CONCORD, N.C. – They are linked by surnames synonymous with boundless charm, enormous sway and seven Sprint Cup titles.
Richard Petty, NASCAR's first seven-time champion, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., the son of the only other driver to accomplish the feat, are separated by more than three decades in age but share a similar mass appeal.
With his trademark cowboy hat and sunglasses, Petty is the sport's most identifiable icon while fans have voted Earnhardt as the most popular driver in Sprint Cup for 10 consecutive seasons.
And sponsors, on which NASCAR is reliant to continue its business model, have taken notice.
Goody's, a longtime NASCAR sponsor that Petty has endorsed for 37 years, recently added Earnhardt as a co-spokesman.
"There's a new crowd taking over," Petty, 75, told USA TODAY Sports. "They got so many older guys and gals, they've got to try to do the new generation. Junior was the logical guy to do it."