31 Days until the Daytona 500

In Sprint Cup Series competition the #31 car has started 1104 races with 101 drivers and has 7 wins, 10 poles, 89 top 5s, 277 top 10s, and 258 DNFs.

  • In 1993 Richard Childress fielded #31 for Dale Earnhardt’s longtime friend Neil Bonnett to help him return to the sport after recovering from a life threatening crash in 1990. At Talladega, Bonnett would be involved in a very  spectacular  crash  that threw his car into the catch fence and brought out a red flag . Neil was uninjured in the accident and joined the CBS broadcast team to call the rest of the race. Bonnett started 1 more race in #31 later in 1993. While practicing for the 1994 Daytona 500 Bonnett crashed James Finch’s #51 into the turn 4 wall and died. The same corner would claim the life of his friend Dale Earnhardt 7 years later.
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Neil Bonnett, 1993

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  • In 1994 Ward Burton  drove the #31 for owner Alan Dillard Jr. Ward was one of a record 10 rookies in the 1994 season. Despite winning his first career pole at Charlotte, Ward would be bested by his brother Jeff for Rookie of the Year. After struggling in most of his first 46 starts, Ward departed the team midway through the 1997 season to drive the #22 for Bill Davis Racing. Greg Sacks, Jimmy Hensley, and Gary Bradberry would finish the season in #31.
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Ward Burton, 1994
  • In 1996, RCR began fielding #31 part time with the defending Truck Series champion Mike Skinner  behind the wheel. In 1997 Skinner  began driving full time in Winston (Sprint) Cup with Lowe’s  as the primary sponsor. Skinner won the pole for both Daytona races in 1997 and was named rookie of the year, despite failing to qualify for 1 event. Skinner never won a points paying Sprint Cup race, but he won 2 exhibition races in Japan in 1997 at Suzuka  & 1998 at Motegi . In 2001 Skinner announced that he would part ways with RCR at the end of the season. At the inaugural race at Chicagoland Speedway Skinner cut a right front tire  and hit the wall hard. He would miss several races due to the resulting concussion, injured ACL, and broken ankle. Skinner returned to his car, but after another hard crash at Richmond he elected to miss the rest of the season in favor of surgery to repair his ACL. Skinner started 156 races in #31.
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Skinner, 1999

SKINNER

 

 

  • When Skinner was injured in 2001 Childress hired free agent driver Robby Gordon  to fill in for him. Gordon almost won a race during a one-off start in the #7 car at Sears Point  (Sonoma) earlier in 2001, and caught a lot of interest. While subbing for Skinner, Robby was dominating the race at Watkins Glen when the TV telemetry box in his carcaught fire , ending his day. When Skinner returned it was announced that Robby Gordon would drive the #31 full time in 2002, despite not having a sponsor lined up. When Skinner elected for surgery Gordon was put back in #31 for the remainder of the 2001 season (except for the race at Homestead in which Jeff Green drove to prepare to drive the RCR #30 the next year). After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 NASCAR decided to postpone the New Hampshire race scheduled for that weekend. The race was moved to November 23rd 2001, after the scheduled conclusion of the season. After late race contact with Jeff Gordon , Robby pulled off the upset win  to close out the 2001 season.
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Robby Gordon, 2001

 

 

 

In 2002 Robby returned with Cingular Wireless  as the new sponsor on the car, but the team struggled all year except for a 3rd place finish at Watkins Glen. Robby completed “The Double” in 2002 by driving his #31 in the Indy 500  and driving the Coke 600 in the same day. 2003 was Robby’s best year as he earned 2 wins at Infineon  (Sonoma) and Watkins Glen.

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Robby Gordon, 2001
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Robby Gordon at the 2002 Indianapolis 500

In 2004 Gordon continued to struggle . In the first race of the inaugural Chase for the Sprint Cup Robby intentionally wrecked  Greg Biffle as payback for an earlier incident. The incident took out Tony Stewart and Jeremey Mayfield, 2 chase contenders. NASCAR fined Gordon $15,000 and RCR placed him on probation for the rest of the year. Following 2004, Gordon left RCR to run his own Cup team.

 

  • Midway through 2004 Jeff Burton  was released from Roush Racing after his #99 team struggled to find sponsorship. Burton was quickly hired by RCR to drive the #30 AOL car which struggled to have a consistent driver. Following Robby Gordon’s departure Burton moved to the #31 Cingular car for the 2005 season. After 3 top 5s in 2005 including a 2nd place at Bristol, Burton had a strong 2006 season winning 4 poles including the Daytona 500  and winning at Dover . Burton finished 7th in The Chase in 2006.
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    Burton, 2006
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    Burton with his pole award for the 2006 Daytona 500

    In 2007 Burton won at Texas  early in the season. Burton and the #31 team would find sponsorship trouble during the summer though, as Cingular Wireless was bought by AT&T to become AT&T Wireless. Cup Series Sponsor NEXTEL (now Sprint) had an “exclusivity clause” meaning that no new wireless communication companies could sponsor cars in the series, but all existing sponsors (Alltel and Cingular) could continuing sponsor cars. When Cingular was absorbed the logo changed, and NEXTEL saw this as a new company. NASCAR refused to let Burton and the #31 team put AT&T logos on the car, so AT&T sued NASCAR. During the controversy Burton was forced to run an unsponsored car  for several races , though the car still bore the familiar orange and black colors. By the Fall, the case had been resolved and AT&T  was allowed to sponsor the car, providing that they leave the sport at the end of 2008. In 2007 Burton finished 7th in the standings again.

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Burton’s blank #31, 2007

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In 2008 Burton almost won the Daytona 500  until he was shuffled back to 13th on the final restart. He would find victory lane twice in 2008 at Bristol  & Charlotte.

 

 

In 2009 Caterpillar  signed on to be the new full time sponsor of #31 as AT&T was forced out by Sprint. Burton would not win another points race, but he came close several times. In 2010, the usually calm Burton and Jeff Gordon ended up in a shoving match after they wrecked at Texas . In 2011 he won his Gatorade Duel  Daytona Qualifying race after getting a push from his teammate Clint Bowyer. Following the 2013 season Burton announced his semi-retirement by leaving RCR to driver part time for MWR. Burton has the most career starts in #31 with 324.

 

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Jeff Burton’s CAT car, 2009

 

 

 

  • In 2014 Ryan Newman  began driving the #31 Car. While he failed to win in his first year he became the underdog to win the championship after a last corner pass  at phoenix promoted him into the Final 4 for the championship. He would finish second in the 2014 Chase  after Kevin Harvick won the finale at Homestead. Newman made the chase again in 2015, but was eliminated after the second round. After a sub-par 2016 season, Newman shocked skeptics when he announced a multi-year contract extension and a new paint scheme for 2017. Newman has started 108 races in #31 to date.
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Newman, 2014

 

 

  • Jim Vandiver  started #31 a total of 59 times from 1970-1977.

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  • Other notable names in #32
    • Cale Yarborough, 12 starts
    • Jm Sauter, 12 starts
    • Ralph Earnhardt, 10 starts
    • Joe Ruttman, 9 starts
    • Morgan Shepherd, 2 starts
    • Johnny Beauchamp, 2 starts
    • Curtis Crider, 1 start
    • Slick Johnson, 1 start

In the XFINITY series Dylan Kwasniewski  drove the #31 for Turner Scott Motorsports in 2014. Justin Allgier  did in 2011-2013 with 2 wins. Steve Grissom has 8 XFINITY wins in #31. James Buescher  drives #31 in the Truck Series.

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