A surprisingly large number of sports superstars are followed into the same line of work by their children, perhaps proving that sporting talent is genetic – or maybe just that the kids of millionaire sportsmen and women get a lot of opportunities that normal youngsters don’t get to enjoy…
Having the money to support your child’s dreams of sporting stardom is even more significant in motorsports, which requires funding of tens of thousands of dollars just to get started. Many of the biggest Formula One and NASCAR stars of today either came from wealthy backgrounds or got very lucky when their talent was spotted early by a racing team.
If your father was a successful Grand Prix or NASCAR driver, however, it makes it a lot easier to get noticed by the big teams, which probably explains why there are so many sporting dynasties in motor racing – some of which stretch back as far as the great-grandfathers of current drivers – although it doesn’t always guarantee success, especially when you have a pretty big driving seat to fill.
The young men and women on this list may have famous Formula One and NASCAR fathers, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it just by looking at them. Clearly, they must have got their looks from their mothers, as there is no way you would recognize who their famous fathers are from their photographs!
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20 F1 - Guiliano Alesi
Giuliano Alesi is the teenage son of French Formula One driver Jean Alesi and his wife, model, and actress Kumiko Goto. While Alesi Sr. took part in over 200 Grand Prix races between 1989 and 2001, he won just one race – the 1995 Canadian Grand Prix - Giuliano has only just started his racing career, taking part in the French F4 Championship in 2015, followed the GP3 Series and has now been inducted into the Ferrari Driver Academy.
Giuliano is well and truly following in his father’s footsteps with this latest move, as Jean’s most successful seasons came when he too was at Ferrari.
19 F1 - Petra and Tamara Ecclestone
Not all of the famous children of Formula One stars are sons who have followed in their father's footsteps. F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is the billionaire who has an iron grip on all aspects of the sport, and is infamous for his three marriages to stunningly attractive women, despite his rather diminutive stature!
In 1985 he married model Slavica Radic, 28 years his junior, and they had two daughters, Petra and Tamara. Both take after their mother in terms of looks as well as height, and both have enjoyed their own modeling careers. Ecclestone and Radic split in 2009 and in 2012 the 80-year-old F1 boss announced his marriage to the 35-year-old Fabiana Flosi.
18 F1 - Mick Schumacher
Young driver Mick Schumacher does look a little like his famous father, but there are plenty of fans who would never make the connection if it wasn't for that iconic surname!
Mick's decision to launch his own racing career is a brave one, considering that he is bound to be compared to his father, Michael, who many fans think is the greatest Formula One driver of all time, but he has made an impressive start to his own bid for Grand Prix glory, joining the Ferrari Driver Academy and securing a possible F1 test drive for Alfa Romeo for the 2019 season.
17 F1 - Pedro Piquet
Brazilian Nelson Piquet was one of the most successful Formula One racers of the 1980s, winning the Drivers’ Championship in 1981, 1983 and 1987, with a total of 23 Grand Prix wins to his name between 1978 and 1991. His son, Pedro, has some big shoes to fill, but he has made a start to his career in motor racing by racing in Formula 3 series in Brazil and Europe, before signing up to GP3 in 2018, winning two races at Silverstone and Monza behind the wheel of a Trident Racing car.
Pedro is also the half-brother of fellow racing driver Nelson Piquet Jr, who currently races in the Formula E electric car series.
16 F1 - Aurelien Panis
Olivier Panis may not be one of the biggest names in Formula One history, but the French driver did score a win at the iconic Monaco Grand Prix during his ten-year career racing for Ligier, Toyota, and the short-lived Prost team. He was involved in a serious high-speed crash in 1997, which led to him breaking both his legs and as of 2018 was the last French driver to win a Grand Prix.
His son Aurelien has followed in his footsteps in starting a career in motorsport but has chosen to compete in the World Touring Car Championship rather than Formula One.
15 F1 - Pietro Fittipaldi
The Fittipaldi family are about as close as it comes to motor racing royalty. Pietro Fittipaldi, one of the youngest members of the clan, started his career in NASCAR and was recently announced as the 2019 test driver for Formula One team Haas. His brother Enzo has also made a start on his own racing career, taking part in the Italian F4 Championship.
