by JamesJ, Special To NASCAR commentary and driver pictures, 2012 NASCAR schedule, video, Bench Racing With Steve and Charlie
Sundays of my youth consisted of NASCAR racing and cold bottles of Mountain Dew. Thirty years later not much has changed for me. However, nearly everything has changed in NASCAR.January 9, 2010 7:00 am UTC 2 Comments
Over the next several weeks we’ll be featuring car numbers in NASCAR history. We started with #50 and are working our way down the line. With each car number we’ll take a brief look at a couple stats related to the featured car number, but we’ll primarily spotlight either a driver, sponsor, car owner, manufacturer or other significant subject closely tied to the car number of the day.
Today’s subject closed out his career in the #36 car. While the stats he put up in the #36 car [Photo credit: Jayski.com] were not impressive when compared to earlier in his 13 year career, the fact that he was able to choose to walk away from the sport is a miracle in itself. Today, he uses his celebrity and NASCAR association to actually walk the tracks that he once competed on.
Stats for all cars running the #36:
- Number of Races: 541
- Number of Wins: 0
- Number of Top 5s: 32
- Number of Top 10s: 122
- Number of Poles: 5
Check out current NASCAR race statistics here at On Pit Row!
Spotlight Subject: Spotlight Subject: Driver Ernie Irvan
The year is 1994. Ernie Irvan would start the year off with champion caliber form. He already had one Daytona 500 win to his record from his 1991 season with Morgan-McClure Motorsports, but he was looking to take another in 1994 with car owner Robert Yates. He would win the first Gatorade Twin 125 Qualifier races and then go on to lead 84 laps in the Daytona 500 and finish in second place. The margin of victory over Irvan was 0.19 seconds and was handed to him by Sterling Marlin in car #4 which was owned by Morgan-McClure Motorsports (the team from which Irvan went through lawsuits the year before to free himself from). But don’t think for a minute he was second guessing his decision to join Robert Yates Racing [Photo of Irvan & Yates: credit Jayski.com]. Ernie would keep the hammer down on the start of the 1994 Cup season with phenomenal finishes. In the first 13 races he would finish outside the top 7 only once (a 33rd at Bristold due to engine failure). His strength during just these first 13 races was impressive! Check out the stats!
- 3 Wins
- 4 Second Place Finishes
- 10 Top Fives
- 4 Poles
- 1,408 Laps Led
- 1 33rd place DNF, thus an avearge finish of 5.3
Ernie was truly giving his competitors “the business” on the track. However, his championship run came to a halt later in the season after a tire failure sent his car slamming into the wall at over 170mph at MIS (Michigan International Speedway). He would need to be air lifted to the hospital and was given only the slightest change of survival. His lungs were damaged and he sustained severe brain damage. Amazingly, he would recover and take the stage during the season’s awards banquet to accept the 1994 Hard Charger Award. He was a “hard charger” too! Not only as evidenced by his performance at the beginning of the 1994 season, but also by the fact that after his recovery he made a concentrated focus to return to Cup level competition. And he would succeed in doing so too! Once he returned for Cup events it would take him only a dozen races to once again sit on the pole, and only 7 additional races to take the checkered flag at Loudon. He would go on to win two more races during his career with his final Cup victory coming at the track where he nearly lost his life 3 years earlier.
A move to MB2 Motorsports came in 1998 as Ernie would continue his Cup career in the #36 Skittles car. His career would end with the team and the #36 after competing in 51 races. During his ride in the #36 he would add 3 poles and 16 top ten finishes to his stats. In an eerie twist of fate, exactly 5 years after his near fatal wreck at MIS, Ernie would once again crash at Michigan requiring him to once again be flown to the hospital and once again be diagnosed with lung and brain damage. Yet the “hard charger” would recover from this accident as well. After making his recovery though he would also call it quits on racing.
Having been given the chance at life, twice, after such harrowing and similar accidents, Ernie put his “hard charger” drive to work on a new focus, helping others who suffer from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). He started his own organization named Race2Safety that focuses on educating parents and their children about head injuries and how to prevent it with safety equipment such as bicycle helmets. In addition to this organizations work, he also helped in LAPS Walk events held at NASCAR tracks during race weekends. Participants were given the unique opportunity to walk on the racetrack along with NASCAR drivers and other celebrities.
It’s unfortunate that Ernie’s career was cut short. But it’s nice to know that he was able to take those terrible events, survive them, and then come out on the other side to try and help others. Ernie Irvan is a leader on and off the track.