21 Days until the Daytona 500

The Wood Brothers Racing Team was formed in 1950 by brothers from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia. Walter and Ada Wood owned a family farm between Woolwine and Stuart, Virginia. They had five sons (Glen, Leonard, Delano, Clay, and Ray Lee) and one daughter (Crystal). The sons worked with their father as mechanics, farmers, and lumbermen. Glen Wood cut timber and hauled lumber to local sawmills. The boys had a talent for auto mechanics and spent much time at their father’s garage. With each brother serving as a mechanic, they formed a stock car racing team. Curtis Turner, a local sawmill operator from nearby Floyd, Virginia, inspired them. Turner became a champion racecar driver with a “win or crash” style and later was co-owner of Charlotte Motor Speedway. Coincidentally, Turner would later drive for the Wood Brothers.

In the early 1950s, none of the Wood boys wanted to drive, so they asked their friend John Conway, of nearby Stuart, to drive. Unfortunately, he declined the offer. Then they got fellow lumberman, Chris Williams, as their driver. In the early days of stock car racing, teams drove their cars to the track, raced them, and drove them home. Williams and the Wood Brothers bought their first car for $50, inspiring them to number their car No. 50, many years before they adopted their famous #21.

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Chris Williams and Glen Wood each drove a few races. The team consisted of Williams, some of his brothers, and the Wood boys. They became successful, winning races at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC, and Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Virginia.

Shortly after their early success, Chris Williams sold his share of the team to Glen Wood to focus on his lumber business. To fill team slots, the Wood Brothers enlisted help from Stuart area friends and neighbors including Ralph Edwards, a Wood cousin.

Over the early years, the Wood Brothers Racing Team evolved from a weekend hobby into a full-time business. Glen and Leonard worked full-time building and preparing cars, while the other brothers and crew worked nights and weekends apart from their regular jobs. Their first permanent racing shop was at the town limits of Stuart, Va.

The team adopted the No. 21 permanently, and would become as notorious as any number in NASCAR history (along with the Petty No. 43 and Earnhardt #3). The Wood Brothers also found themselves lured to the big-ticket cash prizes offered by the growing Superspeedway races in cities such as Daytona, Fla.; Charlotte, NC ; and Darlington, SC. Glen Wood soon stepped out from behind the wheel of the No. 21 Ford, and they began hiring drivers with reputations as winners at the different tracks.

The team soon began competing on the highest levels of the sport. Victories were won with the mechanical genius of the team of brothers, relatives, and friends. Leonard Wood’s talent in the engine department soon brought the team acclaim and was second in the early years only to the fabled Holman-Moody engine juggernaut and the Petty racing dynasty of Lee Petty and son Richard Petty.

The Wood Brothers invented the modern pit stop. In the early days of all types of motorracing when service was needed during the race, it was common for drivers to pull into the pits, turn off the car, get out and even smoke a cigarette as the crew took their time changing tires and servicing the cars. The Wood Brothers recognized that by limiting the time off the track, it could increase their position on the track. Thus, they created and perfected what is now known as the pit stop. It is now as common to all types of racing as the checkered flag itself.

As other teams noticed that the Wood Brothers were winning races due to their efficient pit stops, these competitors soon copied the Wood method. Not content with being innovators, the Wood team practiced and perfected the pit stop as a form of acrobatic, mechanical, ballet which gave them still further advantage over their competitors.

Other racing organizations noticed the pit stop innovations of the Wood Brothers. In 1965, Ford brought the Wood Brothers team to the Indianapolis 500, to pit the Lotus-Ford team. Their speed and choreography helped Jim Clark win the 1965 500.

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Glen and Leonard Wood are still alive at 90 and 81 years old, respectively. In 1998, Glen Wood was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers. In 1996, he was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame. On June 14, 2011, it was announced that Wood would be inducted in the 2012 NASCAR Hall of Fame on January 20, 2012.

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Glen and Leonard Wood, 2012

Family members Len and Eddie Wood began working as mechanics in the Wood Brothers shop in the 1970s and worked their way up the through the company. The duo took over full managerial duties in 1999 with the hiring of Elliott Sadler and are still running the company today. In 2015, Wood Brothers Racing celebrated it’s 65th anniversary.

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Len and Eddie Wood, 2015

 

In Sprint Cup Series competition the #21 car has started 1,471 races with 85 drivers and has 91 wins, 112 poles, 319 top 5s, 513 top 10s, and 380 DNFs.

  • 1972-1979 & 1985-1986: David Pearson 157 races, 43 wins
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    Pearson, circa 1974

     

     

 

 

  • 1979-1982 & 1989-1990: Neil Bonnett 114 races, 9 wins
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    Bonnett, Circa 1980

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    Bonnett, 1990

 

  • 2003-2005: Ricky Rudd 108 races

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    Ricky Rudd, 2003

 

  • 1996-1998: Michael Waltrip 95 races
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Waltrip, 1996

 

  • 1962-1966: Marvin Panch 80 races, 8 wins
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Marvin Panch

 

  • 1966-1970: Cale Yarborough 77 races, 13 wins
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Yarborough, 1969

 

  • 2007-2010: Bill Elliott 64 races
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Elliott, 2009
  • 1987-1988: Kyle Petty 58 races
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Petty, 1988

 

  • 2010-2012: Trevor Bayne 58 races, 1 win
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Bayne, 2011

 

 

  • 1990-1991: Dale Jarrett 53 races, 1 win

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    Jarrett, 1991

 

  • In 2015 Ryan Blaney started the #21 car in 18 races for the Wood Brothers, with support from Penske. He will returned to the #21 car in 2016 with the intention of running the full season. Because of NASCAR’s new ‘charter’ rule for 2016, the #21 team was forced to qualify on speed for every race throughout the season. Blaney successfully qualified for all 36 races and quietly had a successful season despite being overshadowed by fellow young-guns Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson. Blaney has stared 52 races to date in #21 and will return to the car in 2017. The Wood Brothers have acquired a charter from Go-FAS racing for the 2017 season.
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Ryan Blaney

 

  • 2006-2007: Ken Schrader 48 races
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Schrader, 2007
  • 1958-1961, 1963-1964 Glen Wood 44 races, 1 win

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    Wood, circa 1958
  • 1983-1984: Buddy Baker 42 starts, 1 win
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Baker, 1983
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Baker, 1983
  • 1954: Laird Bruner, 19 races

 

  • 1958-1961: Curtis Turner 15 races, 1 win

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  • 1971: Donnie Allison 11 starts, 1 win
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Allison, 1971

 

  • 1971-1972: A.J. Foyt 9 races, 4 wins
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Foyt, 1972

 

 

  • 1963: Tiny Lund 7 races, 1 win
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Lund, 1963

 

 

Other notable drivers in #21:

  • Marcos Ambrose , 5 starts
  • Speedy Thompson, 5 starts, 2 wins
  • Junior Johnson, 4 starts
  • Jon Wood, 4 starts
  • Harold Kite, 3 starts, 1 win
  • Tim Flock, 2 starts, 1 win.
  • Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 1 start
  • Boris Said, 1 start

During the 1950s and 1960s the Wood Bros. also fielded a #121 car in select events. Most notably Dan Gurny drove the car at the Riverside road course winning 4 out of his 5 attempts between 1964-1969.

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Dan Gurny

 

22 Days until the Daytona 500

In Sprint Cup Series competition the #22 car has started 1,418 races and has 73 wins, 71 poles, 328 top 5s, 548 top 10s, and 330 DNFs.

  • In 1990 Bill Davis was asked by the Ford Motor Company to hire an up-and-coming Midwest driver Jeff Gordon. Gordon won the NASCAR Busch (XFINITY) Series Rookie of the Year in 1991, and won 3 races & 11 pole positions the next year. Davis was hoping to move Gordon and crew chief Ray Evernham to the Winston Cup Series in the #22 car, but they were lured away by Rick Hendrick. Davis still moved up to the Cup Series full-time in 1993 however, with driver Bobby Labonte, who finished runner up to Gordon for Rookie of the Year driving the #22 Maxwell House Ford. The team switched to Pontiac the following season. From 1993-1994 Bobby started the car in 61 races. After 1994, Labonte left for Joe Gibbs Racing.

