A look through NASCAR’s 200 Cup Series winners

2 Comments

With his first career win Sunday at Phoenix Raceway, Chase Briscoe became the 200th different driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race.

That gives us a chance to highlight the milestone winners throughout the division’s history, dating back 73 years to 1949. Plus, see where some of the sport’s legends land in NASCAR history:

1. Jim Roper: Roper won the inaugural Cup Series race on June 19, 1949 at Charlotte Speedway, a 3/4-mile dirt track unrelated to the modern-day Charlotte Motor Speedway. Roper competed in just one other premier series event and finished 15th at Occoneechee Speedway, where Bob Block became the series’ third winner.

2. Red Byron: Byron, the first Cup Series champion, won the division’s second race, claiming the checkered flag on the Daytona Beach and Road Course on July 10, 1949. Byron earned both of his Cup wins that season.

6. Lee Petty: The patriarch of the Petty family legacy became the sixth different winner in NASCAR