The 101 Greatest NASCAR Cup Series Drivers by Car Number: 90-99
Welcome to the 10th and final installment of Sportscasting’s 10-part series, “The 101 Greatest NASCAR Cup Series Drivers by Car Number.”
For those who’ve waited until the end to join us, what I’m doing here is exactly what I did with the “101 Greatest NFL Players by Uniform Number” series a little while back. Simply substitute NASCAR drivers for NFL players and car numbers for uniform numbers, and you get the deal.
If you’ve missed the first nine installments or simply want a refresher on our choices for Nos. 00-89, head on over to the series hub page, where we’re housing each piece for your easy review.
And without further ado, let’s wrap this bad boy up with the best to steer Nos. 90-99 at NASCAR’s highest level.
No. 90: Jody Ridley
lf we weren’t doing drivers only, the No. 90 slot would have to go to NASCAR Cup Series team owner Junie Donlavey. Despite his team consistently being underfunded, he managed to put the number on the track at the highest level 840 times from 1950 to 2002. Donlavey died in 2014, fittingly at the age of 90.
The only driver to get him a win during those five-plus decades is our actual choice in this spot, Jody Ridley, who made the second-most starts in the No. 90 with 95. After winning Cup Series Rookie of the Year in 1980, Ridley got the number to Victory Lane the following year with a victory at Dover.
Dick Brooks, who also won Rookie of the Year in 1969, was a close second here.
No. 91: Tim Flock
The easy call at No. 91 is Tim Flock.
Not only did the NASCAR Hall of Famer have the most starts in the number with 90, but he’s also the only driver ever to take it to Victory Lane, doing so 16 times. Flock also won the first of his two Cup Series titles in the No. 91 in 1952, a season in which he recorded eight victories.
In his 90 starts using the number, his winning percentage was a whopping 17.8%, and he earned 52 total top-fives and 64 top-10s.
Oh yeah, let’s not forget that he ran several races with a monkey.
No. 92: Herb Thomas
We’ve got another easy call in the No. 92 slot with another NASCAR Hall of Famer, Herb Thomas.
The North Carolina native ran exactly 200 Cup Series races with the number and took it to Victory Lane 42 times with 111 total top-fives and 141 top-10s.
Thomas also made NASCAR Cup Series history with the No. 92 as the premier division’s first-ever two-time points champion, winning titles in 1951 and 1953, taking 17 combined checkered flags between the two campaigns.
The only other driver to win with the No. 92 was Marvin Panch, who earned one victory with it in just three starts.
No. 93: Ted Chamberlain
As no driver has ever taken the No. 93 to Victory Lane in the Cup Series, we’ve got somewhat of a default winner here in Ted Chamberlain, who owns the most top-10s with the number, earning 14 in 56 starts.
Honestly, I should go with Donald Thomas, who recorded four top-fives and seven top-10s in the No. 93 in just 16 races. But it’s one race that gave Chamberlain the nod.
In 1952, during a race in Dayton, Ohio, the steering wheel of Chamberlain’s No. 93 Plymouth detached 80 laps into the 200-mile run. But the New Zealand native didn’t stop, running the final 120 laps by manning the steering hub. And not only did he amazingly finish the race, but he finished 13th.
No. 94: Bill Elliott
When Bill Elliott left Junior Johnson in 1995 to start his own team, he wanted to use the No. 9 that he took to Victory Lane 38 times during his NASCAR Cup Series. Team co-owner Charles Hardy, however, wanted to use the No. 44.
The two compromised on the No. 94, and Elliott takes that spot on our list as he holds the records for starts (185), top-fives (13), top-10s (45), laps led (837), and poles (3), although he never took a checkered flag with it. But neither did any of the other 45 drivers to use it.
No. 95: Darrell Waltrip
The No. 95 is another number that’s never crossed the finish line first in a NASCAR Cup Series race, so we again dove into other metrics to make our decision here.
And after doing so, the easy call was Darrell Waltrip, who only used it 35 times during his first three partial seasons on the circuit before getting a full-time ride in the No. 88. But despite not recording a win, Waltrip fared well in the No. 95 in those 35 starts, earning nine top-fives and 18 top-10s, both of which stand as the most for the number.
Michael McDowell holds the record for the most starts in it with 100, earning a lone top-five and three top-10s.
No. 96: Ray Elder
The runner-up for the No. 96 slot is a name most NASCAR fans know as one of the most successful team owners in the history of motorsports, Richard Childress, who made 108 of his 285 Cup Series starts in the No. 96, earning three top-fives and 20 top-10s.
But the nod here has to go to Ray Elder, the only driver to take the No. 96 to Victory Lane, which he did twice. Both victories came at the Riverside road course in his home state of California, the first in 1971 and the second a season later.
Elder ran 25 races with the number, earning nine top-fives and 15 top-10s.
No. 97: Kurt Busch
One of just three drivers to take a checkered flag with the No. 97 in the Cup Series, Kurt Busch is the easy call in this slot.
Busch ran the number for the first six seasons of his Cup Series career with Roush Racing before leaving for Penske to man the No. 2 ahead of the 2006 campaign. And he certainly ran the No. 97 quite well.
In 184 starts in the number, the Nevada native recorded 14 victories, 43 top-fives, and 79 top-10s. Three wins, 10 top-fives, and 21 top-10s came during the 2004 season en route to winning the points title. The 2004 season, of course, was the first in which NASCAR held “The Chase for the Championship,” which is now simply known as the NASCAR Playoffs.
No. 98: LeeRoy Yarbrough
While Marvin Panch boasts a solid resume with the No. 98, earning six wins, 40 top-fives, and 50 top-10s in 85 starts, he’s a distant second in this slot to LeeRoy Yarbrough.
From 1968 to 1971, Yarbrough ran 62 races in the No. 98 for Junior Johnson and recorded 10 wins, 32 top-fives, and 42 top 10’s, also taking four poles. And while those stats alone would give him the nod here, it was his rare feat in 1969 that made this decision even easier.
While Talladega and Indianapolis have been added to what’s now known as the NASCAR Grand Slam, those two events didn’t exist in 1969. Instead, there was the “Triple Crown,” which included the Daytona 500, the Southern 500 at Darlington, and the World 600 at Charlotte. And Yarbrough won all three in ’69 in the No. 98, becoming the first Cup Series driver in history to pull it off.
No. 99: Carl Edwards
At long last, we’ve come to the end, and at least we get a little bit of competition to close things out.
Jeff Burton built quite the resume with the No. 99, earning 17 wins, 87 top-fives, 142 top-10s, and two poles with it in 293 starts. Typically, that’s more than enough to take one of these spots.
But then you’ve got Carl Edwards, who split time in the No. 99 with Burton in 2004 before taking over the number full-time for Roush Racing the following year when Burton moved to the No. 31 for Richard Childress Racing.
And Edwards fared just a tad bit better in the No. 99 than his predecessor, earning 23 victories, 108 top-fives, 187 top-10s, and 13 poles with it in 373 starts.
And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. We appreciate you following along and invite you to keep coming back to Sportscasting for all your NASCAR needs.
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