15 Days until the Daytona 500

In Sprint Cup Series competition the #15 car has started 1,318 races and has 43 wins, 23 poles, 251 top 5s, 459 top 10s, and 379 DNFs.

  • Michael Waltrip  has 183 starts in #15 from 2001-2005 & 2011  including all 4 of his Cup points wins. Waltrip was hired by Dale Earnhardt to drive his team’s new #15 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Monte Carlo entry.

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In his first race with the team, the 2001 Daytona 500 , Waltrip broke a streak of 462 consecutive Cup races without a victory and won his first career points-paying Cup race. His teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finished in second. Unfortunately, the win itself was overshadowed  by Dale Earnhardt, Sr.’s death on the last lap. On the movie The Day-Remembering Dale Earnhardt Waltrip said that Earnhardt let him in line and he said also Earnhardt never let anyone in line. Waltrip was not aware of Earnhardt’s death until a half-hour later when celebrating in victory lane when Ken Schrader, whose car had been collected by Earnhardt’s car in the same crash, and had been treated and released from the infield care center, informed him  that Earnhardt had been taken to Halifax Medical Center, two miles from the speedway, where he had been pronounced dead-on-arrival.

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Waltrip did not have another top-ten finish until returning to Daytona in July in the Pepsi 400 , where he finished second while holding off the field as teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won his first plate race (reverse order of the Daytona 500). Earnhardt, Jr.’s Pepsi 400 finish was emotional to the entire DEI team and when Earnhardt, Jr. did his burnout on the infield grass, Waltrip  pulled up alongside him. Waltrip would have a second place finish at Homestead to Bill Elliott, and finished 24th in the standings. The next season, Waltrip won the second Gatorade Duel. His next top ten finish would be a second place finish at Talladega, where he and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. combined to lead more than two-thirds of the race, with Earnhardt, Jr. taking home his second of four straight wins at Talladega . The following week, Waltrip finished tenth at Auto Club. He had eighth place finishes in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte and the first Pocono race, and fourth place in the first Michigan race. He picked up his second career win at the Pepsi 400  at Daytona. After a ninth place finish at Watkins Glen, and eighth place finishes at New Hampshire and Talladega, Waltrip finished 14th in the points standings.

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Waltrip & Dale Jr. both celebrate there victories at Daytona, July 2001

In 2003 Waltrip won a rain-shortened Daytona 500  and also took victory at the EA Sports 500  at Talladega (his only non-Daytona win), while running in the top-five for most of the season before falling back to 15th in points. Of trivial note, Michael Waltrip won the first three NASCAR on Fox races at Daytona (2001 and 2003 Daytona 500s, and the 2002 Pepsi 400) with Michael’s brother Darrell in the broadcast booth. His Talladega win was also his only win at a NASCAR on NBC race.

In 2004, Waltrip went winless and dropped five spots in the standings. In 2005 Waltrip only had seven top tens and a single pole. He had anincident  with Robby Gordon at New Hampshire. After Waltrip accidentally wrecked Robby Gordon and was spun in retaliation, Gordon furiously wagged his finger and threw his helmet at Waltrip’s hood. Waltrip repeated the words Gordon said the previous year in another helmet-tossing incident: “He just threw a helmet on my car.” Waltrip was fined $10,000 after he supposedly gestured at Gordon for the damage on his car from the helmet but he and Teresa Earnhardt appealed and the fine was cancelled after a short investigation proved the charge false. Gordon however was fined $50,000 and put on probation for the rest of the year after he was discovered to have said “You know everybody thinks Michael is this good guy. He’s not the guy he acts he is. The caution was out, and he wrecked me, and he’s a piece of shit.” Waltrip and Gordon after a talk made up and continued their careers. After the 2005 season, Waltrip left DEI. He brought NAPA Auto Parts with him to the #55 Bill Davis Racing Dodge, eventually bring his Busch (XFINITY) team to Cup. In 2011 Waltrip revived his #15  to run 3 races before fielding the team full time in 2012 with driver Clint Bowyer.