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  • MBNA replaced Maxwell House as sponsor. Originally, Davis went with another rookie and Busch Series standout Randy LaJoie to drive the car . Midway through the year, LaJoie was fired from the team and replaced by a series of rotating drivers including Wally Dallenbach, who finished 2nd at Watkins Glen.

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  • Finally, Ward Burton  was hired to finish out the year. Ward has the most starts of any driver in #22 with 272 from 1995-2003 including 5 wins. He scored the team’s first win when he won at North Carolina Motor Speedway late in 1995. With Burton at the wheel the #22 team slowly began to improve, despite not winning races. By 1998 the #22 team cracked the top ten in the final Winston Cup (Sprint Cup) points standings and matched those results in 1999 (by which time Caterpillar , Inc. was sponsoring the team) and 2000, when the team finally returned to victory lane at the spring Darlington race. Burton’s second career win was BDR’s last win in a Pontiac as they joined several teams in switching to Dodge Intrepids for the following season. Burton returned to victory lane the following season, winning the 2001 Southern 500, Dodge’s second win since returning to NASCAR, but the team’s streak of consecutive top-ten points finishes was broken at three as the #22 finished 14th. He added two more wins in 2002, scoring a victory  in the Daytona 500  (Dodge’s first Daytona 500 win in 28 years) and later in the year at the New England 300  at New Hampshire, but a series of inconsistent finishes dropped the team to 25th in the final standings. Burton’s win at New Hampshire, in addition to being his last win in Cup racing, was also BDR’s last in Cup racing. 2003 was a season of poorer finishes. He only had 4 Top 10 finishes, and he left Bill Davis Racing with five races left in the season to begin driving the #0 NetZero Pontiac for Haas CNC Racing. He finished the season 21st in the final points standings. Ward is an avid sportsman and conservationist, is the founder and president of The Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation.
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Burton, 1997
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Burton, after winning the 2002 Daytona 500
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Burton, circa 2002

 

 

  • Scott Wimmer was promoted from Bill Davis’ Busch (XFINITY) Team to drive the #22 car following Ward Burton’s departure near the end of the 2003 season. From 2003-2005 Wimmer started 75 races earning only 1 top 5.
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Wimmer, 2004

 

  • For 2006 Dave Blaney, a former driver of Bill Davis’ #93 car, was hired back by Davis to take over the #22 ride. Dave made 104 starts in #22 from 2006-2008. Blaney won the pole for the 2007 Lenox Industrial Tools 300 in New Hampshire, the first pole for Toyota in the Sprint Cup Series. Blaney scored his first top 10 with Toyota at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 29, and later that season finished third at Talladega, the best finish of any Toyota in 2007. Additionally, Blaney was the only Toyota driver in the top 35 in owner points after 2007 season.The team had a rough start to the 2008 season. They missed the Aaron’s 499 which was a hard hit for the team. They came back the next week at Richmond to finish in the 18th position. The following week at Darlington they finished in the 9th position, their best of the year. In June 2008 Caterpillar announced that it would leave the #22 Bill Davis Racing Toyota to sponsor the #31 Richard Childress Racing starting in 2009. The lack of sponsorship eventually lead to the demise of Bill Davis Racing.
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Dave Blaney, 2007

 

  • In 2011 Kurt Busch  began driving the #22 after Brad Keselowski took over the #2 car at Penske Racing. In 36 starts Busch won2 races in the number during the 2011 season. Busch earned his first Budweiser Shootout win after Denny Hamlin went below the yellow line at the end of the race at Daytona. He would go on to win the 2011 Gatorade Duel 1, and because of polesitter Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s crash in practice, which forced him into a backup car, Busch started in first for the 2011 Daytona 500, and started the 2011 season 3 for 3.
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Kurt Busch, 2010

Busch won the pole for and led most of the race at Kansas, for 152 laps. However, a fuel pickup issue late hurt his chances of winning. Teammate Brad Keselowski took the victory. However, a few weeks later on June 26, Kurt finally got an elusive road course victory at Infineon  Raceway. Not only did he win, but he also led the most laps with 76. Because of Brad Keselowski’s injury during a practice crash at Road Atlanta, Busch filled in for Keselowski in his NASCAR Nationwide Series car for the Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International, and Busch managed to get the pole and the win. By August 13, 2011, Busch had won 1/4 of all of his Nationwide races. On October 2, Busch won on 2 late restarts beating Jimmie Johnson in turn 1 leading the final 43 laps to grab his first ever victory at the Monster Mile at Dover. After a frustrating final 5 races, things came to a head when Busch launched a verbal tirade against an ESPN cameraman, and giving an obscene gesture to workers when a car blocked his path towards his pit garage following a transmission failure at the same race. Busch’s employment with Penske Racing terminated on December 5, 2011. Although most observers of the sport believe he was fired, Busch claimed in a public statement that the parting was “mutual”: “I am grateful to Penske Racing for six very productive years. Together we won a lot of races — 16 in all. … Coming to a mutual agreement to go our separate ways is a positive step for me.” In contrast, the Charlotte Observer reported several sources confirming team owner Roger Penske decided that Busch’s altercation at Homestead-Miami Speedway was the last straw in his stormy tenure with the team but chose to defer the announcement until after Champion’s Week

 

  • A.J Allmendinger  started the #22 car 17 times in 2012. At the end of the 2011 season, Allmendinger left Richard Petty Motorsports when the driving spot for Penske Racing’s #22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge became open after the parting ways of Kurt Busch and Penske. Prior to his suspension, his best finish was a 2nd at Martinsville Speedway. After failing a random drug test on July 7, 2012, Allmendinger was suspended from participation in the Coke Zero 400. Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s senior vice president for racing operations, said that Allmendinger had up to 72 hours to request a ‘B’ test sample. The next day, Roger Penske said before the Honda Indy Toronto race that Allmendinger’s ‘B’ sample would be tested on Monday or Tuesday. Allmendinger requested a ‘B’ sample test on July 9. On July 11, 2012, Allmendinger’s camp said a stimulant caused the positive drug test. The B sample test had not yet been scheduled at that time.
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‘Dinger, 2012

On July 24, it was announced by NASCAR that Allmendinger was suspended indefinitely after the “B” sample tested positive for a banned stimulant, which was revealed to be amphetamines. He chose to participate in the Road to Recovery program. On August 1, he was released from his contract by Penske Racing. Allmendinger was replaced in the No. 22 by Sam Hornish Jr.  for the remaining 19 races of the season; he later stated that the cause of the positive test was Adderall that he had unknowingly taken, being told it was an “energy pill”. Allmendinger was reinstated by NASCAR on September 18 after completing the Road to Recovery program.

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Sam Hornish Jr, 2012

 

 

  • On September 4, 2012, Joey Logano  was announced to be the driver of the No. 22 car in 2013. Logano became the fourth driver of the No. 22 in three years, but had a successful 2013 season, making the Chase, and returned in 2014, becoming the first driver to return to the No. 22 Penske car for more than a single season. In 2014 he was one of the final 4-title contenders heading into the final round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. However, he wound up last of the final four following some mistakes made by his pit crew  and could only produce a 16th place finish. Kevin Harvick went on to win the title.
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Logano, 2013

 

Logano and Penske teammate Brad Keselowski were the dominant force for much of the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup, and Logano swept the entire 2nd round with 3 consecutive victories. His victory at Kansas came at the expense of Matt Kenseth who was spun by Logano in the closing laps. After leading much of the day at Martinsville, Logano was wrecked by Kenseth as a retaliation. Logano would not recover in the next 2 races and would be elminated in the 3rd round.

 

In 2016, Logano qualified for The Chase with a win at Michigan. It would be his only win in the regular season. Logano had mixed success throughout the regular season, earning 9 top-10 finshes in addition to DNFs at Talladega, Kansas, & Kentucky.

At Charlotte, the opening race in the Round of 12, Logano’s day ended early with a series of tire blowouts, leaving him with a 36th-place finish. This was followed by a third-place finish at Kansas. At Talladega, Logano was penalized early when his car left pit road dragging the jack during the first round of green flag pit stops, but went on to win the race in overtime and clinched a spot in the Round of 8. The win marked the third straight restrictor plate victory for Team Penske, after Keselowski’s earlier victories at Talladega and Daytona. A win at Phoenix guaranteed Logano a place in the final 4 at Homestead.

