People who have been in NASCAR for more than a week often talk about how much a family is doing sports and finding the family’s feeling in most garages over a race weekend.
This says a lot about the people who work in our sport, but it also indicates that there are indeed many families involved in NASCAR. It really is a family sport and there are fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, cousins, nephews and nieces who work in all the different aspects of the industry.
Some families are just more famous than others.
Let’s take a look at five of the most famous families in NASCAR history.
If you think about NASCAR and NASCAR royalties, there is always one name at the top of the list: Petty. You cannot start a discussion about the most famous and successful families in NASCAR without mentioning Petty in one of the first two places. Much of the family’s applause was earned by one man, Richard Petty. In 1979, Richard clinched his record-breaking seventh title in the NASCAR series and scored a record of 200 wins, the last of which came in 1984. It is clear why he earned the nickname “The King”. Before him, however, came his father Lee, who also had a successful career in NASCAR. Lee won 54 races and became the first three-time series winner. Kyle Petty, Richard’s son, also won eight races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Other Pettys who started in one of the three national Nascar tour series are Maurice (Richard’s brother), Adam (Richard’s grandson / Kyle’s son), Mark (Richard’s nephew / Maurice’s son) and Ritchie (Richard’s nephew / Maurice’s son).
Another family name synonymous with famous and successful names in the NASCAR ranks is Earnhardt. And like the Petty clan, most of the credit is due to a family member – Dale Earnhardt. Dale followed in the footsteps of his father Ralph to become a driver. Ralph completed only 51 starts in the NASCAR series and in 1964 took part in his last race. Eleven years later, Dale made his first start and race until the Daytona 500 in 2001, where he died as a result of a wreck on the final lap as the field neared the finish line. Between his debut and his last race, he won 76 times in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and celebrated seven titles. He also had 21 wins in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. His son Dale Jr., who is currently the undisputed most popular driver in NASCAR, has 26 and 24 wins in the two best NASCAR series. Before moving to the top series, he won two championships in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Both Kerry (Dale Senior’s eldest son) and Jeffrey (Kerry’s son) Earnhardt have competed in all three top 3 series of NASCAR.
In the more than 65 years NASCAR was there, there was only one family at the top of the sport – the French family. In December 1947, “Big Bill” France gathered a group of stock car pioneers to discuss the growth of the sport and create an umbrella organization to hire the sport, which took the name “NASCAR” at the meeting. In January 1972, he resigned from his presidency and handed over the rule to his son William C. France (better known as Bill France Jr.). During his tenure, NASCAR experienced an unprecedented level of popularity and growth. In November 2000, he handed over the role of President to Mike Helton and resigned from office in October 2003. His son Brian France replaced him as CEO and held this position today. Brian’s sister Lesa France Kennedy is currently Vice Chairman / Executive Vice President of NASCAR, as well as CEO and Deputy Chair of the Board of Directors of International Speedway Corporation. Lesas son Ben Kennedy is the only France to compete in one of the three national NASCAR tour series. He is currently a driver of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Bobby and Donnie Allison were two of the original members of the “Alabama Gang” – a group of drivers from Hueytown, Ala. Bobby’s sons Davey and Clifford later became members of the Alabama gang. Bobby was probably the band’s most successful member, as was the Allison family. During his career in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Bobby scored 84 wins and won the 1983 title. His 84 wins tie him up with Darrell Waltrip for the fourth-most on the all-time victories list. One of his more popular victories came in 1988 at Daytona 500, where his eldest son Davey finished second. He also won twice in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Donnie, Bobby’s younger brother, garnered 10 wins in a 20-year career. Davey won 19 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races before tragically killing himself in a mid-season helicopter crash at the Talladega Superspeedway in mid-1993. Davey’s younger brother Clifford participated in 22 NASCAR XFINTY Series races before he was killed in a 1992 Michigan International Speedway crash.
With more titles (five) than any family not named Petty or Earnhardt, the father-son combo of David and Larry Pearson also finds their surname on this list. David has the second-highest wins of all time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at 105. This is of course supplemented by his three series titles (1966, 1968-69). He also has a win in the second NASCAR series. Larry, David’s son, shone in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, winning 15 times and winning the title in back-to-back seasons (1986-87).