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Waltrip, 2011
  • Following Waltrip’s departure DEI continued to field the #15 car with Paul Menard. For 2006, the #15 team moved to a part-time status. Menard, DEI’s Busch Series driver drove and sponsorship was provided by Menards Home Improvement stores. Menard finished seventh at the Atlanta Motor Speedway and moved to full-time in the 2007 season. After the merger of Ginn Racing and DEI, the #15 team absorbed the owner points of the #14 car (formerly driven by Sterling Marlin), so they would be guaranteed a spot in each race for the remainder of the 2007 season. After the 2008 season, Menard left along with his sponsorship to Yates Racing. The DEI #15 team was disbanded. Paul made 73 total starts in the car.
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Menard, 2006

 

  • In 2012 Clint Bowyer  joined Michael Waltrip Racing from Richard Childress Racing. Bowyer ran with 5-Hour Energy as his sponsor.
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Bowyer flipping during a 2014 Daytona Qualifying Race

In June 2012, Bowyer won at Sonoma and again at Richmond International Raceway in September. Bowyer would win for the third time in 2012 at Charlotte in October, and ended up finishing second in the points.

In 2013 Bowyer became the subject of controversy as, late in the race, his No. 15 Toyota spun; accusations were made that the spin was intentional, as part of an effort by MWR to ensure that Martin Truex, Jr. qualified for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. NASCAR president Mike Helton stated the following morning that scoring officials on the scene did not believe the spin was intentional, but that NASCAR was reviewing the incident. The following Monday evening, NASCAR docked all three MWR teams, including Bowyer, 50 driver/owner points. MWR was also fined $300,000. Despite the large penalty, Bowyer retained enough points to remain in the Chase. The incident, commonly referred to as “Spingate” is seen as the beginning of the demise of the now-defunct MWR.

In 2014 At Darlington, Bowyer was the center of controversy again  when he got some contact with Kurt Busch. While racing Busch for a top-ten spot, Bowyer drove into the back of Kurt Busch who spun out and wrecked. Busch replied by waving his hands in frustration at Bowyer under yellow. In a post-race interview Bowyer apologized, stating “You never want to wreck anybody. It was quite clear I got into the back of him and wrecked him.”

Two weeks later at Richmond, Bowyer tried to move to the lead on lap 1, but tapped pole-sitter Kyle Larson which forced Larson to drive from 43rd for a recovery. Later his car caught fire on pit road during a pit-stop. After an Atlanta engine blowup, Bowyer’s hopes to make the Chase by consistency were dashed and the next week Bowyer missed the Chase by a slim 3 points.  In 2015, Bowyer had a dissapointing season, failing to make it to victory lane. While he was barely  able to make it into The Chase, he was eliminated in the first round.  

In 2015 Bowyers signed on drive the #14 for Stewart Haas Racing starting in the 2017 season. The closure of MWR left Bowyer without a ride for the 2016 season as he waited for 2017. HScott Motorsports jumped at the opportunity to sign Bowyer for a 1 year contract, replacing Justin Algier in the #51 car, renumbered to Bowyer’s #15.

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Bowyer’s car for 2016

Bowyer started the 2016 season on a low note finishing 33rd after a loose wheel at Daytona. Bowyer struggled at Atlanta with his car down a cylinder finishing 35th. Bowyer had some poor finishes, and including a 38th-place finish at Texas where he left the garage even though the car was repairable. Bowyer earned his first top ten finish of the season at Bristol with an 8th-place finish. Two weeks later, Bowyer finished a season best 7th-place after avoiding massive crashes at Talladega. At Daytona in July, Bowyer would avoid crashes to finish 9th. Bowyer ended the season winless and no top 5s with only 3 top tens and finishing 27th in the point standings. Bowyer started 180 races in #15, only 3 short of Michael Waltrip’s record for the most starts in the number. HScott Motorsports discontinued their Cup Series teams in 2017 and Bowyer will move to Stewart Haas Racing to pilot the #14 Ford.

