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NASCAR by the (Car) Numbers

An Opinion

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April 2, 2010

By Rebecca Gladden

Rebecca Gladden

A few weeks ago, I heard Darrell Waltrip say that if you stick the number 17 on something, it was guaranteed to win.

I've been trying that method on my lottery picks, but no luck so far, DW.

Of course, Waltrip has a right to be partial to the number 17 as it pertains to race cars. He and David Pearson both took cars with that number to Victory Lane in the Cup Series, though Waltrip is probably better known for his time in the No. 11 car.

The subject of NASCAR car numbers is an interesting one, whether it's racing stats, car numbers, or some other derivation of data.

I happened to be looking up some information recently when I came across a page on Jayski.com entitled "Wins by Car Numbers" (http://jayski.com/stats/winbynum.htm). Jayski himself compiled the data using a variety of sources which he details on the page.

I'm sure it comes as no surprise to NASCAR fans that the winningest number in the history of the sport is number 43, driven for more than three decades by The King, Richard Petty.

But here's a bit of trivia that might help you win a bar bet or two. How many races did Petty win in the No. 43 car? The answer is not 200, although that is the number of Cup wins he had overall. Petty won 198 races in the 43, but also won in cars numbered 41 and 42.

Richard Petty was not the first driver to win in the No. 43 car either, though he was certainly the most prolific. The "Statistics by Car Number" page on the Racing-Reference website (http://racing-reference.info/carnum.htm) indicates that Lee Petty, Richard's father, won a race at North Wilkesboro in 1959 in the 43 car a year before The King posted his first career victory at the Southern States Fairgrounds in Charlotte.

The No. 43 car is first in all-time NASCAR Cup victories -- any guesses as to what car number is second on the list?

The runner-up car number in Cup wins is the No. 11, which just visited Victory Lane in Martinsville on Monday with driver Denny Hamlin. The 11 car has a total of 189 wins, just nine fewer than the No. 43.

The number 11 has been used by number of different drivers who posted wins in it over the years, including Junior Johnson, Ned Jarrett, Bobby Allison, Buddy Baker, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Terry Labonte, Geoffrey Bodine and Bill Elliott, along with Hamlin. Even Parnelli Jones and Mario Andretti each won a race in the No. 11 car back in the day.

It's worth noting that the number three car on the list is the No. 3 car. There are actually three number 3s in the table labeled Total Wins By # on Jayksi, where the No. 3 car is ranked third in both count and rank (see table for details). The No. 3 car has 97 wins overall (101 fewer than the No. 43), with 76 of them posted by Dale Earnhardt, who raised the car number to iconic status in the sport.

For you numerogy fans, Earnhardt's date of birth, 4-29-51, and death, 2-18-01, both add up to the number 3.

Another noteworthy item on Jayski's car number page is the list of numbers that have never won a Cup points race. Among these is the No. 39, currently driven by Ryan Newman, and the No. 82, with driver Scott Speed. If either Newman or Speed wins a Cup race this year, it would be the first time in history for that car number. When Tony Stewart won in his new No. 14 ride at Pocono last year, it was the first win for the number 14 in over 40 years.

In total, 102 different car numbers have won at least one Cup race, including several now-defunct numbers such as the No. 301 (Tim Flock and Buck Baker) and the No. 500 (Speedy Thompson).

Meanwhile, the top six winning car numbers of all time at the NASCAR Cup level (in order) are the 43, 11, 3, 21, 6 and 24.

On my way to the lottery ticket window now.

Follow Rebecca on Twitter: @nscrwriter

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The thoughts and ideas expressed by this writer or any other writer on Insider Racing News, are not necessarily the views of the staff and/or management of IRN.

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