89 days remain until they fire the engines at Daytona, so the focus today is on a number that has seen scarce use compared to others in NASCAR’s top series. Car no. 89 has only been used in 266 races. By comparison, number 43 has been used 1,809 times and the second-most frequently used number, 11 have started 1,735 Sprint Cup races.
Al Keller led things off at the treacherous Langhorn Speedway in 1949; NASCAR’s fourth ever race. Keller drove his ’49 Ford to an eighth place finish after starting 22nd. Keller made a total of 29 Sprint Cup starts, but only used the number 89 two other times. A host of NASCAR legends used the number 89, including 1952 champion Tim Flock, Buck Baker, Ned Jarrett, Buddy Baker, and the first African American driver to win a race, Wendell Scott.
Buck Baker was the first to win in car 89; that win came in 1952 at Columbia Speedway in Columbia, South Carolina. Baker also won in car no. 89 three years later at the .750 mile Charlotte Speedway. Baker made a total of 635 starts, winning 46 races and two championships. Baker will be featured in the coming days in upcoming articles.
The number 89 has two notable wins. The first was when Buddy Shuman won the only points-paying Cup race to date outside the United States later in 1952. That win came at Stamford Park in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Shuman’s victory was his only win in 29 starts. NASCAR hasn’t journeyed outside the country since for a points race.
The other notable victory came for driver Joe Lee Johnson, winner of the first World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Johnson bested Johnny Beauchamp by four laps to take the victory and a $27,150 payday. Adjusted for inflation, that figure would be $197,599.65.
Beginning in 1983, the no. 89 became most associated with the Mueller Brothers Racing Team and their Evinrude Outboards backed cars. Based out of Wisconsin, the Mueller Brothers used drivers from the Midwest, many from the ASA ranks. Their first driver was Dean Roper, a three-time USAC national stock car champion. Jim Sauter, father of Jay, Johnny, and Tim drove the majority of the races from 1985-1993, with Rodney Combs driving the car in 1989. Sauter had limited success in the partial schedule the Meuller Bros. ran; his best finish was a 10th in the wreck-strewn 1987 Oakwood Homes 500.
Female driver Patty Moise made her first Sprint Cup start in 1987 in a car prepared by Marc Reno and Ernie Irvan at Watkins Glen. Moise crashed her no. 89 butter-flavored Crisco machine and made just four more Cup starts before transferring over to the Nationwide Series.
The Mueller Bros. last start came in 1993 at Michigan. They tried to run a partial schedule in 1994 with Sauter, but failed to qualify for a race that year. The Mueller Bros. returned for a partial schedule in 1996 in the Camping World Truck Series, but used the numbers 4 and 42. Their two drivers were current Roush-Fenway racing GM Robby Reiser and 2011 Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart.
Aside from a one-off by Dennis Setzer in 1998 at Talladega, the only other driver to use no. 89 in the last decade is the venerable Morgan Shepherd. Shepherd made 32 starts from 2002-2006 before moving his team to the Nationwide Series, where he continues to use the number to this day.
In total, car no. 89 has scored a total of three poles, four wins, 18 top-fives and 58 top tens.