King believes ‘Chief’ belongs beside him in Hall
April 12, 2013, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com
FORT WORTH, Texas -- The King is going to bat for the Chief.
Seven-time premier-series champion Richard Petty is a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and he believes his brother should join him. Maurice Petty, who built the engines that powered Petty Enterprises to most of its record 268 victories, was among five new nominees chosen for the shrine’s 2014 class, which will be selected in May.
Maurice Petty joined driving champions Dale Jarrett and Rex White, weekly series legend Larry Phillips, and promoter Bruton Smith as newcomers on the 25-person list from which the five 2014 enshinees will be chosen. As far as the King is concerned, his brother -- known in the family as “Chief” -- was as integral to the success of Petty Enterprises as himself, father and team patriarch Lee Petty, or longtime crew chief Dale Inman.
Richard Petty was part of the Hall’s inaugural class in 2010. Lee Petty was inducted a year later, and Inman in 2012. As far as Richard and Inman are concerned, Maurice belongs right there beside the rest of them.
"Each one of us had a position, and his position was to make the car go. And he did a pretty good job with it."
-- Richard Petty on brother Maurice
“When you look at Daddy and me and Dale, without a motor we wouldn’t have been nowhere,” Richard said Friday at Texas Motor Speedway. “And (Maurice) was the motor. Dale was the chassis, Daddy owned the car, I drove it. Each one of us had a position, and his position was to make the car go. And he did a pretty good job with it.”
And he did it at a time when engine construction wasn’t nearly as sophisticated as it is now. There were no grinding machines, no dynamometers until the late 1960s. Maurice built each engine by hand, a painstaking process that began with only a raw engine head.
“When he came along and started doing the engine stuff, there was no such things as CNC machines. We didn’t have a dyno,” Richard said. “And he built one engine at a time, individually, did all the grinding … all that kind of stuff. You put it together, you didn’t know if it had horsepower or not. You thought it did. And undoubtedly, they must have.”
Inman said Maurice Petty was instrumental in developing the Hemi engine in 1964. He also changed tires on the car, but motors were his specialty. “If we thought we needed extra RPMs, he’d dig into his motors making them,” the eight-time champion crew chief said. “I can say that for him.”
Richard, Maurice and Inman basically grew up together, and “were like one person with three heads,” the King said. Maurice even drove for a time, starting 26 races at the premier level, with a best finish of third at Spartanburg (S.C.) Interstate Fairgrounds in 1961. But while his older brother became the face of the sport, Maurice maintained a low profile. He didn’t receive much publicity, perhaps because he didn’t actively seek it.
“That was not his job, and he was not looking for that,” Richard said. “It was one of those deals where people accomplish something for their own satisfaction. … A bunch of reporters come up, he’d take off. He’d say, ‘That’s your job. You do it.’”
Stricken with polio as a child, Maurice overcame the disease to play high school football and become one of the top engine builders of all time. His business, Maurice Petty and Associates, operated from the Petty Enterprises shop and built engines as late as the 1990s for Petty entries on the Camping World Truck Series. As he aged, polio once again began to affect him, and today he is retired and gets around with the use of a scooter.
But in the eyes of men who raced alongside him, time doesn’t dampen Maurice’s contributions to building the best NASCAR organization of all time. Three key members of that team have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. As far as they’re concerned, there’s still one left.
“Richard got in, Lee got in, I’m very fortunate that I got in, and I’m very humbled by it,” Inman said. “And then to get the fourth member in out of the same era would be another big feat.”
Inman isn’t a voter on the Hall of Fame election panel. But Richard is -- and at least one of the names that will appear on his ballot in May is fairly obvious.
“I guess I’m prejudiced, but if it hadn’t been for him, us three might not have made it. Or we would have made it at a different level,” Richard said. “It was a four-person team, and he was as big part of it.”
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