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 1, 2010 9:24 am UTC No 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 number is one that I looked forward to spotlighting in the car number countdown to the Daytona 500. This is because car #44 was one of my favorites back in the mid ’80s. I have childhood memories of getting a large plastic toy car for Christmas with the #44 and Piedmont Airlines logo stickers all over it. I remember getting the diecast Piedmont Airlines airplane each time my parents would stick me on a plane flying out of Cincinnati, OH to Orlando, FL. It was there that I would spend my summer break from school with my grandparents and my uncle Terry. And it is my uncle Terry who I give credit for my love of NASCAR. Most all of my fondest memories from childhood revolve around my uncle, and many of those include the simple things such as playing checkers or UNO and drinking a Mountain Dew (out of a glass bottle!) while watching a NASCAR race on TV. Yeah, spotlighting the #44 is going to be cool for me.
Stats for cars running the #44:
- Number of Races: 884
- Number of Wins: 13
- Number of Top 5s: 155
- Number of Top 10s: 314
- Number of Poles: 27
- Number of Drivers: 89
Check out current NASCAR race statistics here at On Pit Row!
Spotlight Subject: Driver Terry Labonte
Now sure, most people are going to associate Terry Labonte with the #5. After all, the #5 is the car number he closed out his full time career in. Also, he ran 368 races in the #5 versus 259 races in the #44 earlier in his career. But his average finish was slightly better in the #44 car with a 14.4 average versus 17.4. One thing is for sure though, and that is that Terry’s thirty year career has been an impressive one making him one of the most respected and liked drivers in the Cup garage and with the fans.
Terry came into the Cup series on fire starting only five races in the 1978 Cup season for car owner Billy Hagan (whom he would drive for from 1978 through 1986). He would have 1 top five, 2 top tens in his first three starts. The final two races were DNFs due to mechanical failure and a wreck. He didn’t slow down in 1979 either when he ran his first full season competing for Rookie of the Year honors. Coming up short for the Rookie title, he did manage to finish in the top ten in points for the season. The following year Terry would take his first win in Winston Cup competition at Darlington Raceway. Twenty-three years and twenty victories between, Terry would score his 22nd and final victory in Cup competition again at Darlington.
Terry, known for his calmness under pressure on the track, had the nickname of “The IceMan.” He always just seemed to show up there at the end of the race in the right position and with opportunity to take a win. In 1984 and 1996, The IceMan took top honors by bringing home the Championship trophy to his car owners Hagan and Hendrick, respectively. He has finished in the top 10 season standings an outstanding seventeen times! Other honors include the 1993 and 1989 IROC Championships, the 1988 and 1999 The Winston Champion (now the All Star Challenge), and in 1998 being named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers. In 2004 Terry announced the season would be his last full time season. Over the last few years he’s driven part time rides for teams such as Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, and Hall of Fame Racing.
With a career spanning 30 years (and counting) it’s interesting to note that Terry almost exclusively ran General Motors cars other than 3 races in a Toyota (2007 fill in for Michael Watlrip Racing) and the 1989 season in which he ran a Ford for Junior Johnson. Out of those 851 races and 22 wins, it’s hard not to look at his 1995 win at Bristol as one of the most exciting. Four years later, Terry would show Earnhardt how to make a last-lap clean-pass for a win only to once again be given the knock spinning Terry out.