A lot of legends have taken turns in the No. 21 car … and a lot of them have won.
That’s why the No. 21 car has the sixth-most wins out of all the race car numbers that have ever visited Victory Lane in any of NASCAR’s three national series. The number of wins between the three series totals 132.
With NASCAR Hall of Famers like David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Dale Jarrett, Tim Flock and Glen Wood all notching wins in the No. 21, it shouldn’t be too surprising. Add to that impressive list the following active drivers: Kevin Harvick, Elliott Sadler and Trevor Bayne. In all, there have been 24 different drivers who have won races in the No. 21 between the three series.
Harold Kite was the first to take the number to Victory Lane when he won the 200-miler at the Daytona Beach & Road Course in 1950. Kite drove the self-owned Lincoln to an impressive victory over reigning champion Red Byron, beating him to the finish line by 53 seconds. It was Kite’s only win in nine career starts in the premier series.
In the very next race, which was held nearly two months later at Charlotte (N.C.) Speedway, Flock drove the No. 21 to victory, beating his brother Bob by half a lap. It was Flock’s only win in the No. 21. He would go on to win 38 more times, all while driving other race car numbers.
The next race win didn’t come for another eight years when Curtis Turner drove it to victory at Champion Speedway in Fayetteville, N.C., on March 15, 1958. Like Kite and Flock, the win was also Turner’s only victory in the No. 21.
Other drivers to capture only one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win in the No. 21 are Tiny Lund (1963 at Daytona International Speedway); Glen Wood (1963 at Bowman Gray Stadium); Donnie Allison (1971 at Talladega Superspeedway); Buddy Baker (1983 at Daytona); Kyle Petty (1987 at Charlotte Motor Speedway); Dale Jarrett (1991 at Michigan International Speedway); Morgan Shepherd (1993 at Atlanta Motor Speedway); Elliott Sadler (2001 at Bristol Motor Speedway) and most recently Trevor Bayne, who caught the nation and sport by surprise when he won the 2011 Daytona 500.
David Pearson leads all drivers with 43 wins in the No. 21 in the premier series. All of the wins came while driving for the famous Wood Brothers Racing team. He teamed up with Purolator as his sponsor for most of the wins. His first win in the No. 21 came in the spring 1972 race at Darlington Raceway. His last win in the famed car was at Michigan in 1978. After he left the No. 21 race car and the Wood Brothers team, he only notched two more victories, both at Darlington.
Cale Yarborough is second on the list of premier series wins while piloting the No. 21. Thirteen of his 83 career victories in the series came in this car. His first win in the car’s cockpit was on April 2, 1967, at Atlanta. He would win there two more times in the No. 21; however, his best track in the car was Daytona, where he had four wins. He grabbed his final victory in the No. 21 in November 1970 at Rockingham Speedway.
Neil Bonnett clocks in with nine NASCAR Sprint Cup wins in the No. 21, while Marvin Panch, A.J. Foyt and Speedy Thompson have eight, four and two, respectively.
When you add up all these numbers it comes out to a robust 91 wins in the premier series. The NASCAR XFINITY Series has a healthy 41 victories; however, we’re still waiting for the first truck sporting the No. 21 to cross the finish line with the lead.
Reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick leads all past and current drivers of the No. 21 with 22 wins in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Nine of those wins came during the2006 season. That season he also won the championship.
Harvick drove the No. 21 in the series for Richard Childress Racing, earning his first win in the car at Bristol in March 2003. Texas Motor Speedway was the site of Harvick’s final NASCAR XFINITY win in the No. 21, coming in November 2007.
Larry Pearson has 13 wins in NASCAR’s secondy series, all coming between 1984 and 1988. The car was owned by his brother, David, who has one NASCAR XFINITY win at the helm of the No. 21 (1982 at Rockingham). Larry’s most successful season was in 1987 when he had six victories and won his second consecutive series title; the first one having also come while driving the No. 21.
Jeff Green is the only other driver with more than one win in the No. 21 in the series. The final two victories (out of 16) came in 2002 while driving the No. 21. He posted wins at Bristol and Charlotte.
In addition to David Pearson, three other drivers have a single NASCAR XFINITY victory in the No. 21: Michael Waltrip (1999 at Charlotte); Jeff Purvis (2001 at Pikes Peak International Raceway) and Jeff Burton (2006 at Atlanta).
Check back next week to see which number is fifth on the list of car numbers with the most wins. Starting next week the “What’s in a Number” story will be released on Thursday instead of Wednesday.