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Only Yesterday: NASCAR’s 4-Decade Club is an Exclusive One

Racing in NASCAR’s top division is hard. Staying at that level for years, even decades?

That’s even harder.

Hendrick Motorsports’ 40th anniversary season celebration took place Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, the site of the team’s first win. Four ruby-red cars (40 years is the ruby anniversary) took the green flag in front of many former Hendrick personnel. 

The broadcast made a big deal out of the anniversary. It probably got talked about too much during the race, but it is a big deal. 

Teams come and go in the Cup Series.

See also
Dropping the Hammer: Broadcasts vs. Backmarkers

How hard is it to stick around? A look at the spring Martinsville race just 10 years ago is eye-opening. That race featured 43 starters among 22 team owners. Just eight of those teams fielded cars Sunday. The teams that have since fallen by the wayside include winners and even a Cup championship organization. A couple of the owners still have cars in the Xfinity Series, but have left the Cup Series.

But how many owners have hit the 40-year mark in the Cup Series? Hendrick became the sixth this year. Only four teams have made 40 or more consecutive seasons on NASCAR’s top circuit.

Let’s take a closer look at the 4-decade club and what those six owners have accomplished.

Wood Brothers Racing: 71 years

Wins: 99 among 19 drivers
Championships: none
Races: 
1,731 among 45 drivers
Most wins: David Pearson (43)
Most recent win: 
Ryan Blaney 6/11/17

Petty Enterprises: 60 years

Wins: 268 among drivers
Championships: 10 between 2 drivers (Lee Petty 3, Richard Petty 7)
Races: 
2,817 among 52 drivers
Most wins: Richard Petty (198)
Most recent win: 
John Andretti 4/18/99


Richard Childress Racing: 51 years

Wins: 116 among 11 drivers
Championships: 6 (Dale Earnhardt 6)
Races: 
3,300 among 42 drivers
Most wins: Dale Earnhardt (67)
Most recent win: 
Kyle Busch 6/4/23

Junie Donlavey Racing: 45 years

Wins: 1, Jody Ridley
Championships: none
Races: 
863 among 64 drivers
Most wins: Jody Ridley (1)
Most recent win: 
Jody Ridley 5/17/81

Team Penske: 41 years

Wins: 139 among 9 drivers
Championships: 4 among 3 drivers
Races: 
2,442 among 20 drivers
Most wins: Rusty Wallace (37)
Most recent win:
 Ryan Blaney 10/29/23


Hendrick Motorsports: 40 years

Wins: 305 among 20 drivers
Championships: 14 among 5 drivers (Jeff Gordon 4, Terry Labonte 1, Jimmie Johnson 7, Chase Elliott 1, Kyle Larson 1)
Races: 
4,737 among 52 drivers
Most wins: Jeff Gordon (93)
Most recent win: 
William Byron 4/7/24

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Waid's World: The Tale of a Dysfunctional Team & Its Secret Weapon

Donlavey is a bit of an outlier in that the team didn’t enjoy major success during its tenure. The other teams are among NASCAR’s elite and they all have multiple wins and hundreds of races behind them. 

The active teams have more races in their log books mainly because multi-car teams are common today — Hendrick has four full-time Cup cars in 2024 and Penske three plus satellite Wood Brothers, for whom it provides cars. Childress is currently at two full-time efforts, but has had three and four in the past. Petty Enterprises had a higher winning percentage than Hendrick because they fielded cars in fewer races, though Hendrick has more total wins.

Hendrick also boasts the most winning drivers at 20, with just two holding more than half the total. Petty has almost two-thirds of his family team’s victories and Earnhardt has more than half of RCR’s total. 

In 75 years of NASCAR racing, just these six have reached the four-decade mark. Roush Racing/Roush Fenway Racing/RFK Racing  (37 years with Jack Roush) and Joe Gibbs Racing (33 years) are getting closer to that number.

The recipe for longevity?

In general, it’s winning. With the exception of Donlavey, whose longevity comes more from desire than success, the ones who last have multiple wins with multiple drivers and usually titles with at least one. Winning doesn’t guarantee many years at the top, but it’s the biggest part of the recipe.

TV might have overhyped it Sunday, but 40 years in the Cup Series is a big deal. 

About the author

Amy is an 20-year veteran NASCAR writer and a six-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found working on her bi-weekly columns Holding A Pretty Wheel (Tuesdays) and Only Yesterday (Wednesdays). A New Hampshire native whose heart is in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.

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16 Comments
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Echo

It is. Good article Amy.

Bill B

Hard to believe Petty hasn’t won in this century. I mean, I know they rarely win, but I didn’t realize it’s been that long. I assumed someone snuck a win in over the last 24 years.

Kevin in SoCal

Uhm… Aric Almirola won a rain-shorted race at summer Daytona in 2014. Somebody missed that. :)
https://www.espn.com/racing/nascar/cup/story/_/id/11182117/nascar-aric-almirola-puts-43-car-back-victory-lane-daytona-coke-zero-400

Last edited 1 month ago by Kevin in SoCal
Kevin in SoCal

Unless they’re not counting today’s Petty as the same company…..
I wouldn’t count Legacy Motor Club as Petty, but the 2014 version I would.

Bill B

Good catch. The writer indicates “Petty Enterprises: 60 Years” so it sounds like it’s to the present.
Looks like you are correct.
That makes me feel better that they have at least one win in the last 20 years. Again, good catch!

wildcatsfan2016

good article Amy.

Larry

Of note, the Wood Brothers won the 1963 Owner’s Championship with 6 drivers, including team owner Glen Wood, sharing the driving duties.

https://www.woodbrothersracing.com/news/2020/09/05/all-star-line-up-won-the-1963-nascar-owners-championship-for-the-wood-brothers/

Interestingly, Joe Weatherly won the driver’s championship driving for 9 different owners.

Kevin in SoCal

Today I learned that while the Wood Bros and David Pearson are synonymous, he didn’t win his championships with them.

I don’t remember this much fanfare and TV time for Childress’ 50 years and Penske’s 40 years.

DoninAjax

When Pearson drove for the Wood Brothers they didn’t run for the championship. Pearson won three in four years and stopped when he had three rings for his kids.

Bill B

It would have helped if they won the event on their respective anniversaries.
Had the Hendrick cars rode at the back or been wrecked out, I’m sure the amount of coverage would have shrunk significantly. With all four drivers riding in the top 10 for much of the race, it was served to FOX on a silver platter to have something to talk about when the race was a clunker by Martinsville standards.

CCColorado

Good article.
It would help Childress if either one of his grandsons were actually winning drivers. Austin’s Daytona 500 is long in the rear view mirror.
Which begs the question… even with a Great driver in Kyle Bush, RCR seems to be struggling this, and past years.
Food for thought from the peanut gallery…

CCColorado

My error… Busch..

Echo

Also I don’t remember anyone else painting all 4 cars the same color and paying for 1,500 Of their employees and families in the stands wearing those same colors. HMS planned this out well in advance and with class. I think potential sponsors took notice of the TV time and media coverage. Put your money where the cameras look.

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