NASCAR's Legendary Teams -- Part One DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 17, 1998) They are household names from coast to coast and border to border, names that have been cheered and revered by sports fans throughout the decades. And just as traditional...
NASCAR's Legendary Teams -- Part One
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 17, 1998) They are household names from coast to coast and border to border, names that have been cheered and revered by sports fans throughout the decades. And just as traditional major league sports have always celebrated their legendary teams, NASCAR has always pointed with justifiable pride to the historic teams of its flagship NASCAR Winston Cup Series.
Any discussion of baseball's best teams must include the World Series-winning Yankees, Dodgers and Cincinnati's "Big Red Machine." The championship-winning Celtics, Lakers and Bulls stand apart as professional basketball's best organizations, just as the Super Bowl-winning Cowboys, '49ers and Packers are generally accepted as the class of pro football. And how can anyone argue that the Canadians, Oilers and Islanders that have won Stanley Cups aren't the premier teams of pro hockey?
NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing has had grand and glorious teams of its own, storied enterprises that have won races and titles throughout it's 50 years. Along the way, these hallmark teams have raised the competitive bar and changed the face of racing by introducing countless personnel and technical innovations. These teams represent the backbone of NASCAR and are a treasured bridge from the rough-and-tumble early years to the edge of the coming millennium.
They are Petty Enterprises, the Wood Brothers, Junior Johnson and Associates, Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, Holman-Moody, Carl Kiekhaefer Racing and Bud Moore Engineering. Together, through the 1997 season they've won 28 championships and almost 800 races since the early 1950s, and it's likely that Petty, the Woods, Hendrick, Childress and Moore will be fielding strong teams for years to come.
Part One reviews the history of Petty Enterprises, the Wood Brothers, Junior Johnson and Associates and Hendrick Motorsports.
The legendary Petty Enterprises had a car in the very first NASCAR Winston Cup Series race near Charlotte, N.C., in June of 1949. There, after starting ninth, team patriarch Lee Petty crashed his 1946 Buick Roadmaster after 109 laps and finished 17th. It was an inauspicious start to a hall of fame career that would include 54 victories and the 1954, 1958 and 1959 NASCAR Winston Cup Series championships.
His son, Richard, would add nearly 200 victories -- the final two victores of his career were scored for car owner Mike Curb -- and seven more championships to the team's impressive resume. Among the other drivers who've contributed to its 271 victories: Jim Paschal, Marvin Panch, Pete Hamilton, Buddy Baker and Bobby Hamilton. The Level Cross, N.C.-based team is strong and active, and fields the No. 43 STP Pontiac for John Andretti. Petty Enterprises now also includes pe2, which fields cars for third generation driver Kyle Petty.
The Wood brothers have been around NASCAR almost as long as anyone. Like the Pettys, the Woods run a family-owned team that's based on dedication, pride, loyalty and a sense of togetherness. Glen Wood made his NASCAR Winston Cup Series debut in 1953 in family-owned cars prepared by brothers Leonard and Delano. In later years, the team would grow to include sons, cousins, in-laws and neighbors from the hills around Stuart, Va.
Glen Wood won four races between his debut and his final start in 1967, but the team's greatest moments have come in Ford products with some of America's best drivers: Speedy Thompson, Marvin Panch, Tiny Lund, Curtis Turner, Dan Gurney, LeeRoy Yarbrough, Parnelli Jones, Cale Yarborough, Donnie Allison, A.J. Foyt, David Pearson, Neil Bonnett, Kyle Petty, Buddy Baker, Dale Jarrett and Morgan Shepherd. The Woods point with pride to 96 victories, plus a popular upset in The Winston all-star race in 1996 with Michael Waltrip, the driver of their No. 21 Citgo Ford.
Legendary driver-turned-owner Junior Johnson has six NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship trophies at his home in Yadkin County, N.C. The 1976, 1977 and 1978 trophies came with Cale Yarborough, and the 1981, 1982 and 1985 hardware came with Darrell Waltrip. Those cherished trophies are in addition to the 137 races Johnson's organization won with himself, Yarborough, Waltrip, Darel Dieringer, LeeRoy Yarbrough, Bobby Allison, Neil Bonnett, Terry Labonte, Geoff Bodine and Bill Elliott.
His teams were among the sport's most overpowering. Yarborough, for example, had a pair of 10-win seasons (1974 and 1978) and two others when he won nine races. Waltrip had consecutive 12-win seasons with Johnson (1981-82) and combined for 18 poles those seasons. Between 1973 and 1990 the Johnson-owned organization won six titles and had an unprecedented 12 other finishes among the top 10.
Hendrick Motorsports emerged in 1984, when owner Rick Hendrick and crew chief Harry Hyde fielded a Chevrolet for promising young driver Geoff Bodine. Few could have imagined that over the next 13 years the Harrisburg, N.C.-based team would win 71 races and NASCAR Winston Cup Series championships with Jeff Gordon in 1995, teammate Terry Labonte in 1996 and Gordon again in 1997. This year's Hendrick Motorsports lineup of Chevrolets features Gordon for DuPont, Labonte for Kellogg's and Ricky Craven for Budweiser.
Throughout its history, Hendrick Motorsports has fielded cars for some of NASCAR's most successful drivers. It teamed flamboyant Tim Richmond with Bodine for part of two seasons. Hendrick then put Bodine, Darrell Waltrip and Benny Parsons together for a season. Ken Schrader replaced Bodine and teamed with Parsons and Waltrip for two years. Ever the innovator, Hendrick teamed Ricky Rudd, Waltrip and Schrader for a season, then Rudd and Schrader for two and Schrader and Gordon for one season.
But Hendrick Motorsports was far from NASCAR's first multi-team organization. Even as Lee or Richard ran virtually every race, Petty Enterprises fielded limited-season cars for more than a dozen drivers throughout the '50s, '60s, '70s and into the early '80s. Johnson fielded full-schedule teams for Darrell Waltrip and Neil Bonnett in 1984, 1985 and 1986, and J.D. Stacy and Warner Hodgdon owned and prepared cars for several drivers in the late '70s and early '80s. Hendrick began his multi-team approach in 1986, an option Jack Roush, Robert Yates, Felix Sabates and Childress have taken up in recent years.
Source: NASCAR Online