December 24, 2013
Top 10 NASCAR Drivers Without A Cup Title
Racing is full of goals. Leading laps, winning races, (especially the Daytona 500) and of course being the champion, is the objective of every driver on the track. Of the thousands of competitors in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup racing division, almost every driver has led at least a few laps, a few hundred have won races, but even more importantly, only a handful have won Daytona or championship.
However, many of the drivers who have not won a title have had stellar careers. Either through misfortune, illness, not competing for a full season, or competing in an era with other exceptional drivers, they missed gaining a title, sometimes by only a few points.
According to Yahoo Sports, this is a list of the top ten competitors who have never received a Cup Championship. I have been watching racing since the mid-1960s and although a few of these drivers were before my time, I have to agree with their pick for the top ten.
Tenth on the list is Geoffrey Bodine. He is the oldest brother of the Bodine racing family. He hails from Chemung, NY. His career in the modified ranks saw him winning countless races — 55 during the 1978 season alone. While in NASCAR’s highest level (now called Sprint Cup), he won a total of 18 races. One of them was a win in 1984 at Martinsville, which gave one of racing’s top notch car owners, Rick Hendrick, his first victory. He also won at the 1986 Daytona 500. His closet challenge for the title was in 1990, when he finished third in the points.
Ninth is Tim Richmond. His best year was 1986 when he won seven races and finished third in the points. The following year Richmond missed the Daytona 500 with what was thought to be double pneumonia. After his return, he won two more times, then missed more races. He died in 1989 at 34 years of age. Rumor was it was from AIDS. He had a short career, but won 13 times in just 185 total races.
Eighth place belongs to Denny Hamlin. Two times he was in reach of achieving a championship. In 2010, in the last race of the season, fuel played a role in him losing the title. And in 2012 at Martinsville, his master switch failed. Both incidents cost him a chance to win it all. He has 23 wins and has finished in the top five in points three times.
Seventh is Fred Lorenzen. He was nicknamed Fast Freddy and was a star racer at his home track in Chicago. He had 26 victories, including the 1965 Daytona 500. In 1963 he only competed in 29 of the 55 events that year. He won six and had 21 top-fives, bolting him to a third place finish in the points. Note, that fourth place in points had 24 more starts than Fred did.
Sixth was Ricky Rudd, nicknamed the Ironman. He holds the record for most consecutive starts in 788 races. He also won at least one race for 16 straight seasons. His best finish in the points was second in 1991.
Fifth place belongs Kyle Busch (Rowdy) who contends for the win in almost every race. But during the chase races (last ten to determine the champion), he has continually experienced mechanical problems and accidents when it counted the most. In 2008, Rowdy won eight races during the regular season, but the first three races of the chase brought disappointment with mechanical failures.
Fourth place goes to my personal favorite, Davy Allison. He had 19 victories in his short career. In 1992 he was in a battle for the title with Bill Elliot and Alan Kulwicki. During the last race of the season, the title went back and forth between the three for the whole race. It finally ended with Kulwicki as champion, Elliot second and Allison third in the closest points finish up to that date. Tragically, Davy was killed in a helicopter crash on July 13, 1993 while landing in the infield at Talladega Speedway.
Third is Glen “Fireball” Roberts. He won seven times at Daytona and had 33 total victories in his career. He finished second in points in 1950, but like a lot of drivers of that era, he didn’t compete in every race, only the high paying ones. He was the sport’s biggest money winner until 1964 when he was involved in a fiery crash that ended his career and eventually dying from blood poisoning at the age of 35. This incident prompted safety regulations to begin.
Second place is Mark Martin who won 40 races and was second in points five times. The closest Mark came to a title was in 1990 when he was penalized 46 points for an illegal carburetor space. ultimately losing the title by 26 points. In 2009, Mark won five races and finished second in the points, while being in his 50s.
The number one driver without a championship is Junior Johnson. He was a “Jack of all trades” so to speak. He ran moonshine, was a winning driver, a crew chief, engine builder, and championship car owner. But he never won one himself. His 14-year driving career ended in 1966 with 50 total wins and winning Daytona in 1960. In 1965 he won 13 races, but finished twelfth in the points, mainly because he only raced 36 out of the 55 races that year. As a car owner, he won 132 races and six titles. He was inducted into the hall of fame in 2010.
Although these drivers were recognized and named the top ten, there are many other notable drivers without championships from the past and present.