Sutton and Seth Sharp
March 5, 2018
In honor of today being March 5th (3/5), we take a look at the history of the No. 35 car in the Cup Series.
The No. 35 made its debut on the beach at Daytona in 1949. Glenn Dunaway drove his Lincoln to a 28th place finish. Unfortunately for him there were only 28 cars in the race.
Over the course of the next 20 years the number bounced around between several drivers, some of which may come as a surprise. Lee Petty drove the number to a 17th place finish at the 1956 Southern 500, and two races later Glen Wood wheeled a No. 35 car to a 21st at the Southern States Fairgrounds. Joe Weatherly, Tiny Lund, Cale Yarborough and Bobby Isaac all had their turn as well, but none of these drivers could find victory lane. By this time the closest the number came to victory was in the 1960 Copper Cup 100. Mel Larson had the Pole and led 6 laps en route to a 2nd place finish.
The car number would continue to go through a revolving door of drivers until 1986 when a young Alan Kulwicki ran his rookie season in the Quincy’s Steak House Ford. While his first 3 races were run in the No. 32, the team switched to No. 35 at Atlanta and used it for the rest of the season. Kulwicki had a best finish of 4th at Martinsville and eventually finished 21st in the point standings.
The following season the number jumped once more, this time to owner Rick Hendrick. With driver Tim Richmond on the sidelines, Hendrick campaigned a No. 35 Folgers Chevrolet for Benny Parsons. The year got off to a hot start as Parsons finished 2nd to Bill Elliott in the season opening Daytona 500. He would finish 2nd again three weeks later at Atlanta, this time to Ricky Rudd. Parsons would go on to have a successful season, finishing with six top-fives and nine top-10s, including another 2nd place finish late in the season at Riverside.
After Parsons departed from Hendrick, the No. 35 was in search of a new home. Bill Venturini drove a handful of races in the early 90s but it wasn’t until 1998 that the number found a new permanent team.
After debuting in late 1997, owner Bob Hancher was ready to run the 1998 season with driver Todd Bodine in the Tabasco Pontiac. The team got off to a rough start, failing to qualify for the first three races of the season. The following week would see the circuit head to Atlanta for the Primestar 500. Bodine surprised the field by qualifying on the outside of the front row. He led 46 laps and eventually finished in 10th.
Unfortunately the success, and team, was short lived. Future Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip eventually found himself in the car and struggled through the remainder of the 1998 season.
After the team closed shop the number bounced around once again until 2013, when Front Row Motorsports and driver Josh Wise drove the full schedule. The team had an average finish of 34.9 and failed to finish any races in the top ten. Cole Whitt took over driving duties in 2015, improving to an average finish of 28.7 but also failing to finish in the top 10. To date this was the last full season the No. 35 has run in the Cup series. In fact the number has not been seen at all since 2016 when David Gilliland drove two races in the No. 35 and finished 17th at Talladega, and 19th at Daytona.
In total the number has seen the track 322 times but has never been the first to see the checkered flag. Bodine’s run at Atlanta was the final top-10, and the number has not finished in the top-five in over 30 years.
Despite the long list of Hall of Fame caliber drivers that have had this number on their door, the No. 35 car has been one of the least successful in NASCAR history. Fortunately, there is plenty of history yet to be written.