Richard Petty sparkles in Hollywood while receiving prestigious award
LOS ANGELES -- The bright orange hues of the setting sun lingered over the California coastline last Thursday evening, casting an appropriate illumination on the Hollywood hilltops in the distance and onto one of Los Angeles’ most distinctive treasures in the forefront, the Petersen Automotive Museum. Sitting on famous Wilshire Boulevard, the building's modern chrome-look design is head turning even in a city known for high profile. And inside it is one of the most impressive automotive collections in the world -- the Louvre for car lovers. On this night at this appropriate location, NASCAR’s "King" Richard Petty was honored with the Robert E. Petersen Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to auto racing and for raising the profile of the American automobile. Equally important, it was a wonderful chance to celebrate Petty's upcoming 80th birthday on July 2 with a large cake and an eager banquet room of singers. The evening's host and museum’s founding chairman Bruce Meyer welcomed the large crowd, revealing with a smile, "It's the first time having a King here." Almost 300 people were on hand to honor Petty , and there was no mistaking the eclectic attendance -- NASCAR's most treasured, old-school hero being feted by Southern California's coolest and hippest car lovers. Good vibes, as they say out here. "Richard Petty's an icon in our sport, the Frances, the people that built the sport," said retired racer Donnie Allison, an invited guest of Petty's for the evening. "Richard Petty is without a doubt the most noted name in all of racing. It doesn't make a difference who you know or who you talk to. "Bobby (Allison) and I were on an airplane coming out here and sitting next to a guy who asked us what we did. I said that we raced and he said, I don't know anything about racing but I know who Richard Petty is. "What does that say?" Before the formal sit-down dinner, seven-time NASCAR champion Petty joined four-time champ Jeff Gordon to film an interview for FOX Sports. With the famous "Hollywood" sign landmark in the distance, Petty smiled at Gordon and they discussed his family's "redneck engineering." "There was no book, everything was new," Petty told Gordon. "We were so dedicated to working on those cars, we didn't know if it was night or day." Dressed in a black suit and wearing one of his trademark black, feathered cowboy hats and black boots, Petty settled in for the casual time with Gordon and they talked about everything from receiving this unique honor to Petty's favorite winning hardware. "I've got them everywhere," 15-time Martinsville winner Petty said, smiling about the track's famous grandfather clock trophy. With seven NASCAR titles and 200 wins, Petty could not be more revered, and seeing him celebrated in this unique setting seemed not only genuinely appreciated by him, but also a true gift to the crowd. "I'm pretty sure he's signed more autographs than any person in the history of the world," road racing champion Tommy Kendall said, smiling. "Seriously, he's been famous for a long, long time." "It's easy to think of 200 wins and say he was good, but you have to think about that. Everyone had the same limitations and the same challenges of knowledge and understanding and the Pettys somehow raised the bar. "And he raised it in other areas, too, in terms of fan engagement and even something as simple as why his autograph is so legible. It's probably not an accident. People spend their time and money to see him and he wants to give them something." On this night, Petty gave plenty -- his time, his smile, his approval and his sincere gratitude. "I'm just getting old," Petty joked before the program began. "But," he added of the recognition, "Petersen has been in publishing of all kinds of racing magazines. Being they cover all types of racing, to be selected in something like this is really a big thing. I guess it winds up showing we had a lot of good people working for us to be able to put us in this position. It wasn't a one-man show. "What can you do by yourself? "I've accomplished nothing by myself. With the crowd around me we've accomplished a lot. I just happen to be the guy out front. I'm not pulling them, they are pushing me." Always one to share credit and appreciate competition, Petty invited some of his closest friends and even some of his former fiercest competitors to join him this evening. NASCAR executives such as Vice Chairman Mike Helton, Executive Vice President & Chief Global Sales & Marketing Officer Steve Phelps and Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Jill Gregory were there to support and enjoy. Fellow NASCAR Hall of Famers Bobby Allison and Rusty Wallace were there, too, along with the great Donnie Allison, NASCAR team owner Rob Kauffman, Kendall and Petty's son Kyle, who played guitar on stage to end the evening. The musical finale came after the tributes, however. And there were -- appropriately -- hours' worth of those. NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France and his sister, International Speedway Corporation's CEO Lesa France Kennedy, joined a lineup that included Roger Penske, Mario Andretti, Darryl Gywnn and others who sent video messages of accolade and homage. Newly inducted fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer, team owner Rick Hendrick, fondly recalled in his message that Petty's famous signature was "the first autograph I ever got." Former United States Presidents George H. Bush and George W. Bush sent letters to be read on stage. The elder Bush wrote to Petty , "You are a legend. What may not be as well-known is your life's mission to help. ... You are an inspiration about what is best about our great country." Henry Ford, the great, great, great-grandson of Ford Motor Company's founder, delivered a tribute in person as did other major corporate executives. Petty finally took the stage briefly to acknowledge the kindness and many honors, and as you might expect, humbly and briefly reminded everyone, "It's a tribute to not only Richard Petty , but to our sport." At the live auction after dinner, Petty not surprisingly offered a big assist. Two people were in a lively bidding war for one of Petty's famous cowboy hats. When you're the King, your hat is a crown. And after the bidding concluded, Petty took off the very hat he was wearing, walked to the stage and told the audience he would give it to the other bidder -- in effect doubling the money raised for the Petty Family Foundation and Petersen Automotive Museum. And making two grown men very happy. The spontaneous gesture was an apt display of both the high regard Petty has earned and his unending willingness to give back to his many fans. Hats off to the King, indeed.
