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March 14: Lee Petty, NASCAR pioneer, was born on this date in 1914

March 14, 2013

Lee Petty was a delivery truck driver during the Depression in North Carolina, and later claimed that as much as he enjoyed racing around the backwoods on the weekend, he never ran moonshine. (Other drivers suggested otherwise.) It wasn't until after World War II that Petty fell into organized stock-car racing, and he was 35 years old when he ran in NASCAR's first race in Charlotte in 1949. Like most racers, Petty drove his car to the track and had family — including his sons Maurice and Richard, above — for a pit crew; over 16 years, Petty would win 54 races, including the first Daytona 500, and launch Richard Petty's career as well, although dad never gave an inch to his son on the track. Petty's career tapered off after this wreck in 1961 with Johnny Beauchamp during qualifying for Daytona, which nearly killed him; Richard Petty had crashed in the same spot a day earlier and both watched the race from the hospital. Petty Enterprises remains NASCAR's all-time winningest team.