Richard Petty Recalls His Infamous Finger Poke Into Rookie Dale Sr’s Chest After Martinsville Face-Off

Published 04/10/2024, 9:44 PM EDT

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Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt both share a record seven NASCAR Cup Series championships to their name. Whenever we talk about the sport’s greats, some fans rally behind “The King,” whereas others lean towards “The Intimidator.” However, the driver vs. driver comparison doesn’t fare well between Richard and Dale Earnhardt, as the latter was only beginning to spring his dominant era in the sport, while Richard Petty already had achieved all there was.

Despite the two drivers being from two different eras, they did compete in races against each other. Coming off hot in his rookie season, Dale Sr wasn’t afraid to take on any driver and even took Richard Petty out of the race in Martinsville. What followed next was Petty confronting Dale Sr after the race, but despite sending the message across, the intimidator kept at his antics. The details of the incident came to light during Dale Earnhardt Jr’s recent podcast show.

Dale Earnhardt never learned his lesson, despite getting an earful from Richard Petty


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Well, before, Dale Sr started winning races and championships, he was a young, hungry driver trying to make his name in the NASCAR scene. Right from the get-go in his rookie season, he built a reputation for fender benders thanks to his rowdy style of racing, even if it meant half the cars didn’t see the finish line.

Even Richard Petty couldn’t escape the clutches of Dale Earnhardt’s carefree style of racing, back in 1979. Recalling his confrontation with Dale Sr, the King explained, “We go down I’m on the inside. I think somebody’s on the outside of me. We go down and turn in the corner and all of a sudden there was a car on my hood. He just turned left and went across the grass, he jumped the curb and jumped right in the middle of the whole crowd. That was my introduction to Dale Earnhardt.

What followed next was Richard Petty speaking to Dale Sr after the race, poking his finger into his chest, trying to intimidate him. After being scolded by the King himself, most of the drivers would have toned down their aggression on the track, but not Dale Sr. “I’ll tell you, I don’t think he learned anything from that. He learned some of it anyway. He knew not to knock everybody out. After that, he just took one at a time and knocked them out,” he further added.

NASCAR has always been a story behind the superstar, who used to carry the sport on his shoulders. Richard Petty further talked about how there was a transition of drivers taking up the mantle, but somehow the sport hasn’t been able to find its superstar of the modern era.


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The lack of a superstar driver is the missing piece of the puzzle to lift NASCAR back to its glory


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Out of the current set of drivers, who is the one that can lead the charge as the poster child for NASCAR? Kyle Busch? Well, he is good but has yet to cement his G.O.A.T. status, Denny Hamlin? is a great race car driver but not a championship winner. Joey Logano—now that’s a stretch. You see, the root cause of why NASCAR hasn’t regained its status as a sporting giant is that none of the current individuals have carried the sport on their backs. A similar point was made by King during the podcast show.

To begin with you had Lee Petty, Fireball Roberts, and Junior Johnson crowd. Then Pearson, Allison, and all that crowd came through. Daryl came through, and your dad came through, taking that era to another stage. Jeff comes in and takes it to another stage. Jimmy comes in and takes it to another stage. Right now, we’re looking for the next guy to take us to the next stage. Right now, we don’t have basically a leader. We don’t have a Fox for anybody to run after because everything is so even now,” Richard Petty further added.


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Given how even the playing field is these days with identical race cars, it is indeed hard for the driver to separate themselves from the pack. However, if NASCAR indeed wants to spring back to its former glory, someone will have to take charge and rise to the challenge that’s in front of them.

Read More: ‘The King’ Denounces Next Gen Cars’ Parity to Name His Golden Standard of NASCAR Cars


Written by:

Chintan Devgania


One take at a time

Chintan Mahesh Devgania is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. As someone who likes to dive deep into the sport, he often takes up less explored topics to eventually see them make their way into top stories. His report on Toyota’s young recruit, Jade Avedisian, sharing her thoughts on Late Model Racing, was an example of that.
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Edited by:

Shivali Nathta