7 Days until the Daytona 500

In Sprint Cup Series competition the #7 car has started 1,486 races and has 23 wins, 41 poles, 141 top 5s, 288 top 10s, and 475 DNFs.

  • Robby Gordon has the most starts in the #7 with 226 in 2001 & 2005-2012 with no wins. After being fired from the Morgan Mclure #4 car early in 2001, Gordon returned to racing in a one-off agreement with Ultra Motorsports, where he replaced the team’s regular driver Mike Wallace in the #7 NationsRent Ford  for the June race at Sears Point. He was leading near the end of the race, but was passed by Tony Stewart  for the win after allowing Stewart to catch up due to a battle to keep Kevin Harvick from gaining a lap back. Because of his good run, he was asked to return to the #7 for one more race in 2001.
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Robby Gordon, 2001

For 2005, Gordon moved his Busch Series team up to the Nextel Cup, and was the only owner/driver left. Robby’s primary sponsor was Jim Beam Bourbon; his crew chief was Greg Erwin. Fruit of the Loom was primary sponsor for 9 races in the 2005 season. His friend John Menard had his hardware corporation, Menards also become sponsors, as well as Harrah’s. Gordon again struggled as an owner/driver, finishing with only two-top tens in 29 starts and failing to qualify for several races. He contended to win the 2005 race at New Hampshire until he was crashed by Michael Waltrip.

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Robby Gordon, 2005

Robby’s best finish as an owner driver came at Sonoma in 2010 where he finished runner up to Jimmie Johnson. For 2010 & 2011 Gordon drove the majority of the races in #7, but filled about 10 races each year with other drivers behind the wheel like Bobby Labonte, Johnny Sauter, Reed Sorenson, and Scot Wimmer. In 2012 Robby only drove in 3 races before lack of funding caused him to file for bankruptcy and sell his team. During his time as an owner Robby fielded every manufacturer at some point: Toyota, Cheverolet, Ford, & Dodge.

  • Wisconsin’s Alan Kulwicki  began fielding #7 as an owner driver midway through the 1986 season after Bill Terry’s team closed down. Kulwicki earned all 5 of his career wins and the 1992 Winston Cup (Sprint Cup) Championship in his 179 starts in #7. With Zerex  Kulwick won his first races at Pheonix  in 1988, and Kulwicki’s signature “Polish Victory Lap” was born.

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Kulwicki, 1988

Junior Johnson, owner of one of the top NASCAR teams, approached Kulwicki at the beginning of the 1990 season to try to get him to replace Terry Labonte in the #11 Budweiser Ford. Kulwicki declined, stating that he was more interested in running his own team. He won his second Cup race at Rockingham, and finished eighth in points that year. Before the 1991 season, Zerex ended their sponsorship of Kulwicki’s team. Junior Johnson came calling again, looking for a driver for his revived second team. Kulwicki turned down Johnson’s $1 million offer thinking that he had secured a sponsorship deal with Maxwell House Coffee. Johnson then went to Maxwell House himself and obtained the sponsorship for his new car, which Sterling Marlin drove. Kulwicki was forced to begin the season without a sponsor. In the 1991 Daytona 500, five cars raced with paint schemes representing different branches of the United States military  to show support for the American forces involved in the Gulf War. It was one of the first uses of special paint schemes in NASCAR history.

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At the time, Hooters was sponsoring a car driven by Mark Stahl, a part-timer who had trouble making races. The Hooters car failed to make the field for the Race at Atlanta and the Atlanta-based chain approached the sponsorless Kulwicki to gauge his interest. They agreed to at least a one-race deal, which became a much longer term deal when Kulwicki recorded an eighth-place finish in the race. Later in the season, Kulwicki won the Bristol night race for his third career win.