The two brothers are the grandchildren of motor racing legend Emerson Fittipaldi, who won the Formula One Drivers’ Championship in 1972 and 1974, who was himself the son of Wilson Fittipaldi, a Brazilian motoring journalist, and commentator.
14 F1 - Nico Rosberg
So far, the Formula One kids in this list have been motor racers who are at the very beginning of their careers, but Nico Rosberg, son of Finnish Grand Prix legend Keke Rosberg, is a motorsport star in his own right. Nico retired in 2016, after just ten years in Formula One, just days after sealing the Drivers' Championship after another tough battle with his long-term rival, Lewis Hamilton.
His father also scored just one title during his Grand Prix career, taking the crown in 1982. Although Nico considers himself half-Finnish (Keke remains the only Finnish driver to ever take part if Formula One) he doesn't speak the language, and actually grew up in Germany.
13 F1 - Max Verstappen
Most young racing drivers have to pay their dues in GP2 and GP3 Series before they get anywhere near a Formula One car, but Max Verstappen made his Grand Prix debut in Australia in 2015 at the age of just 17 years and 166 days - making him the youngest F1 driver ever.
He has already recorded five Grand Prix wins from his 80 races for the Red Bull team, and has already well and truly surpassed the record of his motor racing father, Jos Verstappen. In fact, before Max started racing, Jos had been the most successful Dutch F1 driver! It seems that there are no hard feelings, however, as Jos is clearly one of Max's biggest fans.
12 F1 - Jolyon Palmer
British Formula One star Jolyon Palmer drove for the Renault team for two years in 2016 and 2017, while his younger brother, Will, has also joined the family business, winning the British Formula 4 Championship in 2015.
Jolyon has since started working in the media, providing expert Grand Prix commentary for TV and radio. His father, Jonathan Palmer, qualified as a doctor before deciding to give a career in motor racing a try. He raced in 88 Grand Prix between 1983 and 1989 and now owns a company called MotorSport a Vision which manages some of the UK's top racing circuits, including the famous Brands Hatch.
11 F1 - Damon Hill
Fellow Brit Damon Hill won the Formula One Drivers' Championship back in 1996 when he was driving for Williams, and recorded 22 wins in 115 starts throughout his career. What many younger F1 fans don't realize is that Damon Hill's father, Graham Hill, was also a World Champion, winning the prestigious motor racing title in 1962 and 1968.
The Hills and the Rosbergs are still the only father-son duos to win the Drivers' Championship, though perhaps the Schumachers will be added to that auspicious list in the future? Sadly, Graham never saw his son win the title, as he passed in 1975 when the plane he was flying crashed in bad weather.
10 NASCAR - Brittany Force
Motor racing legend John Force had four daughters, three of whom followed him into the sport by becoming drag racers. While Ashley and Courtney have enjoyed some success in the sport, it is daughter Brittany who has really made a name for herself.
Fans of drag racing will know that Shirley Muldowney was not only the first woman to drive in Top Fuel events but also the first person to win three Top Fuel titles in 1982. It took a long time for anyone to match Muldowney’s skills, but Brittany Force became the second woman to win a Top Fuel championship in 2017.
9 NASCAR - Kate Dallenbach
Unlike Formula One, which is still very much a boys’ club, women have been competing against and even beating men in NASCAR races for decades. Kate Dallenbach is one such NASCAR daughter who has undoubtedly made her dad very proud by following him into the sport.
She may have only just begun her career behind the wheel, but given that both her father and grandfather were big names in the sport, she has everything going for her – and she’s a lot better looking to boot! Dad Wally Dallenbach Jr drove in 226 NASCAR races in the 1990s and now commentates on the sport, while grandfather Wally Dallenbach Sr won five IndyCar races in the 1960s and 1970s.
8 NASCAR - John Hunter Nemechek
John Hunter Nemechek enjoyed a successful start to his motor racing career, sealing the 2012 Allison Legacy Series, a scaled-down version of the normal NASCAR races when he was just 15. He has since moved up to racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, as well as the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
His father was NASCAR racer Joe Nemechek, who is still competing in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series at the age of 55. Nemechek won four of his 667 races throughout his 23-year career in the NASCAR Cup Series and had his best championship placing in 2000 when he finished 15th.
