He 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 (10 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).
Statistically, he is the most accomplished driver in the history of the sport 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 10 finishes in his 1,184 starts, including 513 consecutive starts from 1971–1989. Petty was the only driver to ever win in his 500th race start, until Matt Kenseth joined him in 2013. He was inducted into the inaugural class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010.
Petty is a second generation driver. His father, Lee Petty, won the first Daytona 500 in 1959 and was also a three-time NASCAR champion. His son Kyle is also a well-known NASCAR driver. His grandson, Adam, was killed in a practice crash at New Hampshire International Speedway on May 12, 2000, five weeks after Lee's death.
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 Lynda Owens (who died on March 25, 2014 at her home in Level Cross, North Carolina at age 72, after a long battle with cancer) in 1958. They had four children—Kyle Petty, Sharon Petty-Farlow, Lisa Petty-Luck, and Rebecca Petty-Moffit.
The family resides in Petty's home town of Level Cross, North Carolina and operates Richard Petty Motorsports. The Richard Petty Museum was formerly in nearby Randleman, North Carolina but moved back to its original location in March 2014.
Petty was born in Level Cross, North Carolina to Elizabeth (née Toomes) and Lee Arnold Petty, also a NASCAR driver, and the older brother of Maurice Petty. He began his NASCAR career on July 18, 1958, 16 days after his 21st birthday.
His first race was held at CNE Stadium in Toronto, Canada. In 1959, he was named NASCAR Rookie of the Year, after he produced 9 top 10 finishes, including six Top 5 finishes.(21) In Lakewood Georgia in 1959 Petty won his first race but his father Lee protested and due to a scoring error was awarded the win.(20).
Lakewood Speedway was a race track located south of Atlanta, Georgia, in Lakewood, just north of the eastern arm of Langford Parkway (formerly Lakewood Freeway). The track held many kinds of races between 1919 and 1979, including events sanctioned by AAA/USAC, IMCA, and NASCAR.
It was a one-mile (1.6 km) dirt track which was located adjacent to Lakewood Fairgrounds. Lakewood Speedway was considered the "Indianapolis of the South" as it was located in the largest city in the Southern United States and it held an annual race of the Indy cars.