I was talking today with my dad about all the different makes and models of cars that have been rotated through NASCAR throughout the years, and I'd like to share a bit of that conversation...
Chevrolet has been around NASCAR pretty much since the beginning. Today, when one thinks of Chevy, they think of teams like Rick Hendrick and Richard Childress, who both have been around for years, and both have fielded Chevy teams for the majority of that time. Drivers that really found success with Chevy include Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Dale Jr., Tony Stewart, and Terry Labonte.
On the other hand, you have team owners such as Joe Gibbs, who has been successful with a variety of makes and models. Starting in 1992, Gibbs ran Chevy's, with Dale Jarrett as his driver in the #18 Interstate Batteries Chevy. Of course, they won the 1993 Daytona 500, a huge accomplishment. The only other race Jarrett won with Gibbs was the fall Charlotte race in 1994. Starting in 1995, Jarrett left for Yates, in which he found most of his success with, and Gibbs brought in Bobby Labonte, who really is known for driving the green #18 machine.
Starting in 1997, Gibbs switched to Pontiac (Grand Prix). In that ride, Bobby won 19 races and the 2000 championship. Tony Stewart joined the team in 1999 driving the #20 Home Depot Pontiac, and he went on to win the 2002 championship.
Gibbs once again switched allegiances to Chevy starting in the 2003 season. Tony won the championship again in 2005, which makes him the only driver to win a title with both the old points format and the Chase format (so far).
Gibbs racing changed make/model once again starting in 2008, getting on board with the Toyota camp (Camry), and has been successful with it so far.
Ford has not been so successful this year (2010) in the NASCAR top series, with Carl Edwards' Nationwide series win at Road America two weeks ago being the lone victory. But Ford has been quite dominant at times in the past.
Ford used to run the Thunderbird in the 80's and 90's, with teams such as Alan Kulwicki single-handedly winning the championship in 1992 (they called themselves the "Underbirds"). Mercury ran in the 60's and 70's quite successfully, but starting in 1998, Ford switched to the Taurus. In fact, at Las Vegas that year, nine of the top-10 were Ford Taurus'. They were so successful early on, that NASCAR made a rule saying all Ford teams must change their rear spoiler so there would be less downforce on the cars compared to other teams. This evened out the competition.
Fords top teams in recent years have been Roush Racing (now Roush/Fenway Racing), Yates Racing (now merged/defunct), Penske (now runs Dodges), and the Wood Brothers.
Roush racing has produced good drivers such as Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Kurt Busch, and Carl Edwards. For his entire career, Jack Roush has ran Fords consistently.
Dodge, which made a comeback to NASCAR in 2001 after 20 years or so, is thinking of running the Challenger, which would be different from the Charger they currently run. The only other model Dodge has run since their return was the Intrepid, used by teams such as Evernham Motorsport, Penske, and Chip Ganassi until 2005. As of right now, the only team running Dodges is Penske, with Kurt Busch (#2), Brad Keselowski (#12), and Sam Hornish Jr. (#77).
I wish Pontiac was still around. They gave us some good memories, such as Bobby Labonte's championship season in 2000, Tony's in 2002, and their final Winston Cup victory in 2003 was nothing short of spectacular. Ricky Craven, driving a Pontiac Grand Prix for Cal Wells, beat Kurt Busch's Ford by .002 seconds at Darlington for NASCAR's closest finish ever (well, at least since the introduction of electronic timing in 1993).
Whew! There's much more to be said about all the different makes and models run in NASCAR throughout the years, but these are the things I know about the current models being run. It is interesting to note how some car owners have changed models over the years (Gibbs), while some have always stayed the same (Hendrick), and all have had success.
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