Kevin Rutherford · Tuesday October 29, 2013
When Darrell Wallace, Jr. won Saturday’s Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway, it wasn’t merely the first win for an African-American driver since Wendell Scott. It was Wallace’s first win, and the eighth time a first-time winner had scored the victory at Martinsville in the Camping World Truck Series.
In the closing laps, a graphic on the TV broadcast of the race indicated that the Virginia track was already the speedway with the most first-time winners in the series. Seven men — Timothy Peters, Scott Riggs, Bobby Hamilton, Ricky Craven, Jamie McMurray, Denny Hamlin and Bobby Labonte — had won there in the past. Wallace’s triumph only added not only to that number, but also to the slate of winners at Martinsville across all three top series, tying a record in the process.
Entering Martinsville weekend, the track had produced 23 first-time winners across the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series since each’s inception. Now, the number hits 24, tying it with Daytona for the most across the three series.
That’s not too surprising; both tracks have been around since or near NASCAR’s beginning. In fact, the distinction of most first-time winners in a given series at any track belongs to Daytona, with 17 different drivers victorious for the first time in the Sprint Cup Series at the superspeedway. That list includes open-wheel greats Mario Andretti, AJ Foyt and Johnny Rutherford. Martinsville isn’t outdone by much, producing 12 first-time winners in Cup — Herb Thomas, Fred Lorenzen and Dave Marcis among them.
Looking closer among each series, the Cup Series has also claimed 12 first-time winners at Charlotte, including such NASCAR greats as David Pearson, Jeff Gordon and Tim Flock. Talladega has produced 10, while the now-defunct Riverside International Raceway saw eight first-time winners.
The Nationwide Series, since its inception in 1982, is paced by 13 first-time winners at Dover — interesting, considering that the Cup Series has seen only two drivers win for the first time at the track. In a close second, 10 drivers won for the first time at Hickory Speedway, the North Carolina short track that saw its last series race in 1998, though not before introducing Larry Pearson, Johnny Rumley and more to Victory Lane.
In the Truck Series, the next spot below Martinsville is Homestead, with six first-time winners — most recently Cale Gale in the series’ final race in 2012. Texas and Dover are also hotbeds for new victors in the series, with five apiece.
In all, Daytona and Martinsville only pace Charlotte by a race; the headquarters for NASCAR has a total of 23 first-time winners over the three series. Dover is also nearby with 20 — though, again, only two come from Cup.
Interestingly, a few Cup tracks have not yet produced first-time winners. Kentucky’s one of them, though it gets a pass due to its short time on the schedule. The others? Homestead, Chicagoland, Kansas and Las Vegas.
Finally, a look ahead: at the final three races, which tracks could do with some more first-time winners to pad their stats? Texas has 10 total (two in Cup, three in Nationwide, five in Trucks), while Phoenix has only managed six (two in Cup, one in Nationwide, three in Trucks). Homestead has nine total, though as previously stated, all come from the Nationwide and Truck Series.
Could 2013 be a first for Homestead in that regard, along with a (hopefully) hotly contested title battle? Stay tuned.
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