Hot 20 – The Fathers who have produced NASCAR’s greatest sons (and daughter…and monkey)

Father’s Day is one NASCAR takes off to allow the boys to spend time with their families, their children and with their own fathers. We hear a lot about the racers, but for many of them, it all began with a father supporting a son or daughter get started in a sport that has its risks and produces many thrills and spills.

Some produce champions, winners, and some produce more than one who has competed at NASCAR’s highest levels. Here, then, is our Hot 20 look at some of those who have produced many of the names who have ran the race tracks over the years for our entertainment.

1. LEE ARNOLD PETTY, Father of Maurice and Richard Petty
The father of the best and his engine building brother is himself one of the best. His boys combined for 1,210 starts that resulted in 200 wins and seven championships. Don’t forget those 733 Top Tens, with Maurice picking up 16 of them in his 26 starts. All three are Hall of Famers.

2. LEROY WALTRIP, Father of Darrell and Michael Waltrip
Only the Labonte boys have put in more time on the track, with 1,503 races. While Darrell’s three championships and 84 victories helped put Owensboro, Kentucky on the map, Leroy’s little big son’s two Daytona 500 victories (to Darrell’s one) certainly contributed.

A man with two dads. Jeff was just six months old when his parents divorced, as it was his step-father who raised him. Four NASCAR championships and 93 victories later the son already has his ticket in hand for the Hall of Fame.

4. BOB LABONTE, Father of Bobby and Terry Labonte
A team owner, Bob helped give his younger son his start on both the senior and junior circuits. His boys combined for 1,619 races, winning 43 of them, three championships and 564 Top Tens. The Texas lads combined for three Southern 500 wins. One is in the Hall of Fame, one will be.

5. TOM BUSCH, Father of Kurt and Kyle Busch
One son has had a terrific career, the other an even better one. Tom’s boys each have their own NASCAR championship, combined for 76 wins, and 518 Top Tens. Dad has got to celebrate at Daytona, Darlington, Charlotte, Indianapolis and, twice, he will celebrate at the Hall of Fame.

6. EDMUND ALLISON, Father of Bobby and Donnie Allison
No Edmund, no Alabama Gang. Without him, Cale Yarborough would have had nobody to fight with after the 1979 Daytona 500 and history might have been different. Bobby is a true legend of the sport while Donnie’s 10 wins include a Firecracker 400 triumph. Edmund did good.

7. RALPH LEE EARNHARDT, Father of Dale Earnhardt
The father of the Intimidator ran 51 Cup races himself running part-time in the 1950s and 60s. Ralph set the foundation for a son who won seven championships, with 76 victories and established a legacy that burned bright right through to last season with his grandson.

8. LENNIE H. PEARSON, Father of David Pearson
If Lennie only had taught his boy to stick to one thing and one thing only, they might have been on top of this list. David only ran four full NASCAR seasons, winning the title in three of them. In just 574 events, Lennie’s lad was the winner on 105 occasions.

9. GARY ERNEST JOHNSON, Father of Jimmie Johnson
Gary’s son was racing motorcycles when he was four, and is known for riding bicycles today. Okay, he is probably best known for his seven NASCAR championships, with five coming in a row. Among his 83 career victories, a dozen have been of the iconic variety.

10. RUSSELL WALLACE SR., Father of Kenny, Mike, and Rusty Wallace
One son won the title and all 55 of the races, but the younger brothers contributed 541 Cup races of their own to the legacy. About a dozen years ago Arnold, Missouri brought the boys, Russ, and mom June, in for the unveiling of the salutary billboard on the massive campus of Fox High.

11. JULIAN YARBOROUGH, Father of Cale and J.C. Yarborough
My favorite driver as a kid, but sadly Julian’s early passing denied him the joy of watching his son claim three championships and 83 races. Younger brother J.C. raced twice in 1969. Cale could have used his assistance when he met up with those Allison boys on the Daytona infield.

12. JUDSON ELLSWORTH PETTY, Father of Lee Petty
What Judson started, NASCAR fans have been blessed with ever since. The father of a legend himself, Lee won three championships and 54 events. Judson passed away in 1948, a year before his then 35-year-old son began racing. For late bloomers, you could say the Petty boys did alright.

13. JULIAN MARTIN, Father of Mark Martin
Not all have to win a championship to be recognized for their greatness. By the time Julian passed away in 1998, his son was already well on his way to an eventual berth in the Hall of Fame. Forty wins in 882 competitions is a mighty high bar for all who come after.

14. EZLIE BAKER SR., Father of Buck Baker
The son of Ezlie was a back-to-back champion in the 1950’s, en route to a 46 win career. In fact, between 1955 and 1958, he was either best or second best. The bloodlines run deep, as even Ezlie’s grandson Buddy raced 700 times and is considered one of the sport’s very best.

15. JOHN BURTON, Father of Jeff and Ward Burton
Thanks to John, race fans know there is a place called South Boston, Virginia. His boys competed in a combined 1,070 events, claiming 26 of them. Even their sons are active in the sport. The English born John was a racer himself and an owner on NASCAR’s junior loop.

16. NELSON STEWART, Father of Tony Stewart
Three championships, 49 wins in 618 races explains how Tony helped his dad make this list. If you remember how Nelson reacted as Tony fought for his final career win at Sonoma two years ago, you already know all you need to know what the son means to the father.

17. ELI “JUNIE” BODINE JR., Father of Brett, Geoffrey, and Todd Bodine
Chemung Speedrome in New York was put together by Junie and his dad back in 1951. That is where his three sons got their start in what has become a 1,296 race long Cup odyssey. That is a lot of dedication to the sport, and Geoffrey’s 1986 Daytona 500 win is just the icing on the cake.

18. CARL LEE FLOCK, Father of Bob, Ethel, Fonty, and Tim Flock
Carl Lee passed in 1928, but his is the story of a man and his sons, a daughter, and a monkey. Ethel raced twice in 1949 and Jocko Flocko was the only ape in a winning car in 1953. His antics cost Tim, a two time NASCAR champion, a win two weeks later. So ended the monkey’s career.

19. ERVING “GEORGE” ELLIOTT JR. – Father of Bill Elliott
You get the feeling that George could be joined by Bill on some far future edition of this list. Awesome Bill, as you know, was from Dawsonville, Georgia. The soft spoken NASCAR champion won 44 times on the track, and 16 years with the fans as their Most Popular Driver.

20. HOMER KEITH JARRETT – Father of Ned Jarrett
Homer begat a two-time NASCAR champion, who begat his own little champ in Dale. Homer put Ned behind the wheel when he was nine on drives to church. When he was 21 he was beginning what became a 50-win, 352 race Cup career. He retired just after his 34th birthday.


RONALD KENNETH THORNTON- Father of Glen Ronald Thornton
The only thing close to racing his son ever did was to hit 100 miles per hour on a hilly section between Biggar and Rosetown, Saskatchewan in the 1970s. According to my uncles, the father did a hell of a lot more racing than the son ever did.

Happy Father’s Day Dad…and to all Dads. Being a husband and a father tops everything we could ever hope to do or have greater meaning. I hope you agree. Enjoy the day off!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

Ron Thornton
Ron Thornton
A former radio and television broadcaster, newspaper columnist, Little League baseball coach, Ron Thornton has been following NASCAR on this site since 2004. While his focus may have changed over recent years, he continues to make periodic appearances only when he has something to say. That makes him a rather unique journalist.


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