The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is undoubtedly the pinnacle of stock car racing. Every driver who has made even one start dreams of scoring a win. It’s an exclusive club, with only 186 members as of the start of the 2017 season. The best beating the best when they are at their best. But what about the rest?
For every one of those 186 winners, there are dozens who finished out their time behind the wheel without a single Cup trophy. The reasons why are varied. However, there are many drivers whose lack of a win defies logic. Maybe they never had the best equipment in Cup. Maybe their luck was downright pitiful. Maybe they needed just one little break that never came.
So here’s my personal thoughts on the best of the almost, should-have, would-have, near miss, and hard luck drivers and where they rank in comparison to the others in that category. Take a gander for yourself. See if you agree or if you feel I’m destined to join them as another one who could never quite get it right.
How the Rankings Are Calculated: This week, unlike others, is merely the view of the author Frank Velat. He compiled a list of the top drivers who never reached victory lane in the premier division of NASCAR. Then, he factored in things like success in other series, quality of equipment and personnel, performance of other drivers in that ride, and more. Throw in a reason why they should’ve won, a reason why they didn’t and the closest they came to victory and there you have it. The 10 best drivers to never win a Cup race.
Why he should have: Two-time truck champ driving for Richard Childress Racing
Why he didn’t: Probably because NASCAR didn’t run points races in Japan
Closest call: 2000 Diehard 500 (finished second)
Why he should have: Drove for Roush Racing alongside winners Mark Martin and Jeff Burton
Why he didn’t: I don’t know why. You probably don’t know why. I don’t think Ted even knows why
Closest call: 1997 TranSouth 400 (finished second)
Why he should have: Open wheel ace driving for Bill Davis during that team’s peak era
Why he didn’t: A pit road mishap at Atlanta will always be a sore spot for Blaney fans
Closest call: 2001 Cracker Barrel 500 (lost a wheel after leading much of the race)
Why he should have: 560 starts would give anyone a fair share of chances
Why he didn’t: Tough to break through when Petty, Pearson, Yarborough, Allison, and Waltrip are in the field every week
Closest call: 1979 Winston 500 (led two laps and finished third)
Why he should have: Truck champion and XFINITY winner made 241 starts
Why he didn’t: Only had a few starts in a top tier ride
Closest call: 1994 Hooters 500 (finished third)
Why he should have: Several high profile rides, including RCR and Dale Earnhardt Inc.
Why he didn’t: Maybe the Green brothers were just better at XFINITY racing. After all, he did win that championship by over 500 points in 2000.
Closest call: 2002 New England 300 (finished second)
Why he should have: He won over a thousand short track races. That’ll certainly set an expectation for success.
Why he didn’t: Another racer whose ride didn’t provide them with the chance to reach their potential
Closest call: 1997 Goody’s 500 (finished third)
Why he should have: Not only did he make 449 starts, but he finished in the top five 29 times.
Why he didn’t: 29 top fives don’t help when Richard Petty still finishes ahead of you in over half of them
Closest call: 1975 Mason-Dixon 500 (finished second)
Why he should have: Had a seat at Hendrick Motorsports during the one of the most impressive runs any team has ever had
Why he didn’t: NASCAR only runs two events on road courses each year
Closest call: 1995 Bud at the Glen (finished second)
Why he should have: Short track wheelman who spent several competitive seasons in the XFINITY Series
Why he didn’t: Yet another driver limited by rides that weren’t too prestigious. Plus, he was a 36-year-old rookie
Closest call: 2001 Tropicana 400 (finished second)