In Sprint Cup Series competition the #44 car has started 1,007 races with 98 different drivers and has 13 wins, 28 poles, 157 top 5s, 325 top 10s, and 284 DNFs.
- Terry Labonte has the most career starts in #44 with 259 from 1979-1986 and from 2005-2006. In 1978 Terry made his Cup Series debut at Darlington in the Southern 500 driving #98. Terry Competed for the 1979 Winston Cup (now Sprint Cup) Rookie of the Year award driving his #44 against Dale Earnhardt, Harry Gant, and Joe Milikan. While Labonte did not win Rookie of the year, he was among 3 rookies to finish in the top 10 of the point standings. Labonte earned in first career victory in dramatic fashion at the 1980 Southern 500 . Appropriately, Terry’s last win came 23 years later at the Southern 500, then driving #5 for Rick Hendrick.
In 1984 Terry won his first Winston Cup Championship while driving the #44 Piedmont Airlines Car. After the 1986 season Terry would go on to drive #11 for Junior Johnson and #5 for Rick Hendrick, where he won his second championship in 1996. We will discuss these numbers further when we get there on the countdown.
After the 2004 season “Texas Terry” would retire from full time NASCAR driving, but would still make several starts per year until 2014. From 2005-2006 Terry drove his old #44 as a Hendrick R&D car in 19 races. 6 of Labonte’s 22 career wins came in #44.
- Kyle Petty infamously has a love/hate relationship with Petty Enterprises (Now RPM, or Richard Petty Motorsports), the organization that bears his surname. In 1997 Kyle founded his own race team called PE2 which fielded his #44 Pontiac. PE2 was undoubtedly was supposed to mean “Petty Enterprises 2,” and Kyle chose number 44 because it was next after his father’s 43 and his grandfather’s 42, even though Kyle had already spent half his career driving #42. After 2 years and limited success, Kyle would begin running PE2 out of the Petty Enterprises shop in 1999, and the teams would officially merge in 2000 making Kyle the new CEO of Petty Enterprises. Kyle has 114 starts in #44 with no wins.
Following the death of his son Adam, who we discussed yesterday, Kyle drove #45 for the rest of his career. In 2009, Kyle severed ties with Petty Enterprises after the company merged with Boston Ventures to create Richard Petty Motorsports. Kyle said “When they did their deal and sold to Boston Ventures….they pretty much let me know there wasn’t a place for me there going into ’09.”
- Petty Enterprises continue to field #44 even after Kyle Petty moved to #45. In 2001 they hired Busch Series (now XFINITY Series) star Buckshot Jones to drive the #44 Dodge. Buckshot made a total of 37 starts between 2001-2002, but struggled his entire Cup career. Buckshot is now working in land development and real estate in Georgia.
- Steve Grissom was driving for Petty Enterprises in the Truck Series when Adam Petty died in 2000. When Kyle left the #44 to take over Adam’s #45, Grissom drove the #44 Hotwheels machine for the remainder of the season. Grissom also drove #44 for some races in 2002 , following the departure of Buckshot Jones. Grissom has a total of 15 Cup starts in the number.
- Also in 2002, Jerry Nadeau drove the #44 in 13 races as one of several drivers to replace Buckshot Jones. Nadeau almost won the 2002 Dodge/Savemart 350 at Sonoma before he suffered a mechanical failure with 3 laps to go, a heartbreaking loss.
- In 2009 A.J. Allmendinger drove the #44 for RPM full time, for 36 starts.
- When Terry Labonte left the #44 Piedmont Airlines car in 1986, a young driver named Sterling Marlin filled the seat. Marlin drove the car full time in 1987 & 1988 for 58 starts with no wins, though he did earn 10 top 5 finishes.
- In 2007 & 2008 Dale Jarrett made 29 starts in #44, racing part time for Michael Waltrip Racing. In 2008, Jarrett shared the ride with David Reutimann before fully retiring from NASCAR. Reutimann made 32 starts in #44 before switching to #00 for the 2009 season.
- We have talked about Bob Welborn several times in recent days. He is best known for driving #49 in the NASCAR Convertible series where he won 3 championships, but he also drove in several Cup Series races driving cars numbered forty-something. Bob made 30 start in #44 including 1 win at Grensboro in 1958.
- Following Richard Petty’s retirement in 1992, the famous STP #43 was changed to #44 for the 1993 season with Rick Wilson behind the wheel. Rick made 29 starts in the number and lead 1 lap. The car would return to #43 the following season with John Andretti and Wally Dallenbach driving.
- In 2016, Richard Petty Motorsports renumbered their second team from #9 to revive the #44 car for Brian Scott. Scott struggled to find success throughout the 36 race season, but he scored 1 top-5 finish: a 2nd place at the Fall Talladega race. Prior to the last race of the 2016 , Scott surprisingly announced that he would retire from NASCAR. The #44 Petty team has been withdrawn from full-time competition for the 2017 season.
- 1960 Grand National (Sprint Cup) Champion Rex White started #44 25 times between 1957-1958. White won 2 races in the number.
- Jim Paschal started 25 races in #44 from 1960-1962, and earned 1 win in 1961 at the Nashville Fairgrounds.
- From 1965-1967 Larry Hess started the #44 in 25 races.
- Lloyd Dane made 24 starts in #44 from 1957-1964 earning 2 of his 4 career wins in the number. Dane is perhaps better remembered for being the first ever K&N West series champion in 1954, then known as the Pacific Coast Late Model Division. In 2010 Dane helped present 3 time K&N West Champion Eric Holmes with his Championship Trophy.
- From 1953-1954 Curtis Turner started #44 just 5 times, but he earned 1 win. No photo was found.
- After making their debut race in 2012 with David Reutimann, Team Xtreme Racing (formerly Xxxtreme Motorsports) ran 6 races in 2013 with Scott Riggs behind the wheel. The team returned in 2014 and qualified for 7 races, 5 with J.J. Yeley and 2 with Timmy Hill.
Team Xtreme returned for the 2015 season beginning with Reed Sorenson driving the car in the Daytona 500. Sorenson caused controversy during qualifying after wrecking with Clint Bowyer in qualifying. The incident lead to a change in qualifying format for the 4 races at restrictor plate tracks.
The following race Travis Kvapil was scheduled to compete at Atlanta, but the team was forced to withdraw their entry after their car hauling trailer was stolen out of a hotel parking lot. The team would then DNQ for several weeks in a row before taking a hiatus to focus resources on qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway. The team did not attempt the race in Texas, though, and did not attempt any further races in the 2015 season. Team Xtreme has technically not closed it’s doors, but the lack of funding and owner Jonathan Cohen’s legal issues plaguing the team make it seem VERY unlikely that the team will return to Cup racing in 2017.
- Other notable names in #45
In the XFINITY series, Joe Gibbs Racing used to field #44 for Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart
In 2002 Mike Harmon drove the #44 car in the XFINITY Series. He is most remembered for a ridiculous crash at Bristol that left his car destroyed, though he was miraculously unharmed.
Terry’s son Justin Labonte drove #44 in the 2004 & 2005 XFINITY series. Labonte would win 1 race in 2004 at Chicago.
In ARCA, 10 time Champion Frank Kimmel drove #44 from 2008-2014. He drove this numer to 9 wins and the 2013 championship.