Got Your Number: Sweet 17

By Ben White, NASCAR Pole Position Contributor

When eventual three-time Cup series champion Darrell Waltrip first came to NASCAR’s premier circuit at Talladega on May 11, 1972, he wanted to use what he considered to be “his number.”

The hurdles he encountered dictated a compromise. However, the double-digits he used are now closely associated with his impressive career.

“I wanted the No. 48 because that’s what I raced in my Late Model Sportsman days back in Nashville,” Waltrip said. “I had No. 48 on all of my cars for quite a few years before coming to the Cup series. James Hylton had it among the Cup guys when I came into NASCAR in 1972. I also liked the No. 17, but it belonged to Ford’s Holmam and Moody team at the time.”

NASCAR offered a suggestion, but Jake Elder, Waltrip’s crafty experienced crew chief, balked at the idea. Elder staunchly believed high numbers couldn’t win races.

“I told NASCAR I didn’t like the 95 all that much, but I’d take it,” Waltrip said. “I liked the No. 17 a lot more because I was a big David Pearson fan, and he used it with Holman-Moody in the late 1960s. The Mercury I drove in 1972 came from Holman-Moody. I finally talked John Holman into working a deal to get the No. 17. I won my first two Cup races with it in 1975.”