If you are a NASCAR fan, you will know the name of one of the best drivers in the history of NASCAR, Dale Earnhardt. What you might not know, however is that he was born in the city of Kannapolis, N.C., on April 29, 1951 and his son Dale Earnhardt Jr. was born in Concord, North Carolina. Dale Earnhardt began his racing career at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1975 in the World 600 where he finished the race in 2nd place. The one record that holds true to this day is that Dale Earnhardt is the only NASCAR driver to ever win Rookie of the Year honors and in the very next season with the NASCAR Winston Cup Championship. We all surely remember the devastating crash in turn 4 of the Daytona 500 in 2001 that took this great man from us. His legacy lives on in his son, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
The only other driver that was a rival of Dale Earnhardt on the NASCAR circuit was Richard Petty who was also born in North Carolina. Richard Petty was born in Surry County in Level Rock on July 2, 1947. In his career as a NASCAR driver, Petty ran in 1,184 races winning 200 of those. His first ever official race was in 1958 at the Jim Mideon 500 held at the Canadian Exposition Stadum. Richard Petty’s last race of his career was in 1992 which was the Hooters 500 in Atlanta, Georgia. Petty’s first win was in 1960 at the Southern States Fairgrounds in Charlotte, NC. The Petty family is most all involved in the racing circuit. The family resides in Level Cross, NC and operates the Richard Petty Museum located in Randleman, North Carolina.
Ray Charles Leonard better-known Sugar Ray was born on May 17th, 1956 in Wilmington, North Carolina. Before the age of 20, Sugar Ray had already won three National Golden Gloves titles, two AAU Championships and the Pan-American Games crown in 1975. He earned his spot on the 1976 Olympic team, which up to this point he had only lost five fights. After winning the Olympic gold, Leonard made an astonishing announcement to the media that he had fulfilled his ultimate dream and planned to retire from the sport.In his mind it wouldn’t be long before the endorsements would begin to pile in, and he would have to work never again, but he was wrong, the endorsements never came so he decided to go professional. Sugar Ray Leonard won his first 25 pro fights. His most impressive fight to date took place in August 1979 when he knocked out Pete Ranzany in just 4 rounds to win the North American Boxing Federation welterweight championship.