There’s a reason why Richard Petty is referred to as “The King” in NASCAR circles. And trust us, it’s deserved.
With a record 200 wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Petty deserves to be called anything he wants. We’re pretty sure he didn’t come up with the moniker, but it fits nonetheless.
The 200-win record is probably the most likely of all records in NASCAR to never be broken. Consider this: David Pearson is second on the all-time wins list with 105. Third is Jeff Gordon with 92.
With Gordon retiring at the end of the 2015 season, that leaves Jimmie Johnson as the most likely candidate among active drivers returning in 2016. However, he currently has 74 wins and would have to win an average of 12.6 races each year if he raced 10 more seasons. The most victories he’s ever had in one season is 10. But, who knows, Johnson could surprise us all and race for 15 more seasons, winning an average of nine races a year.
So, it’s possible … but unlikely.
Therefore, Petty’s 200 race wins will likely stand the test of time as one of sports’ untouchable records, joining the likes of Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hit streak, Jerry Rice’s 1,549 career receptions and Cy Young’s 511 career wins.
Surprisingly (or perhaps not surprisingly to some), a majority of Petty’s wins came in one car – the No. 43. Petty is responsible for 192 of the race car number’s total 202 wins in NASCAR’s three national series. That’s why the No. 43 is second place on our list of race car numbers with the most wins in the three series (NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series).
Before we look deeper into the many wins of the No. 43, you may be wondering what race car Petty was driving when he scored his eight other wins. He only won in two other cars during his long career – six times in the No. 41 and twice in the No. 42.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that a driver with 200 wins has won races at 52 different tracks, more than all the tracks the three national series compete on today combined. Of the 52 tracks, he won at 50 of them at least once while piloting the No. 43.
The only two tracks at which he has victories, but not in the No. 43 are Harris (N.C.) Speedway and Starkey Speedway in Roanoke, Va. He won once at each track. He was driving the No. 41 when he won at Harris and the No. 42 when he found Victory Lane at Starkey.
The race tracks on which he won while driving the No. 43 are listed below (the numbers in the parentheses are the number of races he won in the No. 43): Albany Saratoga Speedway (2), Asheville-Weaverville Speedway (4), Atlanta Motor Speedway (6), Augusta International Speedway (1), Beltsville Speedway (2), Birmingham International Raceway (1), Bowman Gray Stadium (4), Bridgehampton Race Circuit (1), Bristol Motor Speedway (3), Charlotte Motor Speedway (5), Columbia Speedway (6), Concord Speedway (1), Darlington Raceway (3), Daytona International Speedway (10), Dover International Speedway (7), Fonda Speedway (2), Golden Gate Speedway (1), Greenville-Pickens Speedway (5), Hickory Speedway (5), Huntsville Speedway (1), International Raceway Park (2), Islip Speedway (2), Kingsport Speedway (2), Langley Field Speedway (2), Martinsville Speedway (15), Michigan International Speedway (4), Middle Georgia Raceway (4), Montgomery Motor Speedway (1), Nashville Speedway (9), New Asheville Speedway (2), North Carolina State Fairgrounds (1), North Wilkesboro Speedway (15), Occoneechee Speedway (3), Old Dominion Speedway (1), Oxford Plains Speedway (1), Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds (3), Pocono Raceway (2), Richmond International Raceway (13), Riverside International Raceway (5), Rockingham Speedway (11), Savannah Speedway (3), Smoky Mountain Raceway (6), South Boston Speedway (4), Southern States Fairgrounds (1), Talladega Superspeedway (2), Tar Heel Speedway (1), Texas World Speedway (3), Trenton Speedway (3) and West Virginia International Speedway (1).
He also posted wins at six of these tracks in the No. 41 and No. 42: Augusta, Birmingham, Columbia, Greenville-Pickens, Old Dominion and South Boston.
Petty’s first race win came in the 100-mile event at Southern States in Charlotte, N.C., on February 28, 1960. That season he won two other races (Martinsville, Occoneechee).
By far, his most successful season came in 1967, when he posted a record 27 victories – another record that will likely never be broken. All 27 wins came at the wheel of the No. 43. During his record-setting season, he won an improbable 10 consecutive races – another record that will be hard to best.
Petty also had a stretch of 18 straight seasons (1960-1977) in which he posted two or more victories each season. The five-year stretch that he began in 1967 will never be duplicated. In those five seasons alone, he won an incredible 92 races. And all 92 of the wins came in the No. 43.
To put that into perspective, Gordon has won the same number of races in his 24-year career that took Petty five seasons to accomplish. Now, don’t get me wrong, what Gordon has done is impressive and definitely worthy of him being considered one of the best drivers ever in NASCAR.
But what Petty accomplished was otherworldly.
His 200th and final win came on July 4, 1984, in the Firecracker 400 at Daytona International Speedway. On hand for the race was the current U.S. president at the time, President Ronald Reagan. Reagan even gave the command for drivers to start their engines from aboard Air Force One, which had just landed at the adjacent airstrip.
Petty would race eight more seasons before finally hanging up his driving gloves. His final race came in the 1992 Hooters 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on November 15, 1992. He finished 35th.
Finishing just four positions ahead of Petty was a driver making his first start in the series – Jeff Gordon. The race was a changing of the guards.
Not only did Petty have a propensity for winning races in the No. 43, he was the first driver to win seven titles in NASCAR’s premier series. The late Dale Earnhardt is the only other driver to have won as many championships. Petty won the championship in 1964, 1967, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975 and 1979.
Okay, Petty’s 192 wins account for the majority of the 202 wins collected in all three series among all drivers. So, who is responsible for the other 10 wins?
Seven of the remaining 10 can be split between five different drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Jim Paschal posted 25 victories during his career; however, only two of them came in the No. 43, both coming in 1963 (Bowman Gray, Tar Heel). Bobby Hamilton also had two wins in the No. 43. The two wins (at Rockingham and Phoenix International Raceway) were the first of four in his career, coming in 1996 and 1997.
Three drivers (Lee Petty, John Andretti, Aric Almirola) each have one win apiece in the No. 43. Lee’s came in 1959 at North Wilkesboro, and was just one of his 54 total victories in the series. Andretti only won twice in the series. The second of the two was in the No. 43 at Martinsville. Almirola is the current driver of the No. 43, which is currently owned by Richard Petty Motorsports. He only has one win in the series which came in the 2014 July Daytona race.
Only one driver has ever won a NASCAR XFINITY Series race at the helm of the No. 43. Those honors go to Johnny Sauter, who won the fall October race at Richmond in 2003. In addition to that win, he has two others – of course, they came in other cars.
The only driver to celebrate in the No. 43 at the end of a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race was Jimmy Hensley, and he did it twice. He only won twice in the series and the victories came in back-to-back seasons (1998-99). The first win was in Nashville while the second was at Martinsville.
Check back next week to see which number is tops on the list of car numbers with the most wins.