Logano led 45 laps at Homestead and had a significant chance to win his first Cup series championship. With 10 laps left, Logano moved under leader Carl Edwards and wrecked Edwards on the restart. After a 30-minute red flag, Logano’s car was too damaged to contend any further and Logano finished the race in 4th place, finishing second in the standings to Jimmie Johnson.

In the last 4 years Logano has won 15 of his 144 races in #22 and will return to Penske Racing in 2017.

  • Bobby Allison  drove the #22 in 215 races in 1966, 1969-1970, & 1983-1987 with 17 wins and the 1983 Winston Cup Championship.
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Allison, 1985

 

  • Fireball Roberts  started #22 in 151 of his 206 career races including 30 of his 33 wins. Roberts continued to amass victories on the circuit, despite the changes in NASCAR, as it moved away from shorter dirt tracks to superspeedways in the 1950s and 1960s. In his 206 career NASCAR Grand National races, he won 33 times and had 32 poles. He finished in the top-five 45 percent of the time. He won both the Daytona 500 and Firecracker 250 events in 1962, driving a black and gold 1962 Pontiac  built by car builder legend, Smokey Yunick. On May 24, 1964, at the World 600 in Charlotte, Roberts had qualified in the eleventh position and started in the middle of the pack. On lap seven, Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson collided  and spun out and Roberts crashed trying to avoid them. Roberts’ Ford slammed backward into the inside retaining wall, flipped over and burst into flames. Witnesses at the track claimed they heard Roberts screaming, “Ned, help me”, from inside his burning car after the wreck. Jarrett  rushed to save Roberts as his car was engulfed by the flames. Roberts suffered second- and third-degree burns over eighty percent of his body and was airlifted to a hospital in critical condition. Although it was widely believed that Roberts had an allergic reaction to flame-retardant chemicals, he was secretly an asthmatic, and the chemicals made his breathing worse. Roberts was able to survive for several weeks, and it appeared he might pull through. But Roberts’ health took a turn for the worse on June 30, 1964. He contracted pneumonia and sepsis and had slipped into a coma by the next day. “Fireball” Roberts died from his burns on July 2, 1964.
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Fireball Roberts, 1962
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Roberts, 1964
  • Before the team was sold to Bill Davis Racing Sterling Marlin drove the #22 Maxwell House Ford for Junior Johnson for 58 races between 1991-1992.

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  • Ricky Rudd  ran a few races in 1976 and full-time in 1977, again driving the #22 for his father. He had ten top-ten finishes and was named Rookie of the Year. Rudd was forced to run part-time the following season of 1979 after picking up only limited funding from 1st National City Travelers Checks. Despite the abbreviated schedule, he earned four top-tens and finished 31st in points. Rudd started #22 at total of 45 times.

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  • Red Byron  drove #22 a total of 11 times from 1949-1951. His 2 wins in the 1949 season propelled him to the first ever NASCAR Strictly Stock (Spring Cup) Championship.

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Other notable names in #23

  • Dick Brooks, 17 starts, 1 win
  • Art Watts, 7 starts, 1 win
  • Stan Barrett, 10 starts
  • Marvin Panch, 4 starts.
  • Grant Adcox, 3 starts.
  • Darrell Waltrip, 1 start
  • Lennie Pond, 1 start
  • Glen Wood, 1 start

23 Days until the Daytona 500

In Sprint Cup Series competition the #23 car has started 784 races and has 3 wins, 7 poles, 36 top 5s, 102 top 10s, and 275 DNFs.

  • Jimmy Spencer  has 157 starts in #26 from 1995-1999. In 1995 Spencer reunited with Travis Carter, his former car owner who was now fielding the #23 Smokin’ Joe’s Ford. He finished in the top-ten four times in 1995 and in 1996, Spencer had two top-fives en route to a fifteenth-place finish in points. He fell to twentieth in 1997. In 1998, Winston/No Bull  became his team’s new primary sponsor and he was eleventh in points when he suffered injuries at the Brickyard 400, forcing him to sit out the next two races to recover and fall to fourteenth in points. After a 20th-place finish in 1999, Winston left the team, and Kmart became the team’s new sponsor with Spencer switching to the #26.

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  • Doug Yates, no relation to Robert Yates, started #23 61 times from 1960-1962.

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  • Hut Stricklin  drove the #23 for Travis Carter  in 1994, and later Bill Davis Racing from 2001-2002. Hut had a tough time  driving #23; in 52 starts he earned 1 top 10 in the number.

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Coca-Cola 600

 

  • From 2002-2003 Kenny Wallace  drove the #23 Bill Davis Dodge in 46 races in 2002 & 2003.

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  • Eddie Bierschwale  was a driver from San Antonio, Texas who drove the #23 car fielded by a team he and his brother owned. Eddie made 43 starts in #23 from 1988-1992 .

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  • Alex Bowman drove the #23 for all 36 starts of the 2014 season, his rookie year. BK Racing fielded the #23 to tie in with the “23 flavors” mantra of sponsor Dr. Pepper. In 2015 Bowman left to drive the #7 for Tommy Baldwin Racing, and J.J. Yeley took overs the #23 machine. After 23 races Yeley moved to the #26 car for BK Racing, and Jeb Burton took over the #23 for the remaining 11 races. The switch was motivated by the fact that Jeb Burton had guaranteed sponsorship and the #23 car was high enough in the points standings to be guaranteed a qualifying spot.  David Ragan drove the #23 in 36 races during the 2016.  In 2017 Joey Gase is expected to start 3 races in #23 beginning with the Daytona 500, while Grey Gaulding will start the remaining 33 races for BK Racing as he seeks the Rookie of the Year title.
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Alex Bowman, 2014
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Yeley, 2015
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Jeb Burton’s Darlington Throwback car, 2015
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Jeb Burton, 2015
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David Ragan, 2016

 

 

  • In 1986 Michael Waltrip drove the #23 KoolAid/Hawaiian Punch in Pontiac 33 races during his rookie season. Waltrip finished 2nd to Alan Kulwicki in the Rookie of the Year standings. Waltrip’s first Cup win wouldn’t come for another 15 years.

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  • Frank Mundy drove the #23 Studebaker for 24 races in 1951 earning 2 of his 3 career wins.

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  • Al Keller  started #23 a total of 15 times split between 1952 & 1954 including 1 of his 2 career wins in 1954. In late 1954, Keller turned his complete attention to the AAA & USAC Championship Car Series. He raced Champ Cars, Sprints, and Midgets over the next several seasons, and also competed in the Indianapolis 500 several times scoring a best finish of fifth in 1961. Sadly, later that year he perished in a fiery crash at the Arizona State Fairgrounds.

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Other notable names in #23

In the Truck Series, Johnny Benson Jr.  won the 2008 Series Championship for Bill Davis Racing.

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Scott Wimmer  drove the #23 in the XFINITY Series from 2001-2003 with 5 wins for Bill Davis Racing. He also started 2 Cup races in the number.

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24 Days until the Daytona 500

In Sprint Cup Series competition the #24 car has started 1413 races and has 93 wins, 84 poles, 374 top 5s, 639 top 10s, and 290 DNFs.

  • Jeff Gordon drove the #24 in every single consecutive 797 starts of his career since 1992 for 93 wins, 3rd most all time. In 1992, Roush Racing owner Jack Roush expressed interest in signing Gordon, which would keep him in the Ford Racing stable, but Gordon’s stepfather John Bickford had wanted Ray Evernham as crew chief, but Roush stated he selected crew chiefs, not his drivers. Gordon and Evernham were signed away from Bill Davis Racing  after Rick Hendrick  watched Gordon’s first Busch Series victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March of 1992.
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Jeff Gordon, 1999
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Gordon (left) & Evernham

The car number was originally to have been 46 , a car fielded by Hendrick for Greg Sacks for the filming of Days of Thunder in 1989, but was changed after a licencing conflict with Paramount Pictures. The number 24 was selected due to it having little significance in NASCAR history prior to Gordon. Gordon debuted in the 1992 Hooters 500, with the now iconic DuPont rainbow paint scheme designed by Sam Bass, qualifying twenty-first and finishing thirty-first following a crash.