First look: Petty family exhibit opens at NASCAR Hall of Fame
The NASCAR Hall of Fame unveiled the " Petty : Building a Family Legacy" at the NASCAR Hall of Fame on March 29. The opening celebration was fit for the "King."
Pete Hamilton passes away at age 74
RELATED: Every Daytona 500 winner in history NASCAR driver Pete Hamilton, who won the 1970 Daytona 500 driving for Petty Enterprises, passed away Wednesday. He was 74. Hamilton won four times during a career that spanned six seasons and included 64 starts in what is now the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. He won the series' Rookie of the Year title in 1968. NASCAR issued a statement on Hamilton's passing Wednesday afternoon that read: NASCAR extends its deepest condolences to the friends and family of Pete Hamilton. Hamilton’s career may seem relatively brief at first glance, but a careful study of the gentleman racer makes it abundantly clear that Hamilton achieved excellence during his extraordinary tenure in NASCAR. Hamilton captured the NASCAR National Sportsman championship in 1967, the premier series Rookie of the Year Award in 1968 and an abundance of victories throughout a variety of NASCAR-sanctioned series. But, of course, he will be remembered most fondly for his stirring victory in the 1970 Daytona 500 while driving for the iconic Petty Enterprises race team. And for that, his legend will live forever. A native of Massachusetts, Hamilton earned three of his four wins while driving for the Randleman, North Carolina-based Petty organization. Both seven-time champion Richard Petty and Maurice Petty issued statements on Hamilton's passing. Richard Petty said: "We ran two cars in 1970, and Plymouth helped introduce us to Pete. They wanted us to run a second car with him on the bigger tracks. 'Chief' ( Maurice Petty ) led that car and started in the Daytona 500. Pete and 'Chief' won the race, and it was a big deal. Pete won both Talladega races that year. It was great to have Pete as part of the team. He was a great teammate. We send our prayers to his family." Maurice Petty , who ran the team, said: "Pete was as fast as anyone on the superspeedways in 1970. We had support from Plymouth to run two Superbirds, and they connected us with Pete Hamilton. He was a good match for us, and we won three races together. I enjoyed being around him and will miss him." While Hamilton was competitive on tracks of all sizes, he excelled on the series' largest speedways with his wins coming at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. His Daytona 500 win came in his 21st career start and featured a late-race battle with David Pearson. In addition to driving for Petty Enterprises, NASCAR Hall of Fame car owner Cotton Owens as well as Banjo Matthews fielded cars for Hamilton during his brief career.
NASCAR Hall of Fame: Maurice Petty
Maurice Petty , a well known engine builder for Petty Enterprise; He is the fourth member of the Petty family to be inducted to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Hall of Fame One-on-One: Maurice Petty
Maurice Petty explains to Alan Cavanna that it took a team effort to bring Petty Enterprises to the top of NASCAR and be successful.
Almirola unveils No. 41 for Maurice Petty
Aric Almirola will drive the No. 41 car in Martinsville in honor of Maurice Petty
Maurice Petty extends family legacy in HOF
Maurice Petty joins his brother, Richard, and his father, Lee, in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Press Pass: Maurice Petty
Maurice Petty comments on the moment he knew he was in the Hall of Fame and what it means to be in.
Petty glad to join family in Hall Of Fame
Maurice Petty chats with Alan Cavanna just after his selection into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Patricia Petty , wife of Maurice Petty , dies
Wife of Hall of Fame engine builder passed away on Sunday
Showing results 1 - 10 of 1209 for: Maurice Petty
Load More Results