Dale Earnhardt famously once said, “second place is just the first loser.” Ironically, if this rings true, Earnhardt was the first loser 70 times in his illustrious, seven-championship career. Only four drivers have tallied more career second-place finishes than the Intimidator.
Currently sitting with 45 second-place finishes, Kyle Busch has been largely vocal about his frustration about finishing second too. Busch’s exasperation has produced several memorable soundbites, including “just imagine if all of those seconds were wins,” or more bluntly, “second sucks.”
While Busch and Earnhardt have vented about second place, this past weekend at Kansas, second place was the position to be in for two drivers who are in the midst of the best stretches of their young careers.
After a ridiculous save and extremely aggressive racing, Ross Chastain was looking to catch his breath and cruise home second in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race. Chastain cashed in on a victory when the leader’s gas tank ran dry.
Alex Bowman tallied his third career runner-up finish in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event. Bowman scored his first runner-up finish three races ago. If you math correctly, the Hendrick Motorsports driver has tallied three seconds in a row.
Bowman has had a roller coaster ride of emotions during this three-race stretch, from celebrating the mark at Talladega to sulking in the same finishing position at Kansas two weeks later. Yet, through the history of runners up, there has been no limit of sentiments experienced by the “first loser”:
After the 1959 Daytona 500, runner-up Johnny Beauchamp was fuming… three days after the race was over.
After the 1991 Banquet 300, runner-up Ricky Rudd was enraged after a penalty cost him the win.
After the 1997 Daytona 500, runner-up Terry Labonte celebrated with his teammates in victory lane.
After the 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400, runner-up Kurt Busch was happily stunned.
After the 2018 Daytona 500, runner-up Bubba Wallace let his emotions have free rein in the media center.
For Bowman, victory has been long awaited with his vast array of emotions. While Bowman’s quest to attain his first career win will have to wait at least another week, the Arizonan set a MENCS record for most consecutive second-place finishes without a win.
While he owns that record with three, Bowman does not own the title of the most seconds without a win. That honor goes to GC Spencer, who tallied seven throughout his career.
While Spencer never found victory lane, Richard Petty, who found victory lane quite often as the winningest driver in NASCAR, holds the record for the most runner-up finishes all time, ahead of 243 others who have finished second in a MENCS event. With 200 wins and 157 second places, to quote Kyle Busch again, “just imagine if all those seconds were wins.”
At second on the all-time win list, David Pearson is tied for second on the career runner-up charts too at 88 seconds with Bobby Allison, who currently also sits tied for fourth on the all-time win list. Jeff Gordon (74) and Earnhardt (70) round out the top five for this dubious honor.
A total of 21 active MENCS driver have finished second at least once in their career. Only Bowman, Wallace, and Daniel Suarez have yet to find victory lane from that contingent.
For Bowman, it may only be a matter of time or it may never come, but there has to be a “first loser” for there to be a winner.
The complete list of “first losers” is listed below.
|Driver||Career 2nd Place Finishes|
|Dale Earnhardt Jr||32|
|*Martin Truex Jr||19|
|Juan Pablo Montoya||4|
|Johnny Benson Jr||3|
|*Ricky Stenhouse Jr||2|
|Wally Dallenbach Jr||2|
|*Darrell Wallace Jr||1|
|Jesse James Taylor||1|
|Joe Lee Johnson||1|
*Active MENCS drivers