NASCAR unveils first of 28 unique statues of Richard Petty’s famed cowboy hat

The statues will honor the Petty family's 75 years in stock car racing

Race fans pose for a photo near a large cowboy hat honoring the Petty family for 75 years in stock car racing at Daytona International Speedway. (Terry Renna / AP Photo)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Richard Petty’s signature cowboy hat has been an iconic symbol of NASCAR for decades.

Now it’s a work of art.

NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway on Wednesday unveiled the first of 28 unique statues featuring Petty’s famed hat, the feathered Charlie 1 Horse. Titled “The King’s Hat,” the fiberglass and concrete statues are 6 feet tall and weigh 1,000 pounds.

They will be displayed at all NASCAR and Speedway Motorsports-owned tracks as well as Indianapolis Motor Speedway, World Wide Technology Raceway, Pocono Raceway, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the Legacy Motor Club and the Petty Museum.

Each version will deliver a personalized tribute to the Petty family.

“We were here when it all started, when NASCAR started,” Petty said. “It’s been a long road, and it’s been very successful for the family.”

The seven-time Cup Series champion and Hall of Famer is at the forefront of the Petty family celebrating 75 years in NASCAR. Lee Petty, Richard’s father, won three championships and the first Daytona 500 in 1959. Kyle Petty, Richard’s son, made 829 starts in the Cup Series races and remains a racing analyst for TV partner NBC.

The 86-year-old Petty is now the ambassador at Legacy Motor Club, which bought the remnants of Petty Enterprises and quickly rebranded and rebuilt it.

Fellow seven-time champ Jimmie Johnson co-owns Legacy and is driving the team’s No. 84 Toyota in the upcoming Daytona 500. Johnson chose to run the familiar “Petty Blue” paint scheme similar to one Richard Petty drove to victory lane in the 1964 Daytona 500.

It served as an olive branch after Petty made it clear at Daytona last year that he felt stripped of power inside his former eponymous team.

“I’m a little bit better, especially once they painted the car blue,” Petty said.

Added Kyle Petty: “That blue color hides a lot, bud.”

“Basically everything was so new when we had the conversation here last year,” Richard Petty continued. “There’s been a lot of questions answered since then, so I think I’ve gotten a little bit more comfortable with it. It’s not where I’d like to see it, But from my standpoint, it’s a lot better, on my end of it anyway.”

That’s as close as Petty will get to offering a tip of his feathered cap to the other living seven-time champ.

But he welcomed NASCAR’s gesture. The hat statues were hand-crafted by the same company that designed and built the Peanuts character tribute in Minnesota. The company worked with each track to create versions of Petty’s hat they hope will become landmarks for fans to visit and pay tribute to the Petty family for years to come.

“It made me get a big head because the hat’s kind of big,” Petty said. “It’s really a neat deal because it’ll be at all the tracks. Petty fans, other fans, all NASCAR fans will get their picture took with it. From my standpoint, it just continues to hook me up that much more with NASCAR.”