Jeff Gordon at Daytona 1994
Jeff Gordon, 1992

The team went full-time in 1993 with crew chief Ray Evernham. Gordon won his Twin 125 qualifying race  at Daytona and finished fifth in the Daytona 500 . He finished fourteenth in points and took home rookie of the year honors. In 1994, Gordon won his first career race at the Coca-Cola 600  and also won the inaugural Brickyard  400 at Indianapolis. Gordon improved to eighth in the points that year. The following year, Gordon would go on to win the 1995 Winston Cup (Sprint Cup)championship . He finished runner-up to teammate Terry Labonte for the 1996 championship. He was given the nickname “Wonder Boy”  by Dale Earnhardt, and his crew was called the “Rainbow Warriors” . In addition to the 1997 Daytona 500 , Gordon won back-to-back championships in 1997 and 1998  and also tied Richard Petty’s modern era record for most victories in a season with thirteen.

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Jeff Gordon, 1993
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Gordon at Indianapolis, 1994
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Gordon, 1995 Champion
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The Rainbow Warriors, 1997

Gordon won the 1999 Daytona 500, but the team struggled with consistency that year. Crew chief Ray Evernham announced he was leaving the team to help with Dodge’s return to NASCAR that September. He was replaced by Brian Whitesell, who guided Gordon to wins in the first two races after Evernham’s departure. At the end of the season, Gordon signed a lifetime contract with the team that gave him part ownership. In 2000, Whitesell moved to a new position within the organization and was replaced by Robbie Loomis. Gordon picked up his fiftieth career victory at Talladega but finished ninth in points. He bounced back in 2001, winning his fourth championship.

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Jeff Gordon, 2001

In 2002, Gordon became car owner for Jimmie Johnson  and announced his first wife Brooke  had filed for divorce. He finished fourth in points in 2003. In 2004, Gordon finished third in the inaugural Chase for the Nextel Cup. After winning three of the first nine races in 2005 including the Daytona 500 , his season fell into a downward spiral. Gordon missed the chase for the Nextel Cup and finished eleventh in points that year, which was the first time since his rookie season that he finished outside the top ten in points. 2006 was Gordon’s comeback year. With the help of new crew chief Steve Letarte, Gordon would rebound to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup and finish sixth in points. In 2006 he also married his second wife Ingrid Vandebosch.

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Gordon and his protege, 2003
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Gordon after winning the 2005 Daytona 500

In 2007, despite winning six races and scoring a modern era record thirty top 10s, Gordon wound up finishing second in points to teammate Jimmie Johnson. In 2008 Gordon returned to the Chase, but he failed to win a race for the first time since his rookie year. Despite that statistic, he managed to enter the Chase and finish seventh in the season points standings. At the end of the 2008 season, Gordon unveiled on The Today Show his new Firestorm  paint scheme for 2009 and beyond. Beginning in 2011, Alan Gustafson became the crew chief of the No. 24 team. Gordon’s primary sponsor changed to AARP  and Gordon partnering to form the “Drive to End Hunger” initiative. The deal lasts for 22 races over the next two years, with Pepsi and DuPont continuing their associate deals. The new combination saw a resurgence for Gordon, as he won at Phoenix, Pocono, and Atlanta and finished 8th in points.

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Gordon’s “Firestorm” car, 2008
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Gordon, 2011

The following season, Gordon would be hampered by bad luck during most of the regular season. However, a win at Pocono and a 2nd place finish at Richmond vaulted Gordon into the 2012 Chase. At the Phoenix race, Gordon would tangle with fellow Chase contender Clint Bowyer, intentionally taking him out  late in the race after initial contact early on. Gordon was fined $100,000 by NASCAR for the incident.

Gordon bounced back to take his first win in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the first time a Hendrick team had won at the circuit in Sprint Cup, in the final race for DuPont  as Gordon’s sponsor, as a restructuring of DuPont meant the Performance Coatings group that sponsored Gordon would be spun off. That spinoff company, Axalta  Coating Systems, owned by The Carlyle Group, replaced DuPont as the primary sponsor for the 14 races not covered by the AARP or Pepsi in 2013.

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Gordon’s final race with Dupont
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Gordon’s AXALTA car

During the 2014 Coca-Cola 600 weekend, Gordon complained of back spasms, and skipped final practice; Regan Smith was tabbed to run in the event Gordon needed to be substituted, but Gordon ran the full 600 miles, finishing seventh. During the AAA Texas 500, Gordon and Keselowski were racing along with Jimmie Johnson for the win with a handful of laps left when Gordon collided  with Keselowski, which cut out his own tire and led to him spinning. Gordon would fall to 29th, while Keselowski would finish third. Following the race, Gordon verbally confronted Keselowski in pit road over the incident with both drivers being surrounded by their pit crews. However, it escalated into a brawl  due to Keselowski being shoved from behind by Harvick, who had also battled with Keselowski in the final laps. The brawl ended up involving the crew chiefs of both teams as well as other members from Kahne, Danica Patrick and Paul Menard’s teams. Both Gordon and Keselowski sustained facial cuts.

At Phoenix, Gordon finished 2nd to Harvick, but Newman edged him out for the fourth and final championship spot by one point to transfer to the final four in contention for the championship. Gordon won the pole for the final race at Homestead, and led a race-high 161 laps, but the decision to pit with 13 laps to go relegated him to 24th, and he finished 10th. The finish marked his 454th top-ten, surpassing Mark Martin for second in all-time top tens, behind Richard Petty’s 712. After the season ended, Gordon finished sixth in points; had the Chase not existed, he would have won a series record-tying 7th title based on total points scored in a season. Gordon, along with Austin Dillon, were the only drivers in 2014 to finish every race

On January 22, 2015, Gordon announced  that 2015 would be his last as a full-time driver, but did not rule out retirement entirely. Three days later, USA Today writer Jeff Gluck reported that Gordon was hired by NASCAR on Fox to work as a rotating analyst for Xfinity Series races alongside Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski. Gordon’s 2015 season climaxed at Martinsville in October where he would win his only race of the season, clinching a spot in the Championship 4. Gordon finished 3rd in the final standings.

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Gordon announcing his retirement to his crew, 2015
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Jeff Gordon’s final ride, 2015

Starting in 2016, Gordon became a full-time member of the NASCAR on FOX broadcasting team, sharing the booth with Mike Joy and Darrell Waltrip.

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  • After Jeff Gordon’s retirement, 2014 XFINITY Series Champion Chase Elliott was promoted to the Cup series to take the helm of the #24 car, bringing his sponsor NAPA Auto Parts with him.
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Chase Elliott (left) and car owner Rick Hendrick, unveiling the 2016 paint scheme for the #24

In his Daytona 500 debut, Elliott won the pole and, at the age of 20, became the youngest pole-sitter in 500 history.Elliott led three laps in the race, but on lap 18, spun exiting turn four and slid into the grass, damaging the front of the car. Elliott returned to the race on lap 59, 40 laps down, and finished 37th.

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Chase Elliott, 2016 Daytona 500 Pole Winner

 

The next week he finished 8th at Atlanta for his first Sprint Cup top ten finish. The following week, at Las Vegas, Elliott showed a strong car all day and even had his car inside the top 5 with 40 laps to go, but crashed and finished 38th. Elliott picked up more top tens during the spring, finishing 5th at Texas for his first career Top-5, 4th at Bristol, 5th at Talladega, 9th at Kansas, 3rd at Dover, 8th in the Coca-Cola 600, and a career best 2nd at Michigan.

He won the fan vote to advance into the All-Star Race along with Danica Patrick where he finished a respectable 7th after nearly winning the final segment of the Sprint Showdown, losing to Kyle Larson in a photo finish.

 

  At Pocono for the running of the Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400, Elliott would have his breakout race of his Sprint Cup career, Elliott would start 13th and later get the lead in the race and he would lead a race high of 51 laps, leading the most laps in a Sprint Cup race for the first time in his career. On a restart Elliott would lose the lead and then race came down close to fuel but the fuel would hold and he would finish 4th. At Michigan in June, Elliott finished second after he missed a shift in the lead.

