The Reddit NASCAR community never fails to bring up interesting topics of discussion, be it news or something more speculative. They have provided for us again, with this post created by Ectohawk: What’s an interesting NASCAR fact or tidbit that newer fans might not know? Let’s talk about a few.
Fact #1: Aric Almirola’s First Xfinity Win
The year was 2007 and the track was at the Milwaukee Mile up in Wisconsin. This was back when the Trucks and Xfinity raced at the mid-western track while the Cup Series and the then Winston West Series took on Sonoma. This was also in the height of the Buschwackers craze where many driver in the then NASCAR Nextel Cup Series would double dip, many of them running the full schedule in both series even if the two series didn’t share a weekend at the same track.
That’s an alien concept now as Cup Series drivers are limited to 5 races per year in each of the two lower nationally touring series. But back then, there were no such restrictions. It was a free-for-all and drivers could double and triple dip as much as they pleased.
Perhaps the most egregious version of this came at the Milwaukee Mile in 2007 as Denny Hamlin was preparing to race his No. 11 Fed Ex Chevy (yes, back then, JGR was a GM backed team) while rookie and JGR development driver, Aric Almirola, was preparing Hamlin’s No. 20 Busch ride in the mid-west.
The plan was for Hamlin to practice and qualify his Cup car at the then-dubbed Infineon (Sonoma) Raceway while Aric Almirola qualified the Busch car for Hamlin to take over once he arrived in Wisconsin. Almirola would end up scoring the pole and, due to flight delays, Hamlin would be late getting to the track. This would allow Almirola to start the race from the pole and he would run respectably, hanging up there with the front runners. However, once Hamlin arrived at the track, sponsorship commitments from the likes of Rockwell would force Almirola out of the car.
Hamlin would go on to cross the line first but Almirola would be awarded the win as well as the points, the trophy, and the money as he was the one who started the race. He would run only 59 laps, lest than a quarter of the scheduled 250-lap distance.
It was the original poster, Ectohawk, who provided this oddity of a fact and it certainly is one off the most interesting and wrong things to have happened in NASCAR’s 75-year history. It truly boggles the mind.
YouTuber, Ben Schnieder, made this fantastic video breaking down the whole ordeal:
Fact #2: Dale Jr. To Hendrick Foreshadowing
Being a huge Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan, this one I remember clear as a bell. In my youth, I used to attend races at Bristol Motor Speedway regularly with my dad, living only about twenty minutes from the track. I remember once (I’m blanking on the year, but it might have been the fall race in 2006) standing in line for the shuttle buses to pick us up and take us back over to the general parking lot across the four-lane and there were these two dudes talking.
The race had ended by that point, it was dark, and the guys who had noticeably had quite a bit to drink were speculating in their drunken slurs mixed with drawn out southern drawls that Dale Earnhardt Jr. was going to leave the company his father founded in DEI for the greener pastures of Hendrick Motorsports.
At the time, I loathed HMS with a burning passion and looked up at my dad in full-on horror of the concept. He reassured me that they were just drunk and didn’t know what they were talking about. How foolish we were!
While that bit of foreshadowing might have been spooky enough, the real deal came at a race in Texas in 2005. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch had crashed out. Busch thinking they were done for the day had already left the premises of the track while Dale’s No. 8 Budweiser crew were decidedly done for the day. As they packed up, the No. 5 Kellogg’s crew at HMS approached Jr. in a panic. They couldn’t find Kyle.
They offered him the opportunity to be their relief driver, which Dale Jr. readily accepted and the No. 5 car was back out on track. Jr. said he did it just to see how another organization’s car drove. While that is probably true, I don’t think it was an accident that this would be the event in tandem with Hendrick’s souring taste on Kyle that would lead to Dale effectively leaving DEI for HMS, effectively replacing Kyle in the process.
This would kick off a decade-long rivalry between the two and their fan bases that wouldn’t cool until Dale Jr. had been retired for five years and Kyle Busch leaving JGR to ironically pilot a No. 8 car for Richard Childress Racing.
It would be bruhmoment2248 who would bring this little incident up. But perhaps the most interesting fact about Dale Jr. short stint in the No. 5 is mentioned by quwertzi: Dale Jr. gained only 1 position in the 5 car, overtaking his own No. 8 entry for Kyle Busch and HMS. Dale Jr. would recall the incident as one of his Dale Tales segments for NBC’s NASCAR America program.
