People who have been around NASCAR for more than a week often talk about how much like a family the sport is and the feeling of family found in most garages over a race weekend.
That says a lot about the people working in our sport, but it also speaks to the fact that there are indeed a lot of families involved in NASCAR. It truly is a family sport and there are fathers, mothers, son, daughters, cousins, nephews and nieces working 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.
When you think about NASCAR and NASCAR royalty, one name is always at the top of the list — Petty. You can’t begin any discussion of the most famous and most successful families in NASCAR without mentioning Petty in one of the top two spots. A lot of the family’s acclaim was earned by one man, Richard Petty. In 1979, Richard earned his record-breaking seventh title in NASCAR’s premier series to go along with a record 200 wins, the last of which came in 1984. It’s clear to see 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 champion. Kyle Petty, Richard’s son, also won eight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. Other Pettys who made starts in one of the NASCAR’s three national touring series include 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 that rings synonymous with famous and successful among the NASCAR ranks is Earnhardt. And like the Petty clan, most of the credit is owed to one family member — Dale Earnhardt. Dale followed in the footsteps of his father Ralph to become a driver. Ralph made only 51 starts in NASCAR’s premier series, competing in his final race in 1964. Eleven years later, Dale made his first start and race until the 2001 Daytona 500 where he died as a result of last-lap wreck as the field approached the finish line. In between his debut and his final race, he won 76 times in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series coupled with a record-tying seven titles. He also had 21 wins in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. His son, Dale Jr., the current undisputed most popular driver in NASCAR, has 26 and 24 wins in NASCAR’s top two series, respectively. Before he transitioned full-time to the top series, he picked up two championships in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Both Kerry (Dale Sr.’s oldest son) and Jeffrey (Kerry’s son) Earnhardt have competed in all three of NASCAR’s top three series.
In the 65-plus years that NASCAR has been around, there has only been one family at the helm of the sport — the France family. In December 1947, “Big Bill” France assembled a group of stock car pioneers to discuss the growth of the sport and put in place an governing body which would oversee the sport, which adopted the name “NASCAR” at the meeting. He stepped down from his role as president in January 1972, handing the reigns over to his son William C. France (better known as Bill France Jr.). During his tenure, NASCAR saw unprecedented levels of popularity and growth. He handed off the role of president to Mike Helton in November 2000 and later stepped down from his position as CEO in October 2003. His son, Brian France, replaced him as CEO and holds that position still today. Brian’s sister, Lesa France Kennedy currently serves as the Vice Chairwoman/Executive Vice President for NASCAR as well as the CEO and Vice Chairperson of the Board of Directors for the International Speedway Corporation. Lesa’s son, Ben Kennedy, is the only France that has competed in any of NASCAR’s three national touring series. He’s currently a driver in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Bobby and Donnie Allison were two of the original members of the “Alabama Gang” — a group of drivers based out of Hueytown, Ala. Bobby’s sons, Davey and Clifford, would later become members of the gang hailing from Alabama. Bobby was probably the most successful member of the gang, as well as the Allison family. During his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career, Bobby posted 84 wins and won the 1983 title. His 84 wins ties him with Darrell Waltrip for fourth-most on the all-time wins list. One of his more popular wins came in the 1988 Daytona 500 where his oldest son Davey finished runner-up. He also won twice in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Donnie, Bobby’s younger brother, compiled 10 victories in a career that spanned 20 years. Davey won 19 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races before he tragically died in a helicopter crash at Talladega Superspeedway mid-way through the 1993 season. Davey’s younger brother, Clifford, appeared in 22 NASCAR XFINTY Series races before he died in a crash at Michigan International Speedway in 1992.
With more titles (five) than any family not named Petty or Earnhardt, the father-son combo of David and Larry Pearson also find their surname on this list. David has the second-most wins of all-time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 105. This, of course, is complemented by his three series titles (1966, 1968-69). He also has one win in NASCAR’s second series. Larry, David’s son, excelled in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, winning 15 times and capturing the title in back-to-back seasons (1986-87).
Honorable Mentions: Baker, Busch, Flock, Jarrett, Labonte, Thomas, Waltrip