Stock car racing is an important part of North Carolina's cultural heritage, and the state has produced some of the most successful and iconic drivers in the sport's history.
Known as "The King," Richard Petty is perhaps the most famous stock car driver in history, and certainly one of North Carolina's greatest athletes. He won seven NASCAR Cup Series championships, a record that stood for over 20 years, and recorded an incredible 200 race wins in his career. Petty's charisma, success, and distinctive blue-and-red car made him a household name and an enduring icon of American sports.
Another legendary figure in NASCAR, Dale Earnhardt was born and raised in Kannapolis, North Carolina, and went on to become one of the sport's greatest drivers. He won seven Cup Series championships, tying Richard Petty's record, and was known for his aggressive, hard-charging driving style. Earnhardt's tragic death in a crash at the 2001 Daytona 500 shocked the racing world and cemented his status as a beloved and enduring figure in North Carolina racing history.
Hailing from Wilkes County, Junior Johnson was a pioneer of the moonshine-running culture that gave rise to stock car racing in North Carolina. He became a successful driver in the 1950s and 60s, winning 50 races and becoming one of the most popular and charismatic drivers of his time. After retiring from driving, Johnson went on to become a successful team owner and NASCAR executive.
Born in Newton, North Carolina, Ned Jarrett was a dominant force in the late 1950s and early 60s, winning 50 races and two Cup Series championships. He was known for his smooth, consistent driving style and his meticulous attention to detail in preparing his cars for races. After retiring from driving, Jarrett became a popular NASCAR broadcaster and commentator.
Hailing from the small town of Olivia, North Carolina, Herb Thomas was one of the sport's first great drivers, winning two Cup Series championships in the early 1950s. He was known for his fearless driving style and his ability to win on a variety of different tracks and surfaces. Thomas retired from driving in 1962 and was later inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
These five drivers represent just a small sample of the incredible talent and success that North Carolina has produced in the world of stock car racing. From the moonshine-running culture of the 1940s and 50s to the high-tech, multi-million-dollar industry of today, North Carolina continues to be a central hub of the sport and a breeding ground for the next generation of racing legends.