Way back when: A history of No. 15 in NASCAR’s top series
The 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season ended with a lot of emotions: There was Kyle Busch’s remarkable championship run and Jeff Gordon’s classy end to a Hall of Fame career. On a more solemn note, Michael Waltrip Racing shut down, which meant the end of the No. 15 and No. 55 Cup cars, at least for the near future.
The No. 15 dates back all the way to 1949 and the second race in the NASCAR Strictly Stock Series, which was conducted on the old Daytona Beach & Road Course. In that race, which took place on July 10, 1949, Jack Etheridge finished 10th, driving a Mercury.
Tim Flock was the first to put the No. 15 in Victory Lane, driving a Mercury to the win on the Road America road course in Wisconsin on Aug. 12, 1956. It would be the start of a lot of road-course successes for the No. 15.
In 1967, open-wheel ace Parnelli Jones drove a Bill Stroppe-owned Ford to victory on the old Riverside International Raceway road course in Southern California, not far from where Auto Club Speedway stands today.
Ricky Rudd was victorious at Riverside in 1985, when he drove a Ford for NASCAR Hall of Fame member Bud Moore.
In 1993, Geoff Bodine won on the Sonoma Raceway road course, again in one of Moore’s Fords.
Last but not least on the road courses, the No. 15 was the winning car at Sonoma in 2012, the first year Clint Bowyer drove for MWR.
Overall, the most successful driver of the No. 15 was NASCAR Hall of Fame member Bobby Allison, who won 14 races from 1978-80 driving for Moore.
Which brings us to the most famous race the No. 15 won, which was the 2001 Daytona 500, where Michael Waltrip broke an 0-for-462-starts winless streak to triumph over his Dale Earnhardt Inc. teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr. But of course the most poignant memory of that race was the last-lap, Turn-4 crash that claimed the life of Earnhardt Sr., arguably the biggest star in NASCAR history.
And today’s bar bet question is: Tim Flock was the first driver to win a NASCAR Premier Series race in the No. 15. Who was the second?
The answer: Royce Hagerty drove a Dodge owned by Curly Welda to victory at Portland (Oregon) Speedway on Aug. 26, 1956. Hagerty, a native of Vancouver, Washington, competed in just nine NASCAR Premier Series races in his career.
Here’s a look at the No. 15:
Wins by driver: Bobby Allison, 14; Ricky Rudd, 6; Buddy Baker, 5; Michael Waltrip, 4; Dale Earnhardt, 3; Clint Bowyer, 3; Geoff Bodine, 3; Benny Parsons, 3; Morgan Shepherd, 1; Tim Flock, 1; Parnelli Jones, 1; Royce Hagerty, 1;
Top fives: 251
Top 10s: 456
Average start: 15.60
Average finish: 17.82
All stats provided by driveraverages.com.