17 days remain until the Great American Race and the anticipation is at an all-time high. Drivers, Owners, and fans are counting down to the second until the green flag waves at Daytona to get the season underway. Let’s take a look at the history of number 17.
David Pearson was the first driver to put the number 17 in Victory Lane. In fact, the Hall of Famer was able to drive the car number to 30 victories while behind the wheel. Let’s put Pearson’s feat into perspective for a second. “The Sliver Fox”, as he was known in the garage, piloted the number 17 car for 140 races. 30 wins in 140 races? That is remarkable. On average, Pearson was able to get a victory every 5th race.
Not only was Pearson able to win 30 races in the 17 car, he was able to win two championships in it as well. In the 1968 and 1969 seasons combined, Pearson won 27 races and his two coveted championships.
Pearson holds the lead with the most victories in the 17 car, but a NASCAR Champion was right on his heels. Matt Kenseth manned the 17 car from 1999-2012 for Roush Fenway Racing. He was able to cross the finish line first 24 times while having this number. The one Championship that Kenseth won, came in this car back in 2003.
Number 17 was fortunate to have not one hall of fame driver behind the wheel, but two. Darrell Waltrip was the captain of the ship in 1975, then again from 1987-1998. In his thirteen years behind the wheel of the iconic number 17, DW tallied 15 wins, 71 top 5’s, and 137 top 10’s. Who can forget about the number 17 Tide Chevrolet Waltrip wheeled around?
Overall, the number 17 has been in Victory Lane 69 times between the three aforementioned drivers. Those victories put Number 17 at 13th on the all-time wins list by car numbers.
Many big races were won in this car number. DW was able to win the Coke 600 in back to back years; ’88 and ’89. Waltrip also won the Daytona 500 in ’88 as well. Matt Kenseth, who is a two-time Daytona 500 winner, won both races in the 17 car back in ’09 and ’12. He was also able to capture us first Coke 600 in his second year driving that car; 2000.
After Kenseth moved to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013, Roush Fenway Racing promoted Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to be the full-time driver of the number 17. Stenhouse has yet to win a race in his career, so can he make it numero uno at Daytona? Wait and see.