One of NASCAR’s most legendary families has lost one of their own. Maurice Petty, the son of NASCAR trailblazer Lee Petty and brother of the legendary Richard Petty, died on Saturday (July 25) at the age of 81.

Born on March 27, 1939, in North Carolina, Maurice Petty did some racing himself (more than two dozen starts in the NASCAR Cup Series from 1960 through 1964), but it was his engine-building skills that earned him Hall of Fame status. Not only did he build the engines that carried his brother to 198 race wins and seven championships, but he also built engines for drivers such as Buddy Baker, Jim Paschal and Pete Hamilton.

Petty was the first engine builder to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, in 2014. He is also a 2011 inductee into the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame.

An official cause of death has not yet been revealed. Petty suffered from polio as a child, and long-term effects of the disease limited his mobility and led to his retirement from the racing scene.

“I don’t know of anyone that fought harder and overcame more in life to succeed the way he succeeded," former NASCAR driver and current NASCAR broadcaster Kyle Petty says of his uncle on Twitter. "The world was a better place because of him and there is now an empty place that will never be filled again.”

"Maurice Petty was one of the true pioneers in NASCAR who helped build one of NASCAR’s first dominant teams in Petty Enterprises," a statement from the NASCAR Hall of Fame reads. "While we have lost one of NASCAR’s true, gritty pioneers and heroes, Maurice Petty’s legacy and memory will always be remembered, preserved, celebrated and cherished at the NASCAR Hall of Fame."

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