“The King” of NASCAR commands respect by just being himself
|The Man of the Fans & “King” of NASCAR
Photo – LAT Photographic
Over the span of his storied career, NASCAR Fans having the honor of being in his presence all agree. The most humble and yet the most respected celebrity of NASCAR is Richard “The King” Petty.
One of the many aspects that fans enjoy when experiencing this sport, is the interaction of drivers with fans. And today fans can thank Richard Petty for helping to create that culture within NASCAR.
It’s been said, he never refused a fan when requesting an autograph or photo. He respects all fans, despite his legendary status and not likely to-be-matched 200 wins throughout his historic career.
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of attending the Official NASCAR Members Club convention in Charlotte. There were a lot of legends in attendance that evening including Ned Jarrett, Bobby Allison, Rex White, to name only a few of the many. All were gracious in spending time with fans and casually chatting throughout the evening, with everyone appreciating the magnitude of being in their presence.
Yet, it was obvious when Richard Petty arrived dressed in his equally legendary style, everyone took note. Known as “The King” of NASCAR, implies royalty. And in some respects, the term applies, yet in other ways it seems a bit of a contradiction.
One of many characteristics, most appreciate about Richard Petty is his high-level of respect for every fan he meets. He is charismatic, because he puts nothing between himself and fans despite, his entitlement to more. Fans recognize his genuine respect for them and in turn he receives the highest degree of respect back. And that my friends, is special and unique in the entire world of sports.
In the words of the organization that bears his name, Richard Petty Motorsports …
The NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee, Petty is one of the most celebrated athletes in all of sports and his trademark cowboy hat, sunglasses, belt buckle and cowboy boots have made him an American icon. His accomplishments over 75 years list like a “Who’s Who” of American athletes, including:
- A record 200 NASCAR Sprint Cup Wins
- A record seven NASCAR Sprint Cup Championships – 1964, ’67, ’71, ’72, ’74, ’75, ’79
- A record 27 wins in one season – 1967
- A record 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup wins in a row – 1967
- Led Petty Enterprises and Richard Petty Motorsports to a record 271 wins, most of any team
- Member of four generations of Petty athletes – Lee, Richard, Kyle and Adam
- Has met United States Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, George W Busch and Barack Obama
- Awarded Medal of Freedom – 1992
- Elected into three motorsports Hall of Fames including inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame class – 2010
- Has appeared in or voiced movies such as “CARS,” “Swing Vote,” “Days of Thunder,” “Stoker Ace” and others
- Has appeared in television shows including Arli$$, Hee Haw, David Frost Show and others
- Donated his personal land, over 75 acres, to help build the Victory Junction Gang Camp
- Has his name behind the original and most popular stock car driving school, the Richard Petty Driving Experience
- Is honored by the Richard Petty Museum in Randleman, NC, a museum that houses Petty’s racing and personal memorabilia
- A trustee Chairman of the North Carolina Motorsports Association
- Current owner of Richard Petty Motorsports, Petty’s Garage, Board Member of Victory Junction Gang Camp, Board Member of Richard Petty Driving Experience, Co-Founder of the Petty Family Foundation
“I’m really thankful for everyone who has supported us over the years,” said Petty. “I really don’t think about age too much. I just keep going to the next race. I’ve been doing that all my life and that’s what I’m going to keep doing. But, I am grateful for each day and all the fans who make this a lot of fun for us.”
Today and throughout the week, for his 75th birthday celebration, we have an opportunity to give back to “The King,” and I don’t think there is anything that would please him more. Take a few moments to donate – a little or a lot, is not the point – to one of the many charities Richard Petty’s hand has touched. There are several choices. Just choose one in celebration of “The Man” of the fans.
And just as he said, he’s “going to the next race.” His familiar cowboy style, sincere wave and genuine smile will be experienced by many more fans this weekend at Daytona for the Coke Zero 400.