C. Throughout Petty's career, but especially during his prime, Petty was known to stand for hours – backed against a fence, signing autographs to everyone who asked.
Petty was born in Level Cross, North Carolina, the son of Elizabeth (née Toomes) and Lee Arnold Petty, also a NASCAR driver. He began his NASCAR career on July 18, 1958, 16 days after his 21st birthday. His first race was at CNE Stadium, Exhibition Place in Toronto, Canada, and he finished 17th having completed 55 of 100 laps in an Oldsmobile. In 1959, Richard was named NASCAR Rookie of the Year, after he produced 9 top 10 finishes, including six Top 5 finishes.