There’s no doubt NASCAR is a family sport. The father-son connection has been a staple of the sport’s foundation since its earliest days, and that tradition continues today.
From the garage, to the grandstands, for many NASCAR drivers, crew members and fans, it was their fathers that helped cultivate the love of the sport. They were often the ones sacrificing off time and vacations to head to the track, or the ones working on cars late into the night to be ready for the next race.
On this Father’s Day, let’s take a look back at some of the most notable fathers throughout the years in NASCAR.
This dynamic duo built and cultivated the sport we all love from its earliest days. "Big" Bill France took a risk and moved his family to Daytona Beach, Fla., eventually becoming the father of the NASCAR as well.
When it came time, he passed the reigns to his son, Bill Jr. Nurturing the sport through the years, he led NASCAR as a father figure, while paving the way for his son, Brian, to take control of the family business when the time was right.
While the Frances were the patriarchs of NASCAR, the Pettys were the sport’s first family. Lee Petty laid the groundwork for four generations of Petty racers, with sons Richard and Maurice working on the cars. Richard would go on to carry the banner for the Petty family, all while his son Kyle was following in his father’s footsteps.
When the time came, Kyle’s son Adam carried on the tradition of his father, and his father before him, and his father before him, becoming the first fourth-generation athlete in any sport.
Before Dale Earnhardt would grow to "Intimidator" fame, his father Ralph was starting the family tradition of racing, competing in 51 NASCAR Sprint Cup races. Using the tenacity and grit learned from his father, Dale would go on to win seven championships and create a legion of die-hard fans.
One of the biggest figures in NASCAR history, Dale’s children continued the family tradition of racing. Kerry, the oldest son, ran for many years and is now working on his own son, Jeffrey’s career. Kelley, Dale Sr.’s daughter, raced late models for many years before turning her attention to the business side of the sport, serving as co-owner of JR Motorsports.
Dale Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps, starting out as a mechanic at one of his dad’s car dealerships. Once he made his way through the ranks into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, many of his father’s loyal fans adopted Dale Jr. as their favorite driver.
Bobby Allison, the leader of the famed "Alabama Gang," was still winning races when his sons Davey and Clifford began their racing careers.
In 1988, Bobby and Davey finish first and second in the Daytona 500, in one of the most dramatic and heartwarming finishes to a race in memory. However, a wreck in Pocono would end Bobby’s career, leaving him with a head injury that would cause him to loose memory of many things that family finish included.
The story would take a dramatic turn in 1992 and 1993, when over the span of a few months both Clifford and Davey were killed.
"Gentleman" Ned Jarrett had a Hall of Fame career in NASCAR both behind the wheel and in the broadcast booth, something he passed on to both his sons, Dale and Glen. Glen raced primarily in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, before climbing out of the car to serve as a pit reporter for many years. Dale would go on to follow in his father’s footsteps with a Hall of Fame career of his own before also climbing in the broadcast booth after retirement.
Ned Jarrett’s call of the 1993 Daytona 500 as Dale Jarrett held off Dale Earnhardt is still considered one of the sport’s most memorable moments.
There are certainly more stories of NASCAR fathers paving the way and leading their sons and daughters into the sport as either a competitor, official, industry insider or even just as fans.
These days, the NASCAR garage is full of new dads such as Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman, David Ragan, and many more. These fathers continue the tradition that was started six decades ago with a man named France moved his family from Washington D.C. to Daytona Beach, Fla.
The family aspect of NASCAR is unlike any other, and that is especially true each and every Father’s Day. So, a happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there in the NASCAR world, thank you for all you have done and continue to do.