The King; Richard Petty
Merry Christmas NASCAR fans! Do you know what Christmas means, besides the birth of the Lord Jesus and Peace on Earth and Santa Claus, I mean. It means that pretty soon I'll be hearing the sound of race cars coming from the big track. And that can only mean that the racing season is just around the corner. It's barely been a month since last season ended, but that was on TV. When the season starts, it starts in my home town. I can't wait.
So let's continue our countdown of the greatest drivers to race under each number. We left off at No. 25, so today let's look at 26-50.There are some obvious ones in this group such as 43 and 48, but not too many superstars have numbers in this group.
Junior Johnson with Rick Hendricks
There are a lot of good drivers who've run the number 26. Brett Bodine, Ricky Rudd, Jimmy Spencer, and Jamie McMurray just to name a few.
But Junior Johnson won 12 times in only 40 starts driving this number. That is a pretty good win percentage in any era. He had 17 top five finishes in those 40 starts.
McMurray, Rudd, and Curtis Turner are the closest to Junior with two wins.
This was a very tough call.
I'm sure I will catch some flack over this one because Rusty Wallace had some really good seasons in the 27. He won 18 times and had 54 top fives.
But Johnson had 13 wins and 40 top fives in 98 starts while Wallace had 145 starts. If you like Wallace for this one I certainly understand.
Donnie Allison and Benny Parsons had five wins each driving the 27 car.
Robert Yates owned the number 28 driven by Davey Allison
There have been some great ones to drive this number. Cale Yarborough had nine wins and 22 top fives in 67 starts. Buddy Baker had five wins and 25 top fives in 60 starts. Both won the Daytona 500 in the 28 car.
But Davey drove this number for 183 starts. He won 19 races and had 66 top fives. Another argument will break out over this one because Fred Lorenzen had 25 wins and 62 top fives in only 125 starts.
Again, this was a tough call, and a valid argument can certainly be made for Lorenzen.
Kevin Harvick has 19 wins driving number 29
You'd think this is a no-brainer, but you'd be wrong.
Dick Hutcherson won 13 times in 97 starts in the 29 car.
Harvick has 19 wins in 430 starts. One of those was in one of NASCAR's most memorable races when he edged Jeff Gordon in Atlanta in 2001 after taking over the team from the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. He also won one of the best Daytona 500s ever when he edged Mark Martin at the line.
So Kevin gets the nod here.
Mikey is more famous for the number 15, but he had some success in the 30 too.
This is by default that Waltrip gets this one.There has only been one race won by a number 30 in NASCAR history.
Waltrip had 15 top fives in the number 30 in 245 career starts which is most by far of any other number 30 driver.
The driver who won in the 30? Speedy Thompson. He had one win in two starts. I guess he quit while he was ahead?
Jeff Burton has four wins in the 31 car
This is another tough call.
Burton has four wins (I would have guessed more) in 288 starts. Robby Gordon had 3 wins in 118 starts in the 31 car. I'm going with Burton on the basis of notoriety.
Most probably think Burton when they think of the 31.
Ricky Craven is now an ESPN analyst
No. 32 is a great number for running backs, but not so much for race drivers.
Ricky Craven has the only two wins the No. 32 has ever had. One of those was a great one when he barely beat Kurt Busch to the checkers in Darlington in one of Larry McReynold's and Darrel Waltrip's most famous calls.
Larry yelled "Have you EVER??..." and D.W. yelled back "No, I've NEVER!..." as Busch and Craven banged each other all the way to the finish, but neither wrecked and there were no hard feelings afterward.
Harry Gant won 18 times in the 33 car
"Hard-chargin Harry" Gant is the greatest of the car number 33 drivers by far.
Gant had 18 wins and 111 top fives in 397 career starts in the 33 car, mostly owned by Burt Reynolds and Hal Needham. The Skoal Bandit was a fan favorite in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Wendell Scott sticker on the UPS car
The only African American on the list, Scott was the "Jackie Robinson" of NASCAR. He has the only win ever by an African American driver and also one of only two wins ever driven by the number 34.
Scott endured many obstacles from fans and other competitors during his career. The movie Greased Lightning starring Richard Pryor is the story of Scott's career.