 

He was one of the first rookies to qualify for The Chase for the Sprint Cup, along with Chris Buescher, since Denny Hamlin in 2006. To date, Elliott has started 36 races in #24. Elliott will return to the #24 car in 2017.

 

  • The only other driver to make more than just a few starts in #24 was also named Gordon, no relation to Jeff or Robby. Cecil Gordon drove in the NASCAR Grand National (Sprint Cup) Series, for 17 years and drove in a total of 449 races, 373 in #24 from 1970-1983. He never won and never got a pole, but got 29 top fives, 111 top tens. He finished third in points in 1971 and 1973. He completed 112,908 laps and only led 23 of them.
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Cecil Gordon, 1973
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Cecil Gordon, 1979

Other notable names in #24

  • Bobby Allison, 11 starts
  • Lennie Pond, 11 starts
  • Bob Welborn, 8 starts
  • Morgan Shepherd, 7 starts
  • Dick Trickle, 6 starts
  • Tiny Lund, 3 starts
  • Butch Gilliland, 3 starts
  • Kenny Wallace, 3 starts
  • Glen Wood, 1 start
  • Richard Petty, 1 start
  • Curtis Turner, 1 start

In the Truck Series, Jack Sprague  is a 3 time series Champion in the #24 with 23 wins. The late Ricky Hendrick  made 16 XFINITY Series starts in #24 from 1999-2001. From 2001-2002 Jack Sprague  drove the #24 in the XFINITY Series earning 1 win ( a total of 24 wins in the number between the 2 series).

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Jack Sprague: 1997, 1999, & 2001 Truck Series Champion
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Ricky Hendrick, 2001
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Jack Sprague, 2002

25 Days until the Daytona 500

In Sprint Cup Series competition the #25 car has started 1317 races and has 21 wins, 38 poles, 123 top 5s, 340 top 10s, and 369 DNFs.

 

  • From 1949-1951 Jack White competed in 12 NASCAR Strictly Stock/Grand National (Sprint Cup) races including 1 race in #25. The September 18, 1949 was the 5th Cup series race ever held, and Jack earned his only career win in his only start in #25- a 100% victory rate in the number.
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Jack White

 

 

  • Dick Linder drove the #25 in 19 events from 1950-1951 including 3 wins.
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Dick Linder

 

  • Lloyd Dane started 6 races in #25 during the 1956 season and captured 1 of his 4 career wins during that time.
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Lloyd Dane, 2010

 

 

  • Jabe Thomas was a NASCAR driver from Christianburg, VA. He competed in 322 NASCAR events in his career, 306 of which were in #25, spanning from 1965 to 1978. Thomas was one of the top independent drivers of his time, finishing in the top-ten in points four times, bested by a 6th in the 1971 standings. Overall, Thomas earned a remarkable 77 top-tens in his career, bested by a 4th place at New Asheville.
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Jabe Thomas, 1973

 

 

  • Ronnie Thomas  started 123 of his 197 career races in car #25. He was the 1978 NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year, edging out Roger Hamby in a race that went down to the wire at the Los Angeles Times 500. Thomas’s father, Jabe Thomas was also a NASCAR driver. In 1980, his best season he finished 14th in the points in #25 Stone’s Cafeteria car. He led a career total of four laps in Winston Cup competition from 1977-1989.
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Ronnie Thomas, 1981

 

 

  • NASCAR Superstar Tim Richmond drove the #25 for 37 races from 1986- 1987 inluding 9 of his 13 career wins. Richmond joined Hendrick Motorsports in 1986, where he teamed up with veteran crew chief Harry Hyde. It took the team until the middle of the season to gel. Richmond had suffered a 64-race winless streak that was finally broken at the Van Scoy Diamond Mine 500 at Pocono in June 1986. After two straight second place finishes at Charlotte and Riverside, Richmond started the Pocono event in third place inside the second row. That race saw a caution for rain with five laps left before the halfway point. NASCAR wanted the cars to get to the halfway point to make the race official, so the sanctioning body had the drivers slowly circle the track. It took the drivers 26 minutes to complete the laps, and the rain was so heavy that some drivers had to look out their side windows because they could not see out their windshields. Two hours later, the track had dried and the race resumed with Richmond in third. After Richmond’s car was adjusted to remove the “push”, the car was more to his liking. Because his radio did not work, he was unable to communicate with his crew chief, Hyde, and he made his final pit stop with 37 laps left. Hyde worried that Richmond had stopped a lap too early to ensure that he would have enough fuel to make it to the end. After Richmond took the lead with 30 laps left in the race, Dale Earnhardt made up three seconds on Richmond’s five-second lead. With four laps to go, Buddy Arrington spun in a three-car accident. The remaining laps of the race where completed slowly under caution and Richmond took the checkered flag for the victory. He had led 97 laps, including the final 30, taking his first victory in a Rick Hendrick car. UntitledThe tour returned to Pocono a month later, and Richmond battled for another victory in a fog-shortened event. In the final 8-lap sprint, Richmond competed in a three-car battle with Geoff Bodine and Ricky Rudd. Richmond crossed the finish line beside Rudd, winning the race by 0.05 seconds. He notched four more victories that season, and over a span of twelve races, Richmond earned three second place finishes, and six wins. The National Motorsports Press Association named him Co-Driver of the Year with Earnhardt after Richmond accumulated 13 top 5 finishes and 16 in the top 10. He had a career-best third place finish in points after winning seven events in 1986, in what was his last full NASCAR season.Richmond fell ill the day after the 1986 NASCAR annual banquet during a promotional trip to New York. He was not well enough to begin the 1987 NASCAR season despite lengthy hospitalization in Cleveland and further rest at home; when Richmond missed the Daytona 500, his condition was reported as double pneumonia. Media later reported that he had tested positive for acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). He returned to Pocono  for the Miller High Life 500 during the middle of the year. Starting third, he led by the fifth lap and ultimately led 82 laps, including the final 46, to win the race by eight car-lengths over Bill Elliott. In the middle of the race, Richmond’s car suffered gearbox problems. Because he could use only fourth (high) gear, he had to use that gear to slowly exit the pits. Richmond was emotional after the victory, saying, “I had tears in my eyes when I took the checkered flag. Then every time anyone congratulated me, I started bawling again.” Richmond earned a victory in the next race at Riverside , and made his final 1987 start at Michigan International Speedway’s Champion Spark Plug 400 that August, finishing 29th with a blown engine. He resigned from Hendrick Motorsports in September 1987.

 

Although Richmond attempted a comeback in 1988, NASCAR suspended him for testing positive for banned substances. The substances were identified as Sudafed, a non-prescription over-the-counter allergy medication, and Advil, an over-the-counter pain reliever. In April 1988, Richmond sued NASCAR over the suspension. Although he retested later that year and was reinstated, he could not find a car to drive. In his final public appearance in February 1988, Richmond denied that he abused drugs and said that a mistake had been made in his drug test.His suit with NASCAR was settled out-of-court, the terms sealed.

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Tim Richmond after his Riverside win, 1987

 

Richmond withdrew into his condo in Florida. There were by then rumors of HIV and AIDS, which he denied. He was later hospitalized in West Palm Beach.

ESPN sent a get-well-soon card to Richmond when it aired the July 1989 NASCAR race at Pocono. The television network showed highlights of Richmond’s victory at the track from 1986. “Tim had Hollywood good looks and the charisma of Tom Cruise,” said his friend Dr. Jerry Punch. “There he was in victory lane with the team all around him and beauty queens hanging all over him. It was important for the people at the hospital to see Tim the way he really was, when he was healthy and handsome and vital, not the way he was as they saw him every day in the hospital.”

On August 13, 1989, Richmond died at the age of 34, about two years after his final NASCAR race. He was buried in Ashland, Ohio. The secrecy surrounding the circumstance of his death caused speculation for several days. At the time, Punch stated that Richmond had been hospitalized due to a motorcycle accident, though it is unlikely that Richmond had the strength to ride a motorcycle during his last months. Ten days after his death, on August 23, the Richmond family held a press conference to reveal that Richmond died from complications from AIDS, which he acquired from an unknown woman. Richmond’s physician, Dr. David Dodson, said: “There’s no way of knowing who that woman was. Tim was a celebrity with a lot of charisma, a handsome guy. He naturally attracted a lot of women.” Punch later claimed that more than 90 drivers and personnel underwent HIV testing in the wake of Richmond’s death.

