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Keeping Pace

Thu., May 21, 2009, 12:40 a.m.

NASCAR Family Tree: The Lineage Of The No. 17

No. 17 DEWALT Ford (Matt Kenseth) (Photo Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR)  (Sam Greenwood / The Spokesman-Review)
No. 17 DEWALT Ford (Matt Kenseth) (Photo Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR) (Sam Greenwood / The Spokesman-Review)

Over the course of 60 years, a total of 93 drivers have driven cars with the number. Yet, only three of those 93 have taken the No. 17 to Victory Lane.

(NOTE: This is the fourth installment in an occasional series of 2009 releases highlighting some of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ most renowned car numbers and their performance heritage. This installment takes a look at the No. 17.)

Courtesy: NASCAR Media Relations

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 20, 2009) – Quality trumps quantity big-time, when it comes to assessing the illustrious history of the No. 17 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Over the course of 60 years, a total of 93 drivers have driven cars with the number. Yet, only three of those 93 have taken the No. 17 to Victory Lane.

But what a trio it is.

All three are past series champions – David Pearson, Darrell Waltrip and the current No. 17 driver, Matt Kenseth of Roush Fenway Racing. Those three account for seven championships and a total of 207 victories overall – 63 in the No. 17.

It started with Pearson, the man many believe to be NASCAR’s very best driver, winner of three championships and 105 races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Pearson had 30 victories in the No. 17 between 1967-71, the first coming in the spring of 1968, in the Southeastern 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

And with only 140 starts in the No. 17, Pearson’s winning percentage in the ride was 42% which by any measurement, is just this side of incredible.

Waltrip also snared three championships during his storied career. His 84 victories included 15 in the No. 17 in 344 starts, highlighted by perhaps the numbers most memorable win: the 1989 Daytona 500, driving for Hendrick Motorsports. That win was immersed in coincidence that amounted to numerology overload: Waltrip, driving the 17, finally won the 500 on his 17th try. The race purse was $1.7 million, and he was assigned pit stall No. 17.

Kenseth, the 2003 champion, is amid adding to the number’s legacy by working on his own. His first victory in the No. 17 was during his rookie season of 2000 – at the Coca-Cola 600, which will be held for the 50th time on Sunday at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

Kenseth started this season by tacking on two more victories to the No. 17’s list – the Daytona 500 and the Auto Club 500. Going into the Coca-Cola 600 Kenseth has 18 wins in 338 starts in the No. 17.

Two others had significant stints in the No. 17. Fred Harb made 110 starts between 1957-63; Roger Hamby made 67 between 1977-81. Like 90 others in the number’s rich history, they went winless.




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Keeping Pace

Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.