 

 

  • Buddy Baker  has 99 starts and 5 wins in Bud Moore’s #15 from 1974-1977. In 2015 Clint Bower and MWR honored baker with a throwback paint scheme at Darlington.
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Baker, 1976
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Bowyer, 2015
  • Bobby Allison  scored 14 wins in his 92 starts in Bud Moore’s #15 from 1978-1980. He was victorious in the 1978 Daytona 500  and at the 1979 Daytona 500 he famously pulled his #15 car up next the wrecked cars of his brother Donnie and Cale Yarborough and afight  broke out. In the words of Bobby “I think I questioned [Cale’s] ancestry. He threw his helmet into my face and I saw blood dripping onto my shirt. I thought ‘If I don’t stop this I’ll be running from Cale for the rest of my life…..’ He ran his nose into my fist several times…. My story and I’m sticking to it forever.”
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Bobby Allison
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Bobby wins the 1978 Daytona 500
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The Allison’s and Cale Yarborough get into it at Daytona, 1979

 

  • Benny Parsons  drove the #15 for Bud Moore in the 1981 season. In his 31 starts Benny earned 3 wins including the final race at Texas World Speedway.
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Benny, 1981
  • After a winless season at RCR, Childress recommended a young man by the name of Dale Earnhardt  to switch to Bud Moore’s #15 Ford and return RCR when the equipment was better. That is exactly what happened. From 1982-1983 Earnhardt made 60 starts in #15 earning 3 wins at Darlington, Nashville, and Talladega. Earnhardt walked away from a scary crash  at Pocono in 1982.
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Dale Earnhardt, 1982
  • When Earnhardt returned to RCR in 1984 Ricky Rudd  took over the #15 for Moore, both cars sporting Wrangler colors. Rudd was involved in a horrific crash  in the Busch Clash at Daytona. Rudd’s car became airborne and he suffered a concussion. His eyes were swollen so badly he taped his eyes open in order to be able to race in the Daytona 500. After learning of this long after the fact, NASCAR instituted the policy of examining all drivers involved in wrecks to ensure that they will be able to race safely the next week. He won his first race for this team in only his second start at Richmond and improved to seventh in points. Motorcraft  became the team’s new sponsor the following season, and he moved up one spot in points in that season, and then a career-best fifth in 1986. Despite an additional two victories in 1987, Rudd left Moore at the end of the season. Rudd started #15 116 times with 6 wins.
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Ricky Rudd racing alongside Dale Earnhardt, 1984
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Rudd, 1986
  • Starting in 1988 Brett Bodine  started the Bud Moore #15 car 58 times with no wins. Bodine was replaced following the 1989 season.
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Bodine, 1988
  • From 1990-1991 Morgan Shepherd  drove the #15 Bud Moore car in 58 races earning 1 win.
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Shepherd, 1990
  • From 1992-1993 Geoff Bodine  made 52 starts in the Bud Moore #15 with 3 wins. Following the death of friend Alan Kulwicki midway through 1993, Bodine purchased Kulwicki’s team and left Moore to field cars for himself.
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Geoff Bodine, 1992
  • Following Geoff’s departure Lake Speed  was hired to pilot the #15 car for Moore. In 38 races from 1993-1994 Speed never won. In 1995 Dick Trickle  started the car 31 times, and in 1996 Wally Dallenbach Jr.  started 30 races in the final year for Bud Moore’s famous #15.
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Lake Speed, 1994
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Dick Trickle, 1995
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Wally Dallenbach Jr., 1996

Other notable drivers in #15:

  • Bobby Isaac, 19 starts
  • Tim Flock, 14 starts, 1 win
  • Parnelli Jones, 11 starts, 1 win
  • Donnie Allison, 6 starts
  • Darrell Waltrip, 5 starts
  • Derrike Cope, 4 starts
  • Rex White, 3 starts
  • Curtis Turner, 3 starts
  • Ted Musgrave, 3 starts
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