Thoughts on Lee Petty

The news of Lee Petty's passing left me with a combined feeling of great sadness and great triumph. He was always one of my heroes all the way back to those '50 Plymouths he used to race against much faster cars like Oldsmobiles. I'd see him ...

The news of Lee Petty's passing left me with a combined feeling of great sadness and great triumph. He was always one of my heroes all the way back to those '50 Plymouths he used to race against much faster cars like Oldsmobiles. I'd see him occasionally but in those days I wasn't very mobile and was engaged in making a life for myself in the Air Force. It seemed he had been around forever, even then. When racing new cars got started he was up and ready to run. I wonder what he did before NASCAR? Did he ever run with Bruton Smith who was the alternative to Bill France in those days? In the early days I got to see him mostly on the sand at Daytona, a series of races that will never be equalled no matter how slick and tall the speedways become.

I was always impressed with the state of readiness that Lee Petty's equipment was in. It bespoke that Petty took the business of stock car racing seriously. I have pictures in my albums of some modifieds at the beach. Petty was there with the cleanest modified of the bunch. It wouldn't have looked out of place on the street. It even had tail lights moulded into the body, Pontiac tail lights in the fashion of the time.

It is fitting that the family has asked that memorials be sent to the church at Level Cross to build a new building. They should call it the Lee Petty Memorial United Methodist Church.

So long, Lee. Thanks for giving all of us a standard to emulate.

- Len Ashburn

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Series History , NASCAR Cup
Drivers Lee Petty