Fact #3: Clint Boyer’s Lucky No. 07
Okay, this one’s kind of weird. For most newer fans, they know Clint Boyer as a somewhat quirky FOX analyst. Most also know that he used to be a driver, citing his most recent ride as driver of the No. 14 for SHR as evidence. Some fans might even know him as the guy who finished second in the Cup Series standings for Michael Waltrip Racing before his stint at SHR. And even if you go back even further, some might note him as the driver of the No. 33 Cheerios car for RCR.
But that was not his original number.
His time at RCR can be split equally in half. He drove 3 years in the No. 33, yes, but before that, with good ole No. 7 sponsorship from Jack Daniels, he also piloted a black No. 07 car for the first three years of his career. During his time in the car, he achieved moderate success. But apparently, as mentioned by Beginning-Yogurt3146, on July 7, 2007 at Daytona (07/07/07), Clint Boyer drove a No. 07 Chevy to finish in the 7th position. That’s a lot of 7s.
Then, in response, Denleborkis points out that he had the 7th pit stall, started 7th in the race, and both Daytona and Richard have 7 letters in the name. Oof, anybody else getting eerie Dark Tower vibes here or is it just me?
Clint Boyer scored his first victory in the No. 07 Jack Daniels Chevy at New Hampshire in, you guessed it, ’07.
Fact #4: Benny Parson’s Dominant Win After Completing Only Half The Race
In response to the original poster’s fact, ElectricPeterTork claps back with this statistic. Apparently in 1973 at my home track of Bristol, the legendary racer-turned commentator ran only half of the race. After growing a sizable lead, he pitted and got out of the car, citing neck problems. John Utsman would relieve him and keep the car well in the lead. Nearing the end of the race, Utsman would be called down pit road and Parsons would get back in the car and win the race by a staggering 7-laps. That’s like racing NASCAR Heat 5 with Normal difficulty and 50% race length. Hot damn!
Furthermore, it would be the only race he elder Parsons brother would win in his one and only championship season. Wild!
Fact #5: The 99’s Dual Winners
Jhealey0909 states that the last two wins for the No. 99 car featured 2 different drivers from 2 different teams but both races were at Sonoma, them both getting their first road course wins in the NASCAR Cup Series. The two drivers here are Carl Edwards in the No. 99 Aflac Ford for Roush Racing (now RFK) and Daniel Suarez in the No. 99 Chevy for Team Trackhouse.
It’s kind of funny to think about: Edwards last win in the No. 99 was at Sonoma while Suarez’s first win in the No. 99 was at the same track many years later. Interesting fun fact, Jhealey!
Here is Edward’s win at the famed road course:
Fact #6: Sick of Jimmie Johnson
This one goes out to fellow Daily Downforce writer, Matt Smith, a huge Jimmie Johnson fan. Sudden_Arm4581 notes that he gained a lot of new NASCAR fans around 2019, far removed from Jimmie Johnson’s dominance. They just couldn’t believe them when they said that many people stopped watching because Jimmie Johnson won too often. It is funny, isn’t it? And I won’t pretend to be innocent of this.
In 2006 and 2007, when Jr. was at DEI, I got sick of Jimmie winning and disliked him for his success. I’ll admit it. Now, I changed my tune once the two became teammates but the fact still remains. NASCAR is unique in that way. In most other sports, the fans champion the dominant player or driver. In NASCAR, it’s treated like somewhat of an annoyance, the only exception being Martin Truex Jr. in his championship winning 2017 season, though that might be due to him being one of Dale Jr.’s “boys”.
Here’s a video package of Jimmie’s biggest career moments. Check it out and relive some the dominance from the GOAT of NASCAR.
Fact #7: The Mysterious Winningest Driver
This is also a fun one. Heb Thomas made only 229 starts in his NASCAR career but he won 48 of them. That’s a winning percentage just shy of 21%. Staggering! Even more surprising, as tsrshr14fan (oof, in light of recent penalties, they can’t be happy!) points out, most NASCAR fans don’t even know who the man was. I won’t lie, I didn’t. He would win 2 Cup Series Championships in 1951 and 1953.
Here’s a bonus fun fact: Herb Thomas was the inspiration for the character, Doc Hudson, in the Disney/Pixar movie, Cars. Below is a short video about Herb Thomas and his championship winning seasons.