45 Days until the Daytona 500

In Sprint Cup Series competition the #45 car has started 828 races with 83 drivers and has 6 wins, 8 poles, 53 top 5s, 134 top 10s, and 289 DNFs.

  • We can’t even begin to talk about car #45 without discussing Adam Petty, 4th generation driver of the legendary racing family  and son of Kyle Petty . In 1998, Adam drove his #45 Sprint/Spree Pontiac in the now defunct American Speed Association, or ASA  series. That same year, he made 2 ARCA starts in #45, including a win  in his first ever race in the series, just like his father Kyle

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    Adam Petty’s ASA Car
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From left to right: Richard, Adam, and Kyle Petty in victory lane after Adam’s win in his first ARCA start.
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4 generations of Petty drivers.
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Adam Petty’s Busch Series Car

 

In 1999 Adam drove his #45 full time in the NASCAR Busch Series  (now XFINITY Series). The season was a bit of a struggle as he failed to qualify for 3 events, but also showed promise. Petty Enterprises planned to have Petty run a second Busch  season in 2000, while giving him seven starts in the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup series (now Sprint Cup), in preparation for a full Winston Cup campaign in 2001. He struggled early in the Busch season, but managed to qualify in his first attempt at Winston Cup during the DirecTV 500 at Texas  Motor Speedway on April 2. He qualified 33rd and ran in the middle of the pack most of the day before his engine expired, forcing him to finish 40th.

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Adam Petty’s Busch car, 2000
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Adam’s first Cup start, Texas 2000

 

On May 12, 2000, Petty was practicing for the Busch series Busch 200 race at the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. While entering turn three, Petty’s throttle stuck  wide open, causing the car to hit the outside wall virtually head on. Petty was killed instantly due to a basilar skull fracture. He was 19 years old .

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Rescue worker attempt to remove Petty from the wrecked car.

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8 weeks later former Cup Series Rookie of the Year Kenny Irwin Jr. would also have a stuck throttle in the same corner of the same track. Irwin was also killed instantly of a basilar skull fracture. Not until October 2001, after the deaths of Dale Earnhardt and Blaise Alexander, did NASCAR mandate the HANS device to prevent basilar skull fractures.

Adam never got to race alongside his father. Kyle failed to qualify on April 2, 2000 at Texas. He eventually relieved an ill Elliott Sadler, but Adam was already out of the race. Lee Petty, Adam’s great-grandfather, and 3-time NASCAR Champion, lived to see his Winston Cup debut, but died just three days later.

In October 2000 five months after Adam’s death, Kyle Petty and his family partnered with Paul Newman and the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp to begin the Victory Junction Gang Camp  in Randleman, North Carolina, as a memorial to Adam. The camp has received support from many NASCAR drivers, teams, and sponsors, including Cup Series sponsor Sprint, which has placed a replica of Petty’s 1998 car  in the camp. The Victory Junction Gang camp began operation in 2004, and is an official charity of NASCAR.

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Victory Junction
  • Following the death of Adam, Kyle Petty drove his son’s #45 in the Busch series for the remainder of the year 2000. Starting in 2001  Kyle drove #45 in Cup for the rest of his drivingcareer . Kyle has the most starts in the number of any driver with 245. His only top 5 in the number came at the Coca Cola 600 in 2007 behind Casey Mears and JJ Yeley. We will discuss Kyle more in the coming days with #44 and #42.
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Kyle Petty, 2007
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Kyle Petty, 2002
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Kyle Petty, 2005

 

  • Bill Seifert  has 200 Cup starts from 1966-1972. Appropriately, Seifert drove the #45 to a top 10 finish 45 times.

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  • From 1975-1982 Baxter Price  made 85 starts. Price never led a lap or finished in the top 10.
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Baxter Price
  • Eddie Pagan  drove #45 in 50 starts from 1956-1961. Pagan is most famous for his huge crash in the 1958 Southern 500  at Darlington, though he does have 4 career wins in the number.
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Pagan, Darlington 1958

 

  • LeeRoy Yarbrough  drove #45 a total of 33 times in 1964 and 1971-1972. LeeRoy won 2 races in 1964 driving the number.
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Yarbrough (45) races Darrell Waltrip (95), 1972 Talladega 500
  • Beginning in 1992 Rich Bickle  made a few starts per year in #45, the last year being 1999 with the most starts of 16. He has 28 total starts in the number.
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Rich Bickle
  • Vic Parsons  has started #45 a total of 17 times: once in 1972 and 16 times in 1973.
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Vic Parsons, 1973
  • Other notable names in #45
    • Bud Moore, 13 starts
    • Terry Labonte, 9 starts
    • David Green, 9 starts
    • Elmo Langley, 4 starts
    • John Andretti, 4 starts
    • Tiny Lund, 4 starts
    • Joe Weatherly, 1 start
    • Joe Ruttman, 1 start
    • Cale Yarborough, 1 start
    • Ron Hornaday, 1 start
    • Wally Dallenbach, 1 start
    • Kenny Wallace, 1 start
    • Ken Ragan, 1 start
    • Christian Fittipaldi, 1 start
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