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Performance & Hotrod Business February '14

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PERFORMANCE Now a car owner, Petty has maintained an active role in NASCAR, as well as the performance aftermarket through Petty's Garage and other racing endeavors. Long known as a "Plymouth man," Petty nonetheless drove several vehicle makes and models on the way to becoming NASCAR's winningest driver. ing the motors for the rest of my career," Richard recalled. The young couple decided to elope, and keep it a secret. It took him three or four months to get a diamond wedding ring, then at that time they told everyone about it. The first year they lived upstairs at Richard's parents' house, which was right next to the race shop, and they bought a house trailer and parked it in the front yard until they could afford a place of their own. The early years were not about Richard being a famous driver. "She and I both, at that point, thought I would be working on the cars and build40 n Performance & Hotrod Business PHBFEB.indd 40 n Talent Emerges However, he did start doing much better behind the wheel of a race car, winning close to $8,000 in 1959 and things were looking up. He was named "Rookie of the Year" by NASCAR. Driving a Plymouth, Richard won his first Grand National race in February 1960, on a 1/2-mile dirt track in Charlotte, and then June of that same year son Kyle was born. The first year Richard drove the full season was 1960 and he ended up second in points at the end of the year, while Lee Petty finished sixth. The 1964 Daytona 500 was what really put Richard Petty on the map. Chrysler had just debuted the 426 Hemi engine and the #43 Petty Plymouth dominated the race, leading 184 of the 200 laps. He went on to win the season points championship and total winnings were $114,771. That Hemi engine performed so well that NASCAR effectively banned it the following season, forcing Petty to boycott stock car racing, as that is what his boss at Chrysler mandated. Petty was back in a Hemi-powered stock car in 1966 after a short stint campaigning a Barracuda drag car. With a 404ci version of the Hemi under the hood, he went out and won the Daytona 500 that year as well—the only person at the time to ever accomplish winning the prestigious race more than once. This was the start of an era where, when Richard Petty showed up at a race track, track-side observers would ask, "Who's going to run second?" An example of his "never give up attitude" was at a race in Nashville during 1967 where he was leading, and then blew a tire and crashed into the fence at Turn 3, knocking out the front alignment and taking the left rear spring out. The car limped into the pits and his brother Maurice, a member of the pit crew, told him to "just park it over there." Richard quickly protested. "Heck no, let's try and get it back out there and see what's going on." With eight or 10 laps of down time in the pits doing the welding and hammering to repair the crumpled-up Plymouth, four fresh tires were put on, then Richard again raced out to the track. He was the fastest on the track, and he kept on pushing hard and soon reached fifth place by the time the race was threequarters over. Then the leaders started falling out of the race and by the time the checkered flag dropped, the #43 car had a five-lap lead on second place and won the event. "The '67 Belvedere was a special car," remembers The King. "Back then we usually found a car that was good on the short February 2014 1/7/14 2:35 PM

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