Kyle Eugene Petty was born on June 2, 1960 in Randleman, North Carolina. He is the grandson of legendary racer Lee Petty, son of four-time championship racer Richard Petty, and the father of the late Adam Petty.
Petty began racing at a young age and made his major-league stock car debut at the age of 18 in 1978.
His first major win was at the 1979 Daytona ARCA 200 in a Dodge Magnum, which at the time he was the youngest driver to win a major-league stock car race. Kyle made a few attempts to qualify for Winston (Sprint) Cup races but failed until later in the season when he made his debut at Talladega, driving the #42 STP Dodge Magnum for his legendary family's team; he finished ninth. He ran a total of five races that year.
In 1980, he made a total of fifteen starts in the #42 STP Petty Enterprises Dodge with six top-tens.
He began the 1981 season driving his father's #43 in one race, before running a full schedule in his regular #42, finishing in the top-ten ten times and finishing twelfth in points.
He began the 1982 season with two top-ten finishes, but later began splitting time between his #42 and the #1 UNO/STP car owned by Hoss Ellington.
In 1983, he picked up funding from 7-Eleven and switched his number to #7 accordingly with Hoss Ellington as his car owner. He had only two top-ten finishes but improved to thirteenth in the standings. He also appeared in the 1983 Burt Reynolds movie Stroker Ace along with fellow driver Tim Richmond that same year.
In 1984 he had six top-tens the following year, but fell three spots in points from the following year to 16th.
Petty took his number and sponsorship to Wood Brothers Racing in 1985, where he had a then career-high seven top-fives and his first top-ten points finish.
In 1986 Kyle won his very first career NASCAR race at Richmond International Raceway and finished tenth in the final standings. That win at Richmond made him the first third-generation driver to win a NASCAR sanctioned race, with his grandfather Lee winning 55 races in his career, and his father Richard winning a record 200.
In 1987, he switched to the #21 and received new sponsorship from CITGO in his Wood Brothers car, as well as picking up his second career win at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
In 1988, he fell to thirteenth in points, causing him to be released from his Wood Brothers contract.
After going to SABCO racing’s #42, Peak Antifreeze became the team's full-time sponsor in 1990. He won the spring race at North Carolina (Rockingham) Speedway and finished 11h in points.
Mello Yello replaced Peak as the sponsor of the #42 in 1991; mid-season Petty was running eleventh in the points when he suffered a broken leg in a crash at Talladega, causing him to miss the next eleven races. His abbreviated schedule combined with only one top-ten in the second half of the season caused him to finish the season 30th in points.
In 1992 Kyle moved to SABCO racing; he won 2 races and finished a career-best fifth in the points.
In 1993 he finished 5th yet again in the points, while winning again at Pocono Raceway in his SABCO racing car.
He dropped ten spots in points in 1994 finishing a still respectable 15th after he failed to finish higher than fourth in any race; Petty lost the Mello Yello sponsorship at the end of the season.
Coors Light became his new sponsor for his #42 car beginning in 1995; he won his 6th race at Dover that year. He fell further down to 30th in points after only finishing in the top-ten five times and failing to qualify for the fall race at Bristol Motor Speedway. He also created his annual charity motorcycle ride across the country called the “Kyle Petty Charity Ride across America” which has rose over $14 million dollars to date.
He improved to a 27th place points finish in 1996 despite missing two races due to injury and failing to qualify for the season-ending race at Atlanta.
For the 1997 season, Petty formed his own team, PE2 Motorsports, and fielded the #44 Hot Wheels Pontiac Grand Prix for himself. He had two top-five finishes and finished 15th in points, which was the highest points finish of all the new teams to run during the 1997 season. Kyle made his only ever start in the Craftsman (Camping World) truck series in 1997 driving the #42 Hot Wheels Chevrolet to a 11th place finish at California Speedway.
He only had two top-tens in 1998, and fell back to 30th in points, causing him to return to Petty Enterprises and run his team from their shop; he became Petty Enterprises' new CEO due to that business being owned by his father and founded by his grandfather Lee.
Kyle began the 1999 season with two early DNQ (Did not qualify) s; despite finishing in the top ten 9 times he finished 26th in the points.
Kyle’s year didn’t start off very good in 2000 with his grandfather Lee dying; that was only the beginning. Just 5 weeks later on May 12th, Kyle’s son Adam was practicing for a Busch (Nationwide) Series race at New Hampshire International Speedway when he slammed into the wall and died on the way to the hospital. Kyle skipped the next two races and returned to drive the #44 for the rest of the summer, before moving to the Busch (Nationwide) Series full-time to finish out the season in Adam's #45 Sprint Chevrolet. He had four top-tens in the #45 over a span of fourteen races, and attempted two Cup races. In October Kyle partnered with Paul Newman and the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp to build the Victory Junction Gang Camp in Randleman, North Carolina, as a memorial to Adam, who always dreamed of helping children with needs.
In 2001, Petty brought the #45 to Cup full-time and switched to Dodge. He failed to qualify for twelve races that season and failed to finish higher than sixteenth, causing him to finish 43rd in points.
He qualified for every race in 2002 and had one top-ten which came at Talladega, raising him to 22nd in the points.
At the start of the 2003 season Kyle had a new sponsor from Brawny and Georgia Pacific due to Sprint leaving at the end of the previous season. He missed three races in 2003 and fell back to 37th in the standings.
He moved up four spots in the points in 2004 to 33rd and had a best finish of 12th for the year. This year the Victory Junction Gang Camp opened and is currently an official charity of NASCAR.
In 2005, he competed in every race for the first time in three years with two top-tens; he finished 27th in the points standings.
Georgia pacific left the #45 car at the end of 2005 which left Kyle to get new sponsorship from Wells Fargo, Schwan’s, and Marathon Oil. He had two top tens with his new sponsors and finished 32nd in points.
In 2007 he went to the Coca-Cola 600 in his Coke Zero #45 Dodge Charger starting 36th; that didn’t stop him, he went on to finish 3rd with a fuel gamble; that was the first time he had a top five since 1997. Later on in the season he took 5 races off to work as a color commentator for TNT's Nextel (Sprint) Cup coverage, replacing the late Benny Parsons.
Early in the 2008 season, Petty Enterprises was purchased by Boston Ventures, causing Petty to step aside as the team's CEO. When the #45 car fell out of the top-35 in owner's points, he took a large portion of the season off, including races that did not conflict with his broadcasting duties. After fourteen races, his best finish was a 24th at Richmond. He finished 39th in his final 2008 start in the fall race at Phoenix International Raceway after getting swept up into a multi-car crash. Kyle and his wife Pattie announced there would be a new Victory Junction Gang camp in the Kansas City area due to the overwhelming results of the one in Level Cross.
Petty didn’t race during the 2009 season; Kyle was supposed to race in the Grand-am series but later pulled out. He is un-officially retired from NASCAR which means the legacy of the Petty’s are over for now.
Every time Petty is on television he wears a black hat with a #45 crossed out on it; when asked what that was for he said it was in memorial of his late son Adam. His T.V jobs include being on Trackside and NASCAR Smarts; he also hosts the weekly talk show “Fast Talk” on the Performance Racing Network (PRN). He is an inductee in both the Philanthropy Hall of Fame and the Humanitarian Hall of Fame.
When he is not working he is at home with his wife Pattie and his two children Austin and Montgomery Lee.