In 1990, a few months after Richmond’s death, Washington television station WJLA-TV and reporter Roberta Baskin reported that Dr. Forest Tennant, who was then the National Football League’s drug adviser, “falsified drug tests” that ultimately helped shorten Richmond’s NASCAR career. Baskin reported that sealed court documents and interviews showed Tennant and NASCAR used “allegedly false drug-test results in 1988 to bar Richmond from racing”. Baskin also stated that NASCAR had targeted Richmond, requesting that Tennant establish a substance-abuse policy with Richmond in mind. A series of drug tests and falsely reported positive results shortly before the 1988 Daytona 500 kept Richmond from driving in what was to have been his last big race…”, the report said. The New York Times published the findings. While neither Tennant nor NASCAR supplied an official response at the time, NASCAR did confirm that they were seeking to replace Tennant.

The Ashland County Sports Hall of Fame inducted Richmond in their second class in 1996. In 1998, NASCAR named Richmond one of its 50 greatest drivers of all time. He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2002. The Mansfield Motorsports Park ARCA Re/Max Series race in 2009 was named the Tim Richmond Memorial ARCA Re/Max 250 in honor of the area native.

Richmond’s story of persecution is the story of many individuals who were effected by HIV and AIDS in the 1980s, a time before the world fully understood the disease. The documentary film Tim Richmond: To The Limit  was produced as part of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series with a premiere date of October 19, 2010. Cole Trickle, the main character in the movie “Days of Thunder”, played by Tom Cruise, was loosely based on Richmond and his interaction with Harry Hyde and Rick Hendrick.

 

  • Ken Schrader  drove the #25 car in 267 races for Hendrick Motorsports from 1988-1996 including 4 wins. In his first race, he won the pole for the Daytona 500, beginning a three-year streak in which he won the pole for that race. After failing to qualify for the following race and purchasing a racecar from Buddy Arrington, Schrader won his first career race at the Talladega DieHard 500 , and finished fifth in the final standings. He won his second career Cup race the following season at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and finished fifth in the standings again.
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Schrader, 1989

 

Kodiak  became Schrader’s sponsor in 1990. Although he failed to win , he collected three poles, and seven top-fives, dropping to tenth in points. In 1991, he got his third win at the Motorcraft Quality Parts 500, and his final win to date at Dover  International Speedway. He had nine total top-five finishes and finished ninth in the final points standings. In 1992, he dropped to seventeenth in the standings after posting eleven top-tens. The following season, Schrader returned to ninth in the points and won a career-high six poles. He had his career-best points finish in 1994, when he finished fourth. He also won his most recent Busch race at Talladega.

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Schrader, c. 1990

 

In 1995, Budweiser  became Schrader’s primary sponsor. He won his final pole with Hendrick at Pocono Raceway and dropped back to seventeenth. He survived a horrifying crash  in the DieHard 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. After he improved only to twelfth in the standings in 1996, Schrader left Hendrick Motorsports after a nine-year association with the team.

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  • Ricky Craven  raced the Hendrick #25 in 30 starts during 1997 season. Craven finished in the top-five in the first two races of the season. He finished 3rd in the 1997 Daytona 500 behind his teammates Terry Labonte in 2nd and Jeff Gordon in 1st giving Hendrick Motorsports a 1-2-3 sweep of the Daytona 500. While practicing for the inaugural Interstate Batteries 500, Craven crashed hard into the wall. He missed two races due to a concussion suffered from the wreck. Jack Sprague and Todd Bodine substituted for Craven driving one race each. Upon his return, he won the Winston Open and finished a then-career-best 19th in points for 1997. In 1998 the #25 would be renumbered #50 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of NASCAR. After injury issues and poor performance Craven would be replaced by Wally Dallenbach Jr.

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The finish of the 1997 Daytona 500

 

  • Wally Dallenbach Jr.  started #25 a total of 34 times in 1999. Wally stepped in to sub for Ricky Craven in the #50 Budweiser Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports in 1998. The combination worked out well and Wally signed on to continue to drive the car when it changed back to the #25 Budweiser Chevrolet for 1999. It resulted in his best position in the standings of 18th after his 34 starts in the number. However, Dallenbach left the team to drive for a new team and Budweiser moved over to sponsor Dale Earnhardt, Inc.’s #8 car in 2000 and the team needed to hire a replacement and find a sponsor.
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Wally, 1999

 

 

  • Jerry Nadeau drove #25 for Rick Hendrick in 81 starts from 2000-2002 earning his only career win. Nadeau had a solid first year with Hendrick, finishing twentieth in points and winning the season-ending race at Atlanta . The team returned for 2001 with the United Auto Workers and Delphi Auto Parts as co-sponsors, and Nadeau finished a career high seventeenth in points while nearly repeating his Atlanta victory; Nadeau ran out of gas  short of the finish and finished fifth. After eleven races in 2002, Nadeau was let go from the team.
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Nadeau, 2000
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Ward Burton & Jerry Nadeau having a conversation, 2001
  • “Front Row” Joe Nemechek drove the Hendrick #25 for 57 races from 2002-2003 for 1 win. After eleven races in 2002, Nadeau was let go from the team and Joe Nemechek, who had lost his ride when Haas-Carter Motorsports folded his team due to the bankruptcy of their sponsor Kmart, was hired to replace him. Nemechek won at Richmond  in 2003 but was let go before the end of the season so he could join MB2 Motorsports as the replacement for an injured Nadeau.

 

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Nemechek, 2003

 

  • Nemechek’s replacement in the #25 was Brian Vickers, who was initially supposed to drive the car beginning in 2004 while racing full-time in the Busch Series in 2003 (where he won the championship). During his 112 starts in #25 from 2004-2006 Vickers earned 1 win. UAW and Delphi did not return as sponsors, so Hendrick replaced them with GMAC Financial (Vickers’ primary sponsor in Busch) and ditech.com. With a third place finish in the rookie points battle, his first season was somewhat of a disappointment. 2004 was a sad year for Vickers and the No. 25 team. “Papa” Joe, long-time owner of the No. 25 car, died in July, while close friend Ricky Hendrick  perished in a plane crash  that also took the lives of nine others in October. Vickers improved to seventeenth in points in 2005. Midway through the 2006 campaign, Vickers announced he would leave Hendrick Motorsports at the end of the season. On June 9, 2006 Hendrick Motorsports announced that Casey Mears of Chip Ganassi Racing would take the spot of Vickers in 2007. Vickers collected his first career win later that season at Talladega in a controversial finish .
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Brian Vickers, 2005

 

  • In 2007, the Army National Guard joined forces with longtime Hendrick Motorsports partner GMAC to sponsor the No. 25 Chevrolet driven by Casey Mears.  Mears piloted the No. 25 to his first career win at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the Coca-Cola 600 , his only win to date. After the season, Mears moved to the #5, while the fourth full-time ride was given to the new #88 for Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who replaced Kyle Busch at Hendrick Motorsports. This left the #25 as a part-time team. Mears ran 36 races in the #25 in 2007.
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Casey Mears, 2007

 

 

  • In 2015 Chase Elliott drove a fifth entry for Hendrick motorsports in five races in the Sprint Cup Series as he prepared to take over the #24 car for the 2016 season.
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Elliott, 2015

 

Other notable names in #25

26 Days until the Daytona 500

In Sprint Cup Series competition the #26 car has started 1105 races and has 22 wins, 36 poles, 116 top 5s, 259 top 10s, and 373 DNFs.

