|Jimmy Hensley (born October 11, 1945) is a former NASCAR driver. With a career spanning 27 seasons in all three of NASCAR's elite divisions, Hensley may be best remembered for his Rookie of the Year award won in 1992 -- his 15th season in the series -- and for his nine career Nationwide Series wins.
Hensley's career began in 1972, driving for famous owner Junie Donlavey in the #90 Ford. Both of his starts that season came at Martinsville Speedway, the track being just ten miles from Hensley's hometown of Ridgeway, VA. Though an engine failure in his first start relegated Hensley to a 33rd place finish, he completed all but seven laps of the fall event, the Old Dominion 500, to finish fifth. Ironically, this top five in only his second start would end up being Hensley's best finish in his 98 career Winston Cup Series races.
Hensley competed again for Donlavey in the 1973 and 1974 Virginia 500 events, coming home in seventh and sixth places, respectively. For the 1974 Old Dominion 500, Hensley drove the #02 Chevrolet owned by Russell Large, finishing 19th. Beginning in 1975, Hensley drove the #63 Chevrolet for part-time owner Billy Moyer, competing in both Martinsville races each year until 1977 and registering a top ten each season. This fall race of '77, however, would be Hensley's last for several years.
Return to the series
In 1981, Hensley returned to the Winston Cup Series, driving in the fall Martinsville event for Cecil Gordon in the #24 Buick and bringing home a seventh place result. Hensley raced in three events the next year -- both Martinsville races, along with the September event at Richmond -- in D. K. Ulrich's #40 Buick. That same year, Hensley also competed in the inaugural Busch Series season, competing in 11 events and recording four top five finishes. Hensley spent the 1983 season out of Cup and in the Busch Series, where in 29 starts, he registered 16 top ten finishes.
For the next eight seasons, Hensley competed on-and-off in the Winston Cup Series and raced full-time in the Busch ranks. Behind the wheel of the #00 Oldsmobile in 1985, Hensley came home second in points, just 29 points behind champion Jack Ingram, after a season with three wins at Hickory, South Boston, and IRP. Hensley again finished second in points in 1987 driving the #5 Advance Auto Parts Buick, starting and finishing first in the season finale at Martinsville for his only win of the season. Just four races later, Hensley won again at Martinsville in the 1988 Miller Classic.
In 1989, Hensley drove 18 races in six different cars, recording a pole at Hickory but finishing no better than sixth. However, he returned to victory lane the next season driving the #25 Crown Oldsmobile, winning at Nazareth Speedway; he followed that in 1991 with a career-high three victories, winning at Martinsville, Hickory, and Rougemont.
The 1989 season also saw one of the more unusual occurrences in NASCAR history, with Hensley at the center of it. The powerful Hurricane Hugo, which battered the Carolinas on September 21st and 22nd, left driver Dale Earnhardt unable to make the trip to Martinsville for qualifying. Filling in behind the wheel of the #3 Chevrolet was Hensley, who took the pole; however, Earnhardt made it to the track for the race, so Hensley was left to watch the race from the pits.
Return to the Cup Series
Beginning in 1992, Hensley made a comeback in the Winston Cup Series, driving for world-renowned owner Cale Yarborough in the #66 TropArtic Ford. While competing in just 22 of 29 races and finishing no better than seventh, Hensley beat out several others, including current ARCA driver Andy Belmont, for the Rookie of the Year title.
For the next two years, Hensley continued to race part-time in the Cup Series for a variety of owners, including Ray DeWitt, Alan Kulwicki, Larry McClure, and Richard Petty. In just nine starts in the 1995 season, Hensley saw reduced success, coming home no higher than 30th place and recording five DNFs. He also cut back on his competition in the Busch Series, running just 13 events between 1992 and 1995 and recording a couple of top five finishes.
Craftsman Truck Series participation
Begining in 1995, Hensley began to compete in the newly-formed Craftsman Truck Series, driving in his first two seasons for owner Grier Lackey. It was in 1997, however, than Hensley began a relationship with Petty Enterprises, piloting the #43 Cummins Dodge in the next three seasons. At age 52 in 1998, Hensley found victory lane at Nashville and finished sixth in the final points standings. The next year, he finished first at Martinsville, recording what would be the last win of his career.
Hensley rounded out his career driving for Ed Rensi and Doc MacDonald in 2000 and 2001, respectively.
| Grand National Division Results
| K & N Pro Series East Results
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