Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Uncle Julie

As Richard Petty began his career and long before he became known as The King, he was generally recognized simply as "Lee Petty's son". In the late 1950s, Lee's name and reputation was right up there with Fireball Roberts, Curtis Turner, Tim Flock and Junior Johnson.

Lee had eight siblings - most of whom from what I've gathered weren't involved in racing. One older brother, however, Julius Hilton (Julian) Petty was a NASCAR regular.

Born April 1, 1916, Julian (also known to some as J.H. or Uncle Julie) drove a few Grand National races in the early 1950s without much success. As a car owner, however, he notched 23 wins with a handful of drivers behind the wheel in NASCAR's Grand National and short-lived convertible divisions.

In addition to the three starts he made as a driver, he fielded a car for NASCAR pioneer Jimmie Lewallen in the early 1950s. The garage he owned and operated also sponsored Lewallen for a couple of races in 1953 when Jimmie ran the car number later made famous by Julian's nephew.

Julian's best year as an owner was 1958. Though others won races for him before and after, Bob Welborn rang up thirteen victories in cars fielded by Julian in NASCAR's Grand National and Convertible divisions. Welborn also won in Julian's Chevy in NASCAR's short-lived Short Track Series division. Records for the division are poor; consequently, I'm unsure how many additional trophies the duo may have claimed.

Near the end of 1958, Julian interestingly sold all his equipment to Roy Tyner. It's interesting to me because (1) Julian's pairing with Welborn was BANK in 1958 - a trend likely to have have continued into 1959 and (2) Julian married Roy's mother - Grace Tyner - in 1959 after her first husband passed away in 1958.

Source: Wilmington News via Google News Archive
Perhaps the sale to his step-son was a strategic or family play - or perhaps Julian was just done with racing. Either way, he didn't step away from NASCAR permanently. He returned in the early 1960s and enjoyed a bit more success with driver Jim Paschal.

Julian's son and Richard's cousin - Gene Petty - was involved in racing as well. Gene was instrumental in helping Mike Skinner get his start in NASCAR.

Lee was two years older than Julian. Lee passed away in 2000 - just a few weeks after his 86th birthday. Julian died in 2003 - just a few weeks before his 87th - and was laid to rest without a grave marker next to his parents in a Greensboro, NC cemetery.

Over the next few months, I plan to blog about as many of Julian's wins as I can. Each will be posted on the anniversary date of the race. Articles, photos and stories from those 1950s races are pretty hard to come by. Please email me at toomuchcountry(at)gmail(dot)com if you have something from that era to share, and I'll be happy to include the info in my posts with full attribution.


No comments:

Post a Comment