  • Brett Bodine  has the most starts in #26 with 147 from 1990-1994 including Brett’s only career win. Driving the #26 Quaker State Buick Regal for champion drag racer Kenny Bernstein, Bodine won his first race at North Wilkesboro Speedway , which came under some controversy. During a long 17-lap caution flag, scoring was mixed up, and some felt that Darrell Waltrip was robbed of the win because of the error. It was found that Waltrip was up front but by the time it was clear that Waltrip won, Bodine had already been declared the winner officially. When Waltrip protested Bill France said “You leave this kid alone DW…it is his first win and you will win more races.” The win stood, and before the season was over, Bodine had won his first pole position at the fall event at Charlotte Motor Speedway and was 12th in the championship standings. Bodine wasn’t able to equal his 1990 effort, and parted ways with Bernstein after the 1994 season. Sprint Car Champion Steve Kinser  was hired to replace Bodine in 1995, but after only 5 races was replaced by Hut Stricklin  for the remainder of the year.
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Brett Bodine
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Kinser, 1995
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Hut Stricklin, 1995
  • Jamie McMurray  started #26 a total of 144 times between 2006-2009 including 2 wins. After leaving Ganassi Racing following 2005, McMurray was originally to go to the #6 Ford in 2006, but since Mark Martin announced he would race for another year, McMurray instead took over for Kurt Busch in the #97 Crown Royal/IRWIN Tools Ford (which was then renumbered #26). 2006 was a hard season for McMurray. McMurray’s best finish of the 2006 season came at Dover International Speedway, where he finished second after leading the most laps. McMurray would record three top fives, seven top tens and finish a disappointing 25th in points.On June 22, 2007, he won his third career Cup pole, for the Toyota Save/Mart 350. On lap 1, he was passed by Robby Gordon. With about 45 laps left, McMurray took the lead and dominated the final laps, but with 7 to go Cup rookie and his future teammate Juan Pablo Montoya passed him and held him off until McMurray eventually ran out of gas with 2 to go and resulted 37th. On July 7 at the Pepsi 400, McMurray led a few laps in the first stages. However, on lap 30, McMurray was then black-flagged by NASCAR for slipping out of bounds. He then spent the rest of the race charging back through the field eventually getting back to the front on lap 155. McMurray then led the final stages but battled Kyle Busch for five laps. On the last lap, Busch was the leader next to McMurray and charged to the finish, but at the last second, McMurray charged one last time and barely beat Busch to win the Pepsi 400  for his second career Cup win. The margin was 0.005 of a second, and the finish resembled the Daytona 500 of the year’s finish when Kevin Harvick beat Mark Martin at the last second of the race that year. The photo finish  was the closest in Daytona International Speedway history and tied for the second closest finish (1993 DieHard 500) since the advent of electronic scoring in 1993. McMurray finished the year 17th in the point standings.
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McMurray, 2009

In the beginning of the 2008 season, McMurray encountered a string of poor finishes that relegated him to 36th in points and thus not guaranteed a spot when NASCAR reached the spring Martinsville race. McMurray finished 16th in the standings. On November 1, 2009, McMurray won the AMP Energy 500 at Talladega  after leading over 20 laps and passing David Stremme with 8 laps to go. He then survived a green-white checkered finish to earn his second restrictor-plate win. Roush released him and the #26 team at the end of the season due to NASCAR’s four team limit and the expiration of Roush Fenway Racing’s exemption that allowed a 5th team. McMurray decided to ask former boss Chip Ganassi for another chance following his disastrous era on Roush-Fenway Racing and Ganassi granted him a contract to let him drive the #1 car for his merged team with Dale Earnhardt Inc., Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.

 

 

  • Earl Brooks started #26 109 times from 1962-1973. As one of the earliest professionals of any sport, he played the game simply to feed his family and to be a breadwinner to his family. Brooks never had the money or the time attract corporate sponsors for his racing team. His “second job” was being a mechanic for a garage on Lynchburg’s Mayflower Drive; where he worked from Monday to Friday to pay off any bills that NASCAR couldn’t help with. In the summertime, Earl would wear sandals while racing; something that would eventually become banned as NASCAR became more safety conscious. Like any other driver who raced during the formative years of NASCAR, Brooks was a humble man who would sometime race for meager “awards” like a block of cheese or a tin of crackers to eat for a snack after the race. While Richard Petty and David Pearson could buy new parts for their vehicles through their corporate sponsors spending money like there was no tomorrow, Earl had to scrounge around for vehicle components. Due to Brooks being unable to win a race in the NASCAR Cup Series, he is ineligible for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
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Earl Brooks

 

 

  • Jimmy Spencer  drove #26 for 70 starts from 2000-2001. After a 20th-place finish in 1999, Winston left the Travis Carter #23 team, and Kmart became the team’s new sponsor, causing Spencer to switch to the #26 to accommodate the new sponsor, who was already backing the #66 car driven by Spencer’s teammate, Darrell Waltrip. Spencer had two top-fives and in 2001 won the pole positions at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Lowe’s Motor Speedway and advanced to sixteenth in points. He departed the team at the end of the season.
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Spencer

 

  • Johnny Benson Jr.  drove the Roush Racing #26 General Mills/Cheerios Ford Taurus in 66 races in the 1998 & 1999 seasons. In1998, he missed the season opening Daytona 500, then finished 30th at the following race. He then had a streak of no finishes worse than ninth over the next five races and rose as high as tenth in points, before he finished 38th and 41st in the next two races. For the rest of the season, his best finish was ninth and he qualified no higher than second. He finished 20th in points. Benson had numerous crew chiefs in 1999. He had two top 10 finishes and finished 28th in the final standings. After a long negotiation, he was able to buy out his contract and announced he would leave Roush.
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Benson

 

  • Ricky Rudd  earned 2 wins in his 58 starts from 1988-1989. Rudd joined King Racing beginning in 1988  in the #26 Quaker State Buick Regal owned by Kenny Bernstein. He struggled with engine failures all season long and finished 11th in the standings, his worst points finish in eight years. After his only win of 1989, which came at the inaugural Sears Point  event, Rudd departed the operation, and in 1990 he signed with Hendrick Motorsports to drive the #5 Levi Garrett Chevrolet Lumina.
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Ricky Rudd, 1989
  • Junior Johnson  raced his #26 car 40 times from 1963-1966 including 12 wins. As an owner Johnson fielded the #26 with many of the sport’s great names like Fred Lorenzon , Curtis Turner , Bobby Isaac , Darel Dieringer  and LeeRoy Yarbrough 
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Johnson, 1963
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Bobby Isaac in Johnson’s #26
  • In 2014 Cole Whitt  started all 36 races for Swan Racing.
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Whitt, 2014

 

  • Dave Terrell  started 34 races in #26 from 1953-1954. He drove #26 in exactly half of his career starts.
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Terrell

 

  • Joe Ruttman  drove the Kenny Bernstein #26 in 29 races during the 1986 season. Morgan Shepherd  drove the number both before Ruttman and after for 31 starts in 1985 & 1987.
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Ruttman, 1986
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Shepherd, 1987

 

  •  Josh Wise competed for the Rookie of the Year in 2012 driving the #26 in 30 starts for Front Row Motorsports.
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Wise, 2012
  • In the twilight of Travis Carter’s team the #26 was fielded by several drivers in 2002 before lack of sponsorship dove the team out of business. The drivers included Todd Bodine with 21 starts, Joe Nemechek  with 7 starts, Frank Kimmel  with 6 starts, and Geoff Bodine with 1 start. Yep, all 3 Bodine Brothers have driven #26.
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Todd Bodine, 2002
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Frank Kimmel, 2002

 

  • In 2015 Jeb Burton started 17 races in #26 before switching teams with his BK Racing teammate J.J. Yeley who made 11 starts. Josh Wise also made 1 start in the car in 2015. In 2016 Robert Richardson Jr. made 1 start in #26: the Daytona 500.
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Jeb Burton, 2015

 

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Robert Richardson Jr., 2016

 

  • Fictional driver Ricky Bobby  drives the #26 in the comedy movie “Talladega Nights:The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”

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Other notable names in #26

  • David Stremme, 11 starts
  • Dave Marcis, 6 starts
  • Boris Said, 5 starts
  • Ken Schrader, 1 start
  • Tony Raines, 1 start
  • Michael Waltrip, 1 start
  • Dick Trickle, 1 start
  • Bill Elliott, 1 start
  • David Pearson, 1 start

27 Days until the Daytona 500

In Sprint Cup Series competition the #27 car has started 1069 races with 82 drivers and has 52 wins, 46 poles, 225 top 5s, 395 top 10s, and 327 DNFs.