  • After 2 wins in the 1992 season, Kulwicki entered the 1992 Hooters 500  at Atlanta as one of six drivers eligible to win the championship. Kulwicki received approval from NASCAR and Ford to change the “Thunderbird” lettering on his bumper for the race to Underbird  because he felt like the underdog in the contention for the championship.
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Kulwicki’s Underbird, 1992

During Kulwicki’s first pit stop, the first gear in the car’s transmission broke, causing trouble entering and leaving pit road. When Davey Allison and Ernie Irvan crashed, Kulwicki and Bill Elliott were left to duel for the title. While leading late in the race, Paul Andrews calculated the exact lap for his final pit stop so that Kulwicki would be guaranteed to lead the most laps and would gain five bonus points. Kulwicki made his final pit stop only after leading enough laps to guarantee the bonus points. To save time, the pit crew did a fuel-only pit stop. Because the team’s fuel man hurried to add the gasoline during the quick stop, he did not add the desired amount into the tank, and Kulwicki had to conserve fuel to ensure that his car was still running at the end of the race. Elliott won the race and Kulwicki finished second. Kulwicki won the 1992 Winston Cup Championship by maintaining his 10-point lead over Elliott. He celebrated the championship with his second Polish Victory Lap. Always conscious of his appearance for potential sponsors, Kulwicki combed his hair , making a national television audience wait for him to emerge from his car. When a reporter asked Alan what he would do with his championship prize money, he replied “The only thing I really wanted to buy was a plane”, he said, “but it turns out Hooters has a couple I can use.”

Kulwicki died in an airplane crash on Thursday April 1, 1993. He was returning from Knoxville in a Hooters corporate plane on a short flight across Tennessee before the Sunday spring race at Bristol. The National Transportation Safety Board attributed the crash to the pilot’s failure to use the airplane’s anti-ice system to clear ice from the engine inlet system. Three days after Kulwicki’s death, Bristol race winner Rusty Wallace honored his former short track rival by performing Kulwicki’s trademark Polish Victory Lap. After the final race of the season, series champion Dale Earnhardt and race winner Wallace drove a side-by-side Polish victory lap  carrying flags for Kulwicki and Davey Allison.Alan was 38 years old.

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Wallace and Earnhardt honoring their fallen friends, 1993
  • Following Kulwicki’s death, friend and competitor Geoff Bodine left Bud Moore’s team to purchase Alan’s race team and continue fielding it as an owner/driver. Bodine made 161 starts in #7 from 1993-1998 including 4 wins.

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Geoff was the last driver to win a race by lapping the entire field at the 1994 Fall Race at North Wilkesboro, one of 3 wins that season and the final win for Hoosier Tires in the Cup Series. In 1996 Geoff earned his final career win at Watkins Glen.

  • Starting in 1999, Michael Waltrip  drove the #7 for Mattei Motorsports, posting three Top 10 finishes and ending that season 29th in points. The next season, Nations Rent  replaced Philips as the sponsor & he moved up to 27th in points but finished in the Top 5 once, causing him and the team to part ways at the end of the season. Mikey started #7 a total of 68 times.
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Waltrip, 1999
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Waltrip, 2000
  • After Waltrip’s departure, the #7 team, now known as Ultra Motorsports, hired Mike Wallace  to drive the #7 Ford, but Mike was released after 21 races.
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Mike Wallace, 2001
  • In 2002 Ultra Motorsports began an alliance with Evernham Motorsports and Casey Atwood  became the new driver of the #7. Evernham is often criticized for neglecting the #7 team and the career of Casey Atwood. After a dismal 34 starts in 2002 Atwood was fired, effectively ending his Cup Career at 22 years old.
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Casey Atwood, 2002
  • Jimmy Spencer joined Ultra Motorsports in 2003, piloting the #7 Sirius Satellite Radio Dodge. After some on-track incidents with Kurt Busch, Spencer confronted Busch after the GFS Marketplace 400 while Busch was still in his car. He was suspended  for the next week’s race, the Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway while Busch was placed on probation. Despite the events that took place at Michigan, he had four top-tens and ended the season 29th in points. He began 2004 with Ultra’s Cup team at the Daytona 500, but the team closed down due to a lack of sponsorship.
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Jimmy Spencer, 2003
  • Following Robby Gordon’s departure from NASCAR, Tommy Baldwin Racing started fielding #7 for Dave Blaney in 2013. Blaney started 35 races in the number. In 2014 Michael Annett  drove the TBR racing #7 in 36 races.
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Blaney, 2013
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Michael Annett, 2014
  • Alex Bowman started the Tommy Baldwin Racing #7 car in 35 out of 36 races in 2015. The only race the team did not qualify for was the Daytona 500. Bowman acheived only 3 top 20 finishes all year with the highest coming with a 16th place finish at Talladega.
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Bowman, 2015
  • In 2016 Regan Smith drove the TBR #7 car in 35 races.  He started his season with a solid 8th-place finish in the Daytona 500. He had a dismal spring and summer showing with his best finish in 16 starts being 23rd, at Fontana. He later rebounded at the 2016 Pennsylvania 400 with a third-place finish, matching the best finish in the history of TBR set by Dave Blaney at the 2011 Good Sam Club 500. Smith ran the full 2016 schedule for TBR with the exception of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland, for which he was replaced by Ty Dillon as he flew to North Carolina to await the birth of his daughter, Eliza Grace Smith. At the end of the 2016 season, Smith was released from his contract as TBR announced it would no longer compete full-time in the Cup Series. The #7 TBR Car will be back on track for the 2017 Daytona 500 with Elliott Sadler behind the wheel.
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Regan Smith, 2016
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Ty Dillon, 2016
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Elliott Sadler’s 2017 Daytona 500 car