Elliot Sadler in his Nationwide ride
Elliott Sadler had two wins and 12 top fives in the 38 car. He had 130 starts in the 38.
David Gilliland is the only one with more starts with 135. Gwynn Staley had three wins and nine top fives in the 38.
Ryan Newman won NASCAR's biggest prize in the number 39
He is just getting started in the 39 car and he is already the best ever. He has three wins in the 39, one of them a Daytona 500. He also has 24 top fives in 144 starts. He is the only driver ever to win in that number.
Pete Hamilton (tan jacket) is a Daytona 500 winner
Pete Hamilton won three races and had 9 top five finishes driving for the Petty family in the early 1970s. One of his wins was the 1970 Daytona 500. Hamilton won both races at Daytona and Talladega in 1970 but was forced to retire after the season because of a neck injury he suffered in 1969.
Sterling Marlin had four wins in the number 40 in his career.
The King won six times driving the 41 car
I bet you didn't see this coming did you? Don't worry, I didn't either. But "The King" won 6 times in 22 starts driving in the number 41. He had 14 top fives and 16 top tens also.
Curtis Turner had 12 wins and 20 top fives in 72 starts in the number 41 as well.
Lee Petty winning the 1959 Daytona 500
Lee Petty won 53 races and the first Daytona 500 driving the number 42 car.
In that first 500, the trophy was wrongly given to another driver, but photos of the finished came out a couple of days later and after reviewing them, the call was reversed and the win awarded to Petty.
In 414 starts he had 225 top five finishes in that number. That is amazing.
The King and number 43 just go together
1125 starts, 192 wins, 526 top fives, 676 top tens, 48,125 laps led. Not only the greatest of the 43s, but probably the greatest of them all. Richard Petty made the 43 famous.
To this day, even though he hasn't raced in 20 years, ask any fan about number 43, and they know who you mean.
Texas Terry had six wins in the number 44
Terry Labonte is more famous for the number 5 car, but he had 259 starts in the 44 car with six wins and 74 top fives. Six wins in the 44 is as many as all the other drivers of the 44 combined.
Sterling Marlin had 10 top fives in 58 starts.
Kyle Petty is seldom seen without his 45 cap
When thinking of the number 45 it is difficult not to think of Adam Petty and his father Kyle and wonder what might have been.
Adam was killed in practice for a Nationwide race early in his career. He had made one Sprint Cup start in the 45. Kyle wears the number 45 cap every time he's on TV, normally with a black band through the number.
But Lee Roy Yarbrough is the top driver in the 45 with two wins and 12 top fives in 33 starts in the number 45.
Wally Dallenbach is a former number 46 driver
What a great name for a race car driver. Speedy had eight wins in 75 starts in the number 46 car. He had 38 top fives and 50 top tens as well.
Wally Dallenbach and J.J. Yeley are two drivers fans may know who have made over 20 starts in the 46 car. Dallenbach had one top ten, and Yeley has the same name spelled backwards as he does frontwards.
The number 47 has been a back of the pack car lately
Jack Smith had 18 wins and 79 top fives in the 47 car in 193 starts.
Ron Bouchard had 138 starts and one win in the 57 as well. Marcos Ambrose had 78 starts with 6 top fives and 12 top tens. Bobby Labonte has been driving the number 47 in recent years, but without success.
Johnson is one of NASCAR's Greatest ever.
Jimmie Johnson had five consecutive Sprint Cup titles in the 48 car. He has 60 wins in only 399 starts. He has 166 top fives and is putting together one of the greatest careers in NASCAR history.
The second most successful 48 driver? James Hylton with two wins, 139 top fives and 299 top tens in 583 starts.
Ken Schrader made 108 starts in the number 49
Bob Welborn had 5 wins in 93 starts in the number 49. He also had 31 top fives and 51 top tens. Nobody else has done anything much in the number 49.
Ken Schrader had 108 starts in the number 49 with six top, tens.
Geoff Bodine is a former Daytona 500 champion
Geoff Bodine had 24 starts with four top fives and 10 top tens in 24 starts in the number 50. He is a Daytona 500 winner, but he won it in a different number.
Bodine is from a racing family as his brothers Brett, and Todd are also drivers. Todd has won big in the NASCAR truck series, where you can still catch Geoff driving on occasion.