Happy 77th birthday to Richard Petty, The King of NASCAR

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It was 77 years ago today — July 2, 1937 — that a baby was brought into this world in Level Cross, North Carolina.

Mom Elizabeth and father Lee were proud of their first born, who would be joined a few years later by younger brother Maurice.

Together, the brothers would go on to follow in father Lee’s footsteps and form the most successful race team in NASCAR history.

And young Richard would go on to become the winningest driver in NASCAR history, earning 200 victories, a mark that will likely never be reached again (next closest is fellow Hall of Famer David Pearson, with 105 wins) – and which included a record seven wins in the sport’s biggest race, the Daytona 500.

It’s no wonder he earned the nickname of “The King.”

Happy 77th birthday, Richard Lee Petty!

Petty also went on to win to become the first driver to earn seven NASCAR Cup championships, later to be joined by the late Dale Earnhardt. Both men were charter inductees in the first class to enter the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010.

This is a very special weekend for Petty in more ways than just his special birthday.

Friday marks the 30th anniversary of his 200th and last career Cup win in the 1984 Firecracker 400 at Daytona International Speedway, a race that was attended by then-President Ronald Reagan, who personally congratulated Petty after the race, which Petty considers one of the high marks of his lengthy and star-studded career.

And two weeks from now – on July 18 – Petty will celebrate the 56th anniversary of his first official race, held at CNE Stadium in Toronto, Canada.

He’d go on to win NASCAR Rookie of the Year in 1959, the same year that father Lee went on to win the first race ever held at Daytona International Speedway and what would go on to become the biggest event in the sport’s history, the Daytona 500.

Sadly, Richard will celebrate his 77th without his lifelong love, Lynda, who died earlier this year on March 25 at the age of 72 from a long illness. The couple had been married for 55 years.

Let’s all wish The King a happy 77th — for NASCAR wouldn’t have become what it is today without the pride and joy of Level Cross.

Check out the videos below of Petty’s final win as well as a great and touching montage of his illustrious career.

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Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023; leaves open possibility of returning at Ganassi

Jimmie Johnson race 2023
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images
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Though he remains uncertain of his plans for next year, Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023, scaling back his schedule after running a full 17-race NTT IndyCar Series season.

“This was a difficult choice for me, but in my heart, I know it’s the right one,” Johnson said in a statement Monday morning. “I’m not exactly sure what the next chapter holds, but if an opportunity comes along that makes sense, I will consider it. I still have a bucket list of racing events I would like to take part in. Competing at this level in IndyCar has been such a great experience.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to race for than Chip Ganassi and Chip Ganassi Racing. Everyone worked extremely hard for the last two seasons, pushing to get the best performances out of me every single week. The support from my crew and teammates Dario (Franchitti), Scott (Dixon), Tony (Kanaan), Marcus (Ericsson) and Alex (Palou) went above and beyond anything I could have ever asked for.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON: An analysis of his racing options for the 2023 season

Driving the No. 48 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, Johnson ranked 21st in the 2022 points standings with a career-best fifth place July 24 at Iowa Speedway.

After running only road and street courses for Ganassi in 2021, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion added ovals this year. In his Indy 500 debut, he qualified 12th and finished 28th after a late crash.

“I do have a desire to go back (to IndyCar), it’s just at this point, I know what’s required to do a full schedule, and I don’t have that in me,” Johnson told AP. “I don’t have that passion that I need for myself to commit myself to a full season.”

That leaves open the concept of Johnson returning part time with Ganassi, perhaps exclusively on ovals.

“We are fully supportive of Jimmie,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement. “He has been a valued member of our team and if we can find a way to continue working together, we would like to do so.”

During IndyCar’s season finale race weekend, Johnson told reporters Sept. 9 that he planned to explore his options with wife Chandra and daughters Evie and Lydia. Johnson told the Associated Press that his family is considering living abroad for a year or two, and he has toyed with the idea of running in the World Endurance Championship sports car series because of its international locales.

Johnson hasn’t ruled out IndyCar, IMSA sports cars or even a cameo in NASCAR next year. Since retiring from full-time NASCAR after the 2020 season, he has entered the endurance races of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac (including Saturday’s Petit Le Mans season finale). Johnson also wants to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is a prime candidate for the Garage 56 entry (a joint project of NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports).

Johnson told the AP he is interested in becoming the latest driver to try “The Double” and run both the Coca-Cola 600 and Indy 500 on the same day (the most recent was Kurt Busch in 2014).

“You know me and endurance sports, and ‘The Double’ sounds awesome,” Johnson, a four-time Coke 600 winner, told AP. “I’ve always had this respect for the guys who have done ‘The Double.’ I would say it is more of a respect thing than a bucket-list item, and I’d love to put some energy into that idea and see if I can pull it off.”

It is less likely that he would return to IMSA’s endurance events because its top prototype series is being overhauled, limiting the amount of inventory available for the new LMDh cars in the rebranded GTP division.

Johnson has confirmed that he would retain primary sponsor Carvana, which has backed him in IndyCar the past two years. He revealed his decision Monday during the last episode of “Reinventing the Wheel,” Carvana Racing’s eight-part docuseries about his 2023 season.

“I’m thankful for the partnership with a company like Carvana for allowing me to take this journey in IndyCar, for seeing the value in our partnership and being open to future opportunities together,” Johnson said. “They have truly showed me that there are no finish lines in life. Along with Carvana, The American Legion, Ally, cbdMD and Frank August were there every step of the way, and I couldn’t have done it without all of them. Most importantly — and the true rockstars in all of this –my family, Chani, Evie and Lydia. They have always allowed me to chase my dreams, and we are all just really excited about what the future holds for all of us. I have enjoyed every minute of these last two years.”

Said Carvana co-founder Ryan Keeton: “During the past two years, Jimmie Johnson has been so amazing to collaborate with. Our team admires his passion, hard work and commitment to continuous improvement while also having fun, and we look forward to continuing to support him next year in this new chapter.”