  • From 1986-1991 Rusty Wallace  drove the #27 Alugard Pontiac for Raymond Beadle’s Blue Max Racing team. Rusty’s first win came on April 6, 1986, at Bristol Motor Speedway. He also won at Martinsville on September 21. Wallace finished 6th in the points, his first top 10 in the standings. For 1987 Wallace gained sponsorship from Kodiak , establishing the #27 Kodiak Pontiac livery his early career is most remembered for. He took victories at Watkins Glen and Riverside, as well first series pole at Michigan in June.
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Wallace, 1986
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Wallace, 1987

Wallace developed his career further in 1988 , scoring six victories including four of the final five races of the year. His wins came at Michigan, Charlotte, North Wilkesboro, Rockingham, the final race ever at Riverside , and the season finale at Atlanta. With these 6 wins he finished second to Bill Elliott by 24 points.

In 1989, Wallace won the NASCAR Winston Cup (Sprint Cup) Championship , with crew chief Barry Dodson, by finishing 15th at the Atlanta Journal 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, to beating out close friend and fierce rival Dale Earnhardt who won the race, by twelve points. Wallace also won The Winston  (All Star Race) in controversial fashion, by spinning out Darrell Waltrip on the last lap.

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Rusty Wallace, 1989 Winston Cup Champion

In 1990, Raymond Beadle switched sponsors, to Miller Genuine Draft. The four-year sponsorship deal was specifically tied to Wallace, meaning it went where the 1989 champ went. The 1989 championship year was reportedly marked with acrimony between Wallace and Beadle. However, Wallace was stuck with the team for 1990 due to his contract. Rusty had 18 wins for Beadle.

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Wallace, 1990

In 1991 Wallace took the Miller sponsorship with him to Penske Racing, and he continued in the #2 Miller Genuine Draft Pontiac. Rusty has the second most starts in #27 with 145.

 

 

  • Paul Menard is the current driver of the #27 car; He has 216 starts and 1 win in the number since 2011. Menard has been driving in Sprint Cup since 2008 with Dale Earnhardt Inc., Robert Yates Racing, and Richard Petty Motorsports but found very little success before joining Richard Childress Racing in 2011. Menard has always been sponsored, at least in part, by Menard’s, the company his father owns.

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On July 31, 2011, Menard won his first Sprint Cup race in his 167th start, in the Brickyard 400 at the prestigious Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He did so by making his last pit stop with 36 laps to go. He led late, but with 9 laps to go he was passed by Jamie McMurray. With four to go he regained the lead and held off Jeff Gordon, the winner of the inaugural Brickyard 400 in the final laps, having enough fuel to do so. He is the first member of the Menard family, or the first person driving sponsored by Menards to win at Indianapolis, in any event held at the track. He also joined Trevor Bayne, Regan Smith, David Ragan, and Marcos Ambrose as first-time winners in the 2011 season.

 

In September 2011 at Richmond, Menard and RCR became the center of controversy when Menard spun in the waning laps. It was believed that his accident was intentional, intended to assist his teammate Kevin Harvick who later won the race against Jeff Gordon who would have won if the caution did not come out.

In 2012, Menard did not perform well. And went winless. In 2013, he slightly improved when he was briefly in Chase for the Sprint Cup contention. A blown engine early in the Coke Zero 400 caused him to be knocked out of the Chase with a few races left before the Chase began. In the 2013 season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400, Menard’s tire exploded  upon stopping in his pit box; Menard stated, “About a lap later, they told me I was on fire. I lost my brakes, and the damned wheel blew right off.”

Menard’s consistency faultered in 2015, as he only earned 5 top 10 finishes. However, he still made The Chase before being eliminated in the first round. 2016 saw Menard finish 25th in the standings with only 3 top 10 finished.  Menard will return to the #27 in 2017.

 

 

 

  • Junior Johnson  started #27 98 times in his 313 career races, more than any other number. His first race in #27 came at the Daytona 500  in 1960. Johnson and his crew chief Ray Fox were practicing for the race, trying to figure out how to increase their speed, which was 22 miles per hour (35 km/h) slower than the top cars in the race. During a test run a faster car passed Johnson. He noticed that when he moved behind the faster car his own speed increased due to the faster car’s slipstream. Johnson was then able to stay close behind the faster car until the final lap of the test run, when he used the “slipstream” effect to slingshot past the other car. By using this technique Johnson went on to win  the 1960 Daytona 500, despite the fact that his car was slower than others in the field. Johnson’s technique was quickly adopted by other drivers, and his practice of “drafting” has become a common tactic in NASCAR races.27gaddy59-p1
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    Junior Johnson, 1960

    In 1963 he had a two-lap lead in the World 600 at Charlotte before a spectator threw a bottle onto the track and caused Junior to crash; he suffered only minor injuries. He retired from driving in 1966, but would go on to be a very successful car owner . In his career, he claimed 50 victories as a driver, and 11 of these wins were at major speedway races. He retired as the winningest driver never to have a championship.

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Johnson as a team owner and his driver Darrell Waltrip, 1983

 

  • Tim Richmond drove car #27 in 88 starts beginning in 1983 for Raymond Beadle whom he had known before he started racing. He returned to the three-cornered Pocono racetrack, site of his first career start in 1980, and earned his first oval victory. Esquire magazine  named Richmond as one of “the best of the new generation” in 1984. That year he had one win at North Wilkesboro Speedway and second place finishes at Dover, Darlington and Riverside. Richmond finished the 1984 season 12th in points. In 1985, the final season that Richmond competed for Beadle, his best finish was a second place run at Bristol. He ended the season 11th in points. Richmond joined Hendrick Motorsports in 1986, where he teamed up with veteran crew chief Harry Hyde in the #25 car. The deterioration of Richmond’s career and his eventual death is a very sad, controversial story that we will discuss with 25 Days until the Daytona 500.
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Tim Richmond
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Richmond, 1984
  • Benny Parsons drove #27 for 62 races in the 1979 & 1980 seasons. The #27 was chosen because it is the reversal of #72, BP’s former number that he won the 1973 Winston Cup Championship in. Benny earned 5 wins in #27.In 1979 at North Wilkesboro Speedway Bobby Allison led most of the race but in the final 150 laps, Darrell Waltrip caught Allison. The two hit together hard and Darrell nailed the front stretch wall. Waltrip began crowding off Allison under the caution and got black flagged for the crowding. Benny Parsons would win the race, but it would be his only win at the North Wilkesboro Speedway. He won the 1980 World 600 at Charlotte and finished 3rd in points.
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Parsons, 1980
  • The Alabama Gang’s Donnie Allison  started the #27 car 52 times from 1968-1975 earning 5 of his 10 career wins in the number.

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  • Cale Yarborough  drove the #27 machine 48 times during his career including 5 wins. Cale first drove the car in 13 races from 1965-1966  with no wins, and would return to the number for 1981-1982.
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Yarborough, 1966
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Yarborough, 1982

 

  • Hut Striklin started the #27 a total of 30 times in the 1993 season earning only 2 top 10s. Jimmy Spencer took over the car the next year and won 2 races  in his 29 starts.
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Stricklin, 1993

 

 

  • Elton Sawyer  drove the #27 in 28 starts from 1994-1995 with 10 DNFs. Sawyer is more so known for his relationship with Patty Moise, a female NASCAR driver. The 90’s version of Patrick/Stenhouse.
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Sawyer, 1994

 

 

  • Sam Sommers  started car #27 in 27 races from 1976-1977.
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Sommers

 

  • Part way through the 2000 season Mike Bliss  signed to drive the #27 Pfizer/Viagra Pontiac for Eel River Racing. He had a ninth place run at Talladega Superspeedway and finished 39th in points that year after 24 starts.
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Mike Bliss, 2000

 

  • Jimmy Florian  has 15 starts in #27 from 1950-1951 inlcluding 1 win. In a time when Ford’s weren’t well appreciated in the Southern sport of NASCAR, Florian was the first to fight against the likes of Oldsmobile. He proved to the community that Ford was a reliable manufacturer, finishing 3rd in his first race. He is credited for the first victory for Ford in what is now the Sprint Cup Series winning in Dayton, Ohio in 1950. Most drivers couldn’t believe it and many of the greats such as Petty and Weatherly protested the victory. He drove the car to victory lane in style: shirtless.

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Florian, 1950