Hall of fame's first class: Richard Petty
Tuesday, Oct. 06, 2009

Richard Petty’s Cup Series records are staggering: Most wins (200), most poles (123), tied for most championships (seven) and more.

Competed: 1958-1992

Starts: 1,185

Wins: 200

Poles: 123

Petty’s Cup Series records are staggering: Most wins (200), most poles (123), tied for most championships (seven), most wins in a season (27), most Daytona 500 wins (seven), most consecutive wins (10) and most starts (1,185).

In all, Petty Enterprises totaled 268 victories before merging with Gillett Evernham Motorsports for the 2009 season to become Richard Petty Motorsports.

Tom Higgins on 'The King'

Motorsports writer and historian Tom Higgins shares a standout memory of each of the 10 nominees we're featuring as we count down to the NASCAR Hall of Fame vote and announcement.

Richmond, Va. – the 1982

The van slowly circled the expansive, empty parking lot at the old Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway in February of 1982, strangely starting and stopping intermittently.

“What’s with that guy?” I asked a media buddy as we made our way toward the press box prior to time trials for the Richmond 400, scheduled two days later. My pal expressed confusion, too.

Suddenly the van turned toward us and rolled to a stop. Down came a heavily tinted driver’s-side window and we were greeted with a glowing, familiar grin.

The driver was Richard Petty.

“I haven’t gone crazy, boys,” Petty said with a chuckle. “I’m just practicing my braking and using the clutch pedal.”

Petty needed the practice because he’d suffered torn ligaments and a broken foot the weekend before in a Daytona 500 crash. He had a cast on his right leg from calf to toe. The cast was hinged at the ankle to improve his mobility in using the pedals.

Such dedication, including driving while hurt, was pivotal as Petty gained the pinnacle of his sport and unequaled popularity, becoming “The King” forever.

He finished second in that race incidentally.