 

 

  • Kyle Petty  was driving #1 for Hoss Ellington in 1983 when he picked up funding from 7-Eleven and switched his number to #7 accordingly. He had only two top-ten finishes but improved to thirteenth in the standings. He followed that season up with six top-tens the following year, but fell three spots in points. Petty took his number and sponsorship to Wood Brothers Racing in 1985, where he had a then career-high seven top-fives and his first top-ten points finish. The next season, he won his first career race at Richmond  after Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt famously wrecked each other while leading. He finished tenth in the final standings. In 1987, 7-Eleven discontinued their sponsorship and the Wood Brothers returned to their iconic #21, Kyle Petty still driving. Kyle started 117 races in the number with only 1 win.
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Kyle Petty
  • Dean Dalton  started #7 a total of 108 times from 1971-1977 with no wins.
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Dean Dalton, 1973
  • From 1954-1961 Jim Reed  started #7 85 times with 7 wins.
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Jim Reed
  • From 1956-1969 Bobby Johns  made 79 starts in #7 with no wins.
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Bobby Johns
  • Bob Flock, moonshiner and brother of fellow racers Tim Flock, Fonty Flock, and Ethel Mobley, drove #7 in 26 races from 1949-1952 including the first every NASCAR Strictly Stock (Sprint Cup) race in 1949 where he started on the pole position and finished 32nd after engine issues. He won 4 times in the number.
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Bob Flock
  • Other notable names in #7
    • Kevin Lepage, 8 starts
    • Lake Speed, 7 starts
    • Ricky Rudd, 7 starts
    • Kevin Conway, 6 starts
    • Buddy Baker, 5 starts
    • PJ Jones, 4 starts
    • Junior Johnson, 2 start
    • Cale Yarborough, 1 start
    • Todd Bodine, 1 start
    • David Gilliland, 1 start

In Sprint Cup Series competition the #07 car has started 284 races and has 2 wins, 2 poles, 20 top 5s, 70 top 10s, and 60 DNFs.

  • In 2005 Dave Blaney  was hired by Richard Childress Racing to drive a third full time car. The car was numbered #07 to fit the sponsorship of Jack Daniels’ Old No. 7. Blaney started the car 36 times that year.
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Blaney, 2005
  • In 2006 Clint Bowyer took over the driving duties of the #07 for RCR. In his 108 races in the number, Bowyer earned the only 2 victories the #07 has ever had at New Hampshire in 2007  & Richmond in 2008. At the 2007 Daytona 500 Bowyer was involved in a spectacular last lap crash that enabled him to cross the finish line upside-down.
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Clint Bowyer, 2006
  • In 2009 Casey Mears  joined RCR to drive a 4th car. Because Mears had previously driven the #5 Kelloggs car for HMS, new sponsor General Mills did not want him representing them. To accommodate, RCR switched Bowyer & Mears putting Bower in the #33 and Mears in #07. Mears started 36 races in #07 before the team lost sponsorship and closed down.
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Mears, 2009
  • Coo Coo Marlin  drove car #07 a total of 32 times from 1969-1971.
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Coo Coo Marlin, 1969
  • Notable names in #07
    • George Davis, 27 starts
    • Ted Musgrave, 4 starts
    • Derrike Cope, 3 starts
    • Robby Gordon, 3 starts
    • Randy Lajoie, 2 starts
    • PJ Jones, 2 starts
    • Bobby Allison, 1 start
    • Dan Pardus, 1 start
    • Wendell Scott, 1 start
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