With Denny Hamlin’s win in Kansas for the STP 400 came the 199 victory for the #11 car making it the most winningest car in NASCAR passing the #43 made famous by “The King” Richard Petty.
The #11 car has been driven in the past by many well known drivers. Here is a break-down of wins by drivers in the #11 car, most to least: Carl Yarborough with 55 wins, Ned Jarrett with 49 wins, Darrell Waltrip with 43 wins, Denny Hamlin with 19 wins, Junior Johnson with 11 wins, Bill Elliot with 6 wins, Geoff Bodine and Terry Labonte with 4 wins each, Bobby Allison with 3 wins, Buddy Baker with 2 wins, A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti and Parnelli Jones with 1 win a piece.
“It’s kind of a tribute to them,” Hamlin said. “They’re the ones that put this car number on the map…Ned Jarrett and those guys. I was just a small part of that history of this car number.” Hamlin continued, “I just hope that I live up to the standards of the #11 car because there’s been some great drivers drive it and I’m just living on the legacy.”
Now the question asked is who will get to the illustrious number of 200 wins first, the car #11 or the Hendrick teammates. Hendrick has 4 cars trying to reach the 200 mark whereas there is only 1 car #11. Hendricks’ last win came at Kansas in the fall race with Jimmie Johnson, coincidently the race the Hamlin won in this spring with the #11 car, making for 199 wins as well.
By looking back at the 9 races of this season Jeff Gordon has had the worst start to a season ever in his 20 year career, and now sits 17th in the points’ standings. With an average finish of 20.3 during the first quarter of the season, and for Talladega, Gordon has an average finish of 16.3, with 6 wins. We continue to look at the other Hendrick drivers Kasey Kahne driver of the #5 has an average finish of 21.2 this season and his average finish at Talladega is no better with 21.9. Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 and 5 time champion, has an average finish of 10th for the first quarter of the year and at Talladega, Johnson has an average finish of 16.8, with 2 wins. And finally Dale Earnhardt Jr. with a Talladega average finish of 15th, not to forget 5 past wins with 4 straight running from October 21, 2001 until April 6, 2002 and Jr.’s off to the best start in his career with an average finish of 7.3 for the first 9 races.
Between Gordon and Earnhardt Jr. they have a combined 11 wins at Talladega, the largest track on the NASCAR circuit. During the years 2001-2007, Gordon and Earnhardt Jr. won a 9 of the 13 races at the 2.66 mile oval.
During the last 4 years, longer in Earnhardt Jr.’s case, neither driver has seen victory lane, Gordon’s last time was in 2007 and for Earnhardt Jr. was October 2004. Only one of the last eight races at Talladega has been won by a Hendrick driver, that was when last spring Johnson being pushed by teammate Earnhardt Jr. beat Clint Bowyer to the finish line by 0.002 seconds. Last year all 4 Hendrick drivers finished in the top 8 at Talladega, giving any of them a good chance for making win #200 come at Talladega.
Unlike Hamlin in the #11 car, Talladega has not been kind with an average finish of 17.8, making it look unlikely win #200 will come at the 2.66 mile oval in Alabama. But the following race at Darlington with an average finish of 6.5 and 1 past win, is much higher than the Hendrick drivers making a Darlington a good pick for Hamlin to win #200 at “The Lady in Black” here in Darlington, S.C..