Most frequently, when people see someone capturing the checkered flag, people would immediately wonder who the driver is – and for obvious reasons. Without the driver who turns into monsters down the tracks while speeding and zooming past their fellow contenders, a spectacular race won’t be possible. But these drivers, no matter how fierce and fiery they are, won’t deliver the speed on their own – and most of the time, their wins are tied to their priced partner in the field – their race cars.
The car build and setup play a huge role impact in a NASCAR driver’s career. In races, it’s not only the driver who is being tested but also his vehicle – if it can endure the heat of the competition and deliver the amount of speed needed to clinch the cup. Some cars have become so popular as their drivers and, needless to say, ultimately left a mark in the NASCAR landscaped. Here are some of the iconic and most famous cars driven by their humans in NASCAR history.
1. NO. 3 GOODWRENCH
There’s no doubt that Dale Earnhardt’s No.3 Goodwrench sits at the top of the most famous and iconic cars list in NASCAR history. Driven by the ‘Ironhead’ himself, the car earned as much reputation in the NASCAR landscape as Earnhardt did.
Throughout his career, from his first take off in 1975 until his untimely death in 2001, Earnhardt had earned an astounding 76 Winston Cup wins (now known as NASCAR Cup Series) on top of his four Winston 500s (1990, 1994, 1999, аnd 2000) and a Daytona 500 in 1998. Forty-five of these 76 career wins and four of his seven championships, he clinched whilst behind the No. 3 black Goodwrench wheels.
The No. 3 race car also ushered Earnhardt to one of his greatest moments in NASCAR racing when he scored one of the Daytona 500’s most popular wins in history in 1998, where he finally bagged the championship trophy after going 0-19 in the event.
On February 18, 2001, his untimely death at the tracks of the Daytona 500 was a catastrophic loss to the sport, but his name and his No. 3 Goodwrench Chevrolet are forever etched to the mind and heart of every NASCAR fan.
2. NO. 43 STP
Did you know that Richard Petty’s STP almost didn’t make it to NASCAR just because Petty and STP president Andy Granatelli argued over the car’s color scheme? Fortunately, the two compromised and end up bringing in one of the most famous cars in NASCAR history and changing NASCAR’S sponsorship structure forever and for the better.
Richard Petty is currently the all-time leader in career wins in NASCAR. Practically speaking, it will take some time before someone can top his staggering 200 wins in the now Sprint Cup Series. His iconic No. 43 car had been with him in every track he’d competed with 60 of his races featuring the STP logo on the hood.
STP became Petty’s No. 43 car sponsor in 1972 established a 32-year relationship between the motor oil company and the racing legend. Under STP’s banner, Richard Petty, nicknamed ‘The King’, started 621 races, finishing with a top 10 in 311 of those races.
3. NO. 21 WOOD BROTHERS
It’s clear that the best driver ever to run the No. 21 Wood Brothers is David Pearson, driving the car in 143 races, securing 43 of his 105 wins, and bagging 101 top-10 finishes from 1972 through 1979.
Owned by the American stock car racing team, Wood Brothers, this race car had also been maneuvered by a list of NASCAR’s other topnotch drivers such as A.J. Foyt, Cale Yarborough, Dale Jarrett, Glen Wood, Marvin Panch, Neil Bonnett, and Ricky Rudd who, whilst competing under Wood Brothers have earned success not only for the team but also for their NASCAR careers.
After a winless drought of almost 10 years, Wood Brothers is back in the game, with Trevor Bayne breaking the curse by winning the 2001 Daytona. The team had been around since the beginning years of NASCAR and still participating until today. Bayne currently drives the famed No. 21.
4. NO. 24 CHEVROLET
Manned by the all-time third-ranking driver in the history of NASCAR racing, Jeff Gordon, the No. 24 car had been under DuPont’s sponsorship from 1993 through 2010.
Gordon was just 21 years old back then, and when he rode the rainbow-colored No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet for the first time, his NASCAR career was written. The man sat 87 Sprint Cup victories with all except eight of those victories raced behind the No. 24 Chevrolet wheels.
The multi-colored vehicle remains iconic up to this day, although the color schemes have changed in the course of 20 seasons. Jeff Gordon, on the other hand, remained a remarkable figure in NASCAR as well, being considered one of the most influential NASCAR drivers who helped take the motorsport to mainstream popularity.
5. TIDE CAR
The classic orange-and-black race car had captured many spectacular moments in NASCAR, given that it had featured several numbers on its side. But we can all agree that the most epic of them all was when Ricky Craven drove the No. 32 Tide car and beat the legendary Kurt Busch by a jaw-clenching .002 seconds at Darlington in 2003!
Regardless of how many numbers it donned since its first race in 1897 up until now, the Tide car was always a fan favorite, not only for its proud achievements but also for its simplistic yet bright and striking presence in the NASCAR race tracks. Throughout the years under Tide’s sponsorships, the vehicle was piloted by Darrell Waltrip, Ricky Rudd and Ricky Craven, where the car made it to victory lane 20 times.