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Since America's rebellion against British rule and the Declaration of Independence, the rejection of kings and royalty has been central to the cultural ethos of the United States. But, as it turns out, there has come to be one King that the U.S. proudly recognizes, particularly on an Independence Day weekend that carries extra significance for him.

This Saturday marks the 85th birthday of Richard Petty, one of the greatest drivers in the history of NASCAR and an American cultural icon. Long known far and wide as "The King," Petty's regal aura developed through his incomparable accomplishments during his NASCAR Hall of Fame career. But he has never strayed far from his small-town roots, making the Level Cross, N.C. native a uniquely American figure who is renowned both inside the world of auto racing and far beyond it.

In recognition of Petty's 85th birthday, here are 10 notable moments from his outstanding racing career.

1964: First win on a major speedway

After beginning his NASCAR career in 1958, Petty earned his first career win at the Southern States Fairgrounds in 1960 and reached 27 career victories by the end of 1963. But while he had victories at legendary tracks like Martinsville and North Wilkesboro, Petty had yet to win a major race on a major speedway, save for a qualifying race for the World 600 at Charlotte.

At Speedweeks 1964, that all changed. Driving a Plymouth equipped with a brand new Hemi engine, Petty dominated the Daytona 500 and led 184 of 200 laps -- a race record to this day -- to claim his first Daytona 500 win. The victory would help launch Petty to the 1964 NASCAR Grand National championship, his first after three runner-up finishes earlier in the decade.

1967: 27 wins in a single season

Of all Richard Petty's championship seasons, 1967 stands out as by far his most dominant. Petty won 27 of the 48 races he entered, including 10 in a row from Bowman Gray Stadium in August to North Wilkesboro in October. Petty also scored 27 top fives, 40 top 10s, and 18 poles en route to his second championship.

1970: Surviving Darlington and the adoption of the window net

During the Rebel 400 at Darlington, Richard Petty survived one of the worst crashes of his career and an accident that would lead to a simple, but significant safety advancement in NASCAR. After hitting the wall in Turn 4 following a steering failure, Petty's car careened toward the inside wall, hitting it with such force that the car ended up flipping several times down the front stretch.

Petty came to rest upside down with his arm and part of his body dangling from his window, with a lot of red surrounding the area -- they were only rags that had been flung out of Petty's car, but onlookers initially assumed that it was blood and gore and feared the worst. Luckily, Petty only suffered a broken shoulder.

As a result of Petty's crash, NASCAR began to mandate the use of window nets in all cars to help keep the driver's head, body and extremities from flying out in the event of a crash. Window nets had been introduced following a 1964 crash that killed NASCAR champion Joe Weatherly, but they had only been optional until Petty's crash prompted NASCAR to make them mandatory beginning in 1971.

1971: First driver to win Daytona three times

Petty's crash at Darlington likely cost him the 1970 championship, as he won 18 races and finished fourth in points despite missing multiple races due to injury. He would rebound with his third championship season in 1971, which started with a milestone achievement in the still-young history of the Daytona 500.

After trading the lead throughout the day with Buddy Baker, A.J. Foyt and Bobby Isaac, Petty would lead the final 19 laps and take the checkered flag over Baker in a 1-2 finish for Petty Enterprises. The win made Petty the first driver to win the Daytona 500 three times, and he would go on to win 21 races in all en route to the Grand National championship.

1972: First season with STP and a compromise

After most of the top drivers and teams in NASCAR were supported primarily by their manufacturers throughout the 50s and 60s, 1972 would see Petty Enterprises agree to a sponsorship deal with STP that would change NASCAR forever. However, it almost didn't happen when the Petty brand and the STP brand clashed over what suited them.

Andy Granatelli, the CEO of STP and a businessman who had enjoyed great success sponsoring winning drivers in the Indianapolis 500, approached Petty with an offer of a $250,000 sponsorship that would have Petty promoted all over the country. The deal sounded good -- until the issue of paint scheme came up.