7 NASCAR - Todd Gilliland
Teenager Todd Gilliand also competes in the same NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series as the 55-year-old Joe Nemechek and already has three years and 27 races under his belt. He may be at the very beginning of his motor racing career, but he has a great role model to follow in his father, David Gilliland.
David competed in more than 300 NASCAR Cup Series races and took pole position in the 2007 Daytona 500. Todd’s grandfather was also a NASCAR racer, who took part in ten Cup Series races in the 1990s. The fresh-faced Todd looks nothing like his father or grandfather, although time may take its toll!
6 NASCAR - Dale Earnhardt Jr
Like Formula One, NASCAR also has seen plenty of sporting dynasties throughout the years – not that you would know some of the drivers were related based only on their looks! Dale Earnhardt Jr not only had a tough act to follow, but a tough name to follow too – his dad was also called Dale.
Often referred to within the sport simply as “Junior”, the younger Earnhardt is now a semi-retired racer who has 26 wins in the NASCAR series to his name; an impressive tally but one that pales in comparison to the 76 Winston Cup wins and seven NASCAR championships recorded by his father before his passing in 2001 on the final lap of the Daytona 500.
5 NASCAR - Davey Allison
Davey Allison made his name in NASCAR in the late-80s and early 90s and still had a promising career ahead of him when he passed away tragically at the age of just 32. He had already racked up a win in the Daytona 500 in 1992, as well as winning the overall NASCAR championship the same year and in 1991.
No doubt Allison would have gone on to enjoy even more success, as his own father, Bobby, raced at the top level for 25 years. Bobby won three NASCAR championships, in 1979, 1981 and 1986, and was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011, while his son was also given a place in the Hall of Fame in 2019.
4 NASCAR - Justin Labonte
The Labonte family have NASCAR running in their veins, with brothers Terry and Bobby both enjoying championship wins; Terry in 1984 and 1996, and younger brother Bobby in 2000. The Labontes are one of only two sets of brothers to have won the NASCAR championship along with Kurt and Kyle Busch.
Terry’s son Justin Labonte was keen to follow in his father’s and his uncle’s footsteps, though he couldn’t quite match their incredible success – his best-ever season finish was 17th and he managed to win just one race out of 76 starts throughout the course of his six-year NASCAR career.
3 NASCAR - Richard Petty
Richard Petty is one of the most iconic names in NASCAR, but not everyone knows that he was actually the second person in his family to enjoy a successful career in motorsports. Richard, whose nickname was “The King”, is one of three racers who has won the Championship seven times, while his father, Lee Petty, won the very first Daytona 500 in 1959.
Richard’s own son, Kyle, was also a NASCAR driver who won eight races in his career and has now gone on to enjoy a successful career commentating on motorsports. Sadly, his son Adam, Lee Petty’s great-grandson, passed away in a racing accident during a practice race.
2 NASCAR - Dale Jarrett
NASCAR seems to be one of those sports which attract family dynasties, and the Jarrett family is one of the most dominant the sport has seen. Dale Jarrett has won the classic Daytona 500 race on three occasions, as well as winning the NASCAR championship in 1999, while his father, “Gentleman” Ned Jarrett won the overall title twice, in 1961 and 1965.
Dale’s older brother Glenn also made a career in NASCAR, while Dale’s son Jason raced in two NASCAR Cup Series races. His other son, Zach, is also a professional sportsman, though he plays baseball for the Baltimore Orioles.
1 NASCAR - Ryan Blaney
Ryan Blaney is the young son of former NASCAR driver Dave Blaney and is currently making his own mark on the motor racing world. Blaney Jr currently races a Ford Mustang for Team Penske in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, finishing ninth in 2017, while his dad started his career in sprint car racing, before making the move into NASCAR.
The family’s connection with motorsport goes even further back, as Ryan’s grandfather, Lou Blaney, was also a sprint car racer. Ryan may have inherited his dad’s skill behind the wheel, but no-one would even dream that they were related.
Sources - Fox Sports, Auto Sport, Race Fans, Sky Sports, ESPN