NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony: Lee Petty
Topics: NASCAR, Lee Petty
May 23, 2011
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA
MIKE JOY: After founding a racing dynasty, he became as hard to beat on the golf course as he had been on the racetrack. Long before stock car racing had a king, on the dusty dirt tracks and speedways of the south, Lee Petty ruled.
MIKE JOY: Legendary Lee Petty raced to raise a family so he would be extremely proud of the group that is here tonight to formally induct him into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Please welcome his grandsons, Richie, Kyle, Tim and Mark.
RICHIE PETTY: Good evening, I'm Richie Petty. It's my privilege and great honor to be able to stand along here with my brothers and cousin to induct my father Lee Petty into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
He truly is an American success story. He started with absolutely nothing and built one of the sport's greatest dynasties. Petty Racing, along with his sons Maurice and Richard, is still the most dominant team in racing history. Those three changed the world. If nothing else, the NASCAR rule book.
I didn't know him as a great driver. I knew him as a mentor and a good friend. Every day at lunch, he would share his principles and philosophies that were the foundation of our family's success. These were hard work, beat your competition not yourself, don't be envious. These were Lee's core values.
Probably the greatest lesson that was instilled into all of us, he borrowed from the Bible. Matthew 12:25: A house divided against itself shall not stand.
Even in Lee's last days, keeping his family together was the key to his legacy. He was the glue that kept us all together.
Well done, grandfather.
KYLE PETTY: When I first started, my grandfather was still obviously actively involved in Petty Enterprises on a day-to-day basis. Just as Richie spoke, it was, Don't beat yourself, beat the competition, but don't beat yourself. I can't tell you how many times he would come through and make us do maintenance on the tools that we worked with, on the band saws, on the jacks, on the lathes. Whatever it was, it was, Don't beat yourself. Make sure you do the best job you can. If you get beat, you're going to get beat.
When I first started, he would go to the dirt tracks with me. I run like 12 or 14 dirt tracks that first year. If you qualified anywhere from fifth back, he wouldn't get out of the truck and watch you drive. He would set there, Just load it up, we're going home.
He almost got us in a couple of fights, I will say that. There were a couple times that he went with me that he almost got us into a couple of fights.
Richie spoke to it well. To my grandfather, it was all about family. When he started, it was he and his brothers. As he went farther into the sport, it was about Uncle Maurice, my father, my grandmother and my grandfather. That sport was passed on to them as you see to my cousins Richie, Timmy and Mark and their kids. It's always been a family.
This was for us and for my grandfather was not a sport, it was a way of life. I think you could say the same thing for David and Bobby and Bud and Ned. That's the way those early guys were. It was a way of life. Congratulations to all you guys.
But I will say this. The funny part is that as my grandfather raced, he raced to put food on the table. That's what it was all about. It wasn't about the trophies. It was about keeping the family together and keeping us all as one cohesive unit.
Now as I stand here tonight, my grandfather is in the Hall of Fame, my father is in the Hall of Fame, and there's one man left in our family to be in the Hall of Fame, and that's Maurice Petty. Just as many wins, just as many victories, just as many championships. We'll be back in the near future with one more.
TIM PETTY: How do you follow him?
My fondest memories of Lee Boy would come during our daily lunch breaks when he would share his philosophies on life. Each day I try to live with his wisdom like, Grease is a secret to life. Nobody is going to do it for you, sonny. It's not how much you earn but how much you keep. Finally, There is no more important race than the one you're fixing to run.
Yes, there's lots of memories and wins and trophies. But Lee Petty's real success story is what he taught us through his unwavering love for his wife Elizabeth, his family and his unending dedication to his craft, the sport of auto racing, which we are all truly thankful for.
MARK PETTY: My name is Mark Petty. I'm Lee Petty's youngest grandson. I'd like to thank Winston Kelley and the NASCAR Hall of Fame for all they've done for all of us. Been a great experience all year long. Thanks to all of you who voted Lee Petty into the Hall of Fame. Of course, thanks to the France family for NASCAR.
For the first 17 years of my life, Lee Petty was someone I was scared of. I didn't even know him. He was just the mean boss man down in the garage. Then one day him and Richie was in there working on a late-model stock car. He came in 11:30 in the morning said, Let's go to lunch. We were scared but we went anyway because he said to go.
Well, we kept going every day 11:30 for the rest of his life. It was during those lunches that Lee Petty became our grandfather and he became our friend. He would tell different stories every day, just life lessons. I wish I would have recorded those stories. But, you know, they are recorded right here in my heart.
He would tell us how he grew up as a child, and they were poor. He remembered every time that the rent come due, they had to move. But he survived it. He told stories about how he survived the Great Depression as a 20-year-old man. He also told us how whether it was the right way or wrong way, he put food on his table for his wife and two sons. He told us stories about when he started racing, hundreds of racing stories. I wish I could tell you all of them, but how he survived the early years of NASCAR.
That's what he taught us all, my brothers, cousins, everybody. He taught us how to survive, how to survive tough times.
As you all know, last 10 years have been really tough times for the whole Petty family. But thanks to him, we're surviving. His stories, my parents, Maurice and Patricia, people like Kevin and DeLana Harvick, Richard Childress, they're helping us survive, and we are surviving.
Looking back, I wouldn't take anything in the whole wide world for every lunch that we ever spent together.
Now I'd like to introduce Richard and Maurice Petty, who are accepting this induction on behalf of our grandfather, Lee Petty.
MARK PETTY: On this, the 23rd day of May, 2011, it is our honor to formally induct our grandfather, our friend, Lee Petty, into the NASCAR Hall of Fame and present this Hall of Fame inductee ring to his sons Richard and Maurice Petty.
RICHARD PETTY: Thank you. You see this crowd up here. That's the reason Daddy had us working so hard, just to feed this crowd.
Anyhow, it's great to be here for my father. Can't believe we was here last year, lucky enough to be here. Always felt like he was the leader. He should have been here way before I was. The way it ends up I'm pushing him now. He pushed me all of his life.
Get to talking about the things that Lee Petty was, he was tough, okay? He was pretty good with the grandsons and stuff like that, but pretty hard on me, but real hard on the outside world. He lived in his world and he didn't want anybody to tell him how to live in his world. His big deal was to take care of his own. If you got in the way, didn't make a whole lot of difference to him, he got you out of the way.
Again, I just want to say thank you for everybody here that voted on dad. Hopefully he's up there somewhere saying, Okay, I know I'd get there, might have to push somebody out of the way to get there (laughter). Again, thank you all.
MAURICE PETTY: I guess it's my turn to talk.
I'm going to back up a little bit about Mr. Lee, about the hard times that people had when they first started racing. I'm talking about hard times.
He ran his first race in a Buick that was borrowed. The very first racecar that he ever had, he financed it with M & J Finance Company in Greensboro, N.C. Therefore, to feed us, to pay the car off, he had to work his butt off and drive his butt off to get us to where we're at today. I'm very proud and am honored to be up here for him, and I'm very glad that I was a part of him getting in it, and I'm glad I was part of my brother getting in it. Thank y'all.
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