The late Julius Hilton Petty is almost certainly the most successful member of the famous Petty family who most NASCAR fans have never heard of.
Everyone with even a smattering of stock car history knows about three-time champion Lee Petty and his son, seven-time champion Richard. They’re likely familiar to some extent with Maurice Petty, Kyle Petty, and Adam Petty. They might even know about Thad Moffitt, the 23-year-old grandson of Richard who’ll soon begin his first full season in the Craftsman Truck Series.
Then there’s Julian Petty, whose 11-year career has been largely forgotten and relegated to little more than a footnote in NASCAR history.
Don’t despair if the name isn’t familiar. Not many Cup Series followers—even the most attentive—are familiar with Lee’s younger brother, Richard’s uncle, and Kyle’s great uncle. It may surprise them to learn that one of the least-known members of the famous family had a solid but relatively low-key career in the 1950s and early 1960s.
To be sure, that fame didn’t come behind the wheel. Julian had one top-10 in his three career starts, a seventh-place at Martinsville Speedway, seven laps down, in October 1952. He qualified poorly, ran poorly, and finished poorly at Montgomery, Ala. in 1955 and didn’t fare much better later that year, when his older brother won at Plattsburgh, N.Y.
But Julian was a terrific mechanic and successful businessman/team owner. His 181 Cup entries spread across the 1951-1962 seasons won 14 poles and 13 races with such notables as Bob Welborn, Tiny Lund, Marvin Panch, Gwen Staley, and Jim Paschal. More impressively, he fielded cars for NASCAR Hall of Fame drivers Junior Johnson, Joe Weatherly, Rex White, and David Pearson.
He was team owner and chief mechanic in 1958, when Welborn won six Convertible Division poles and eight races in 19 starts. That was easily enough for Welborn to win the championship in Petty-owned and -prepared No. 49 Chevrolets. Oddly enough, there’s no record that Julian ever fielded cars for Lee or Richard.
Editor's note: This year, the Petty family is celebrating 75 years of NASCAR racing, and Autoweek is coming along for the ride with a series of "Petty 75" stories written by reporters who have been covering the King and his family for more than 50 of those years. In addition, be sure to check out the Petty family's own social media channels throughout the year and join in the party. Content will be featured on the @therichardpetty, @pettybrothersracing, @kylepetty, @pettymuseum and @pettysgarage social media accounts as well as a soon-to-launch YouTube channel.