Daytona 500 countdown: History of the No. 88 car

OK, race fans, are you in deep withdrawal for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to resume racing again?

Well, here’s something to be thankful for: There are only 88 days left until the 2015 Daytona 500 is run. And the defending winner of the Daytona 500 is, of course, Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

Coincidence? We think not.

Earnhardt might be NASCAR’s most popular driver, but he’s just one of 102 drivers who have piloted the No. 88 in the NASCAR Strictly Stock, Grand National, Winston Cup, Nextel Cup or Sprint Cup Series.

The very first driver to compete in the No. 88 was Pepper Cunningham, who started 15thand finished 33rd in the No. 88 Lincoln at Langhorne (Pa.) Speedway on Sept. 11, 1949 in the first year of the NASCAR Strictly Stock Series.

Want to win a bar bet?

Here you go: How many drivers have won a race in NASCAR’s top division driving the No. 88?

Correct answer: Just five, four of whom are in the NASCAR Hall of Fame:

– Dale Jarrett: 28 victories

– Darrell Waltrip: 26

– Bobby Allison: 8

– Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 6

– Buck Baker: 3

The first driver to put the No. 88 in Victory Lane? That was Baker on May 9, 1954 at Wilson (N.C.) Speedway, where on the half-mile dirt track, he led 117 of 200 laps in an Oldsmobile owned by Ernest Woods. Baker won $1,000.

The most recent driver to put the No. 88 in Victory Lane? That was Earnhardt on Oct. 26 at Martinsville Speedway, where on the half-mile paper clip, he led 79 of 500 laps in a Chevrolet owned by Rick Hendrick. Earnhardt won $155,125.

Drivers who won more than $1 million in the No. 88:

– Dale Jarrett, $40,676,457

– Dale Earnhardt Jr., $33,360,161

– Ricky Rudd, $4,017,761

– Darrell Waltrip, $1,547,698

Some other stats for the No. 88 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series:

– Races: 1,524

– Wins: 71

– Top 5s: 366

– Top 10s: 632

– Poles: 58

– Laps led: 20,727

– Laps run: 374,270

– Average finish: 15.95

All stats from DriverAverages.com