Car Number 44, Where are You? A Petty Tradition Returns

Legends aren't born, their made. The same rings true for the King of Motorsports, Richard Petty. This year RPM is bringing back a car number that is synonymous with Petty Engineering, Richard Petty Motorsports and Petty Enterprises.

It all started when Lee Petty, Richard's father, started Petty Engineering in 1949, and began racing car number 42 up until 1961.  Lee actually ran his first race using the number 38. So how did he come up with the 42?

"To speak about us changing our car number, you first have to go back to the beginning with my Dad (Lee). He started Petty Engineering and later Petty Enterprises, and he was there right when NASCAR all started. He put together a car, and the first race he entered he actually raced a car numbered 38. But, that was it. He then went and got his own car. He had to put a number on it and saw the number 42 on a license plate, and that’s how it all started. It just went forward from there."

As Lee's sons Richard and Maurice were growing up, they wanted to race too.

Richard Petty (L), nicknamed "The King" and brother Maurice Petty (R), who they called "Chief"

We put a car together with Dale (Inman), and when it was time to go to the track, we needed a number. The car we had was one of Daddy’s old cars, so it was easy to just take the 4 off, and we raced under the number 2 for a few races. I think one race we just switched the numbers and raced with the number 24. When we got going into the 1959 season, it just made sense for me to go to the track with the 43 number with Daddy still racing the 42. That allowed me to have my own identity, and fate took it from there.

Richard Petty raced the number 43 from 1959-1992 winning a record 200 races and seven championships. He was crowned "The King" and cemented himself as the most successful NASCAR driver of all time.

Maurice "Chief" Petty raced the No. 41, 42, 43 and 44 in select races from 1960-1964. He is most remembered racing the No. 41.

When it was time, we were using the 42 and 43, so he was one of the first to use the number 44 in the family. Later, he started using the 41, and then, that really became his family number that he used. We raced the number 41 again at Martinsville the year he was elected into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and that was pretty special. Maurice wanted to be the Crew Chief for the Superbird in 1970, we hired Pete Hamilton who was a big star racing up in New England. We really felt that car was a big part of the Petty stable, so we used the number 40. Pete and Chief won the 500 and swept the races at Talladega that year. That built the legacy of the number 40 with the family. 

Kyle Petty raced the No. 42 for Petty Enterprises from 1979-1982. He raced the No. 44 for pe2/Petty Enterprises from 1997-2000. He won his first ARCA race in 1979 at Daytona in the No. 44 for Petty Enterprises. Adam Petty raced the No. 45 from 1998 to 2000 and made his Sprint Cup debut in the No. 45. He won the ARCA race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1998 racing a number 45. Jim Paschal (9 wins in the 41, 42 and 43), Bobby Hamilton (2 wins in the 43), John Andretti and Aric Almirola (one win each in the 43) have all carried on the winning tradition.

"After the 2015 season, we had an opportunity to make some changes and get the No. 44 back. We felt that it was good timing. We really wanted to get that number back in the Petty family where it really belongs. Brian (Scott) is coming on board, and he really hasn’t had a number in the Sprint Cup Series. Everything has just come together to really bring back a Petty tradition.