Granatelli's cars at Indianapolis has been day-glo red, and Granatelli wanted Petty's car to have the same color. But Petty's cars had always been a shade of light blue -- now dubbed "Petty Blue" -- and Petty did not want to give that up. Eventually, a compromise was reached: The sides of the car would be STP red, while the top of the car would remain Petty Blue.

The ensuing combination would create one of the most iconic looks in all of auto racing, and STP's deal with Petty made it the first nationwide sponsor in all of Cup racing. Petty would go on to win eight times in 1972 and score his fourth championship.

1975: First World 600 win

By the time 1975 came around, Petty had won five championships, five Daytona 500s and the Southern 500 at Darlington. However, the World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway -- not far from his native Level Cross -- had eluded him into the midway point of the decade.

In the 16th World 600, Petty would finally break through and get the victory, lapping the field and leading 234 of 400 laps to conquer the most major race he had yet to win. Petty would win nearly half the races on the 1975 schedule -- 13 of 30 -- en route to his sixth championship.

1979: Sixth Daytona 500 and a comeback season

1978 had proven to be a difficult year for Petty, as he would go winless for the first time in almost 20 years and dealt with health problems that culminated in him having surgery to remove 40 percent of his stomach due to ulcers. Petty's vulnerability set the stage for him to take his place as King back in one of the most consequential races in NASCAR history.

In the very first live flag-to-flag broadcast of the Daytona 500 on CBS, Petty was racing Darrell Waltrip and A.J. Foyt for third on the final lap when leaders Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough crashed in Turn 3. Driving past the melee -- which ended in Yarborough fighting Donnie's brother, Bobby, in the infield -- Petty suddenly found himself in a mad dash to the checkered flag, and he held off Waltrip to score his sixth Daytona 500 victory.

The finish of the Daytona 500 foreshadowed a year-long battle for the championship between Petty and Waltrip, which culminated in Petty beating Waltrip by 11 points to win his seventh and final Cup Series championship.

1981: A gamble to win a seventh Daytona 500

Petty would have one more Daytona 500 victory in him, scoring the win in 1981 to improve to seven Daytona 500 wins, a record which still stands. But rather than raw speed, it took a little ingenuity for Petty and his crew to earn the victory over a dominant Bobby Allison.

After Allison lost a considerable amount of time by running out of fuel just before his final pit stop, Petty made his last stop with 24 laps to go. Crew chief Dale Inman made the call for a fuel-only stop, giving Petty just enough fuel to finish and sending him back out on old tires. The lead Petty had over Allison was enough that he was able to cruise to the checkered flag for his first of three wins in 1981.

1984: Win No. 200

As Petty continued to compile wins throughout the early 1980s, the countdown began to Petty's 200th career victory, which ended up coming in extraordinary circumstances. As part of his campaign for re-election, then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan attended the 1984 Firecracker 400 at Daytona, giving the command to start engines from Air Force One before landing just off the back stretch mid-race.

The race became a duel between Petty and Cale Yarborough, and the stakes were raised significantly when a crash by Doug Hevron brought the caution out with two laps to go. Petty and Yarborough traded paint and sheet metal coming to the yellow flag, with Petty beating Yarborough in a photo finish to ensure his 200th and final victory -- and post-race congratulations from Reagan.

1992: A "Blaze of Glory"

Although Petty would occasionally flash his old form, much of the late 1980s and early 1990s saw him decline before he announced that the 1992 Winston Cup season would be his last. Petty's retirement tour made for a season-long celebration of his career, culminating in a final ride at Atlanta Motor Speedway that wasn't exactly a storybook ending.

On Lap 95, Petty was collected in a multi-car crash on the front stretch, and his car caught fire after a broken oil cooler ignited. Petty spent much of the race in the garage area, but his crew was able to repair his car so that he could finish his racing career on track. Petty returned to the track with two laps to go, taking the checkered flag before being given an extra ceremonial lap to salute the fans.

Speaking of his predicament, Petty offered humorous commentary that became one of his more famous quotes: "I went out in a blaze of glory, but it was the wrong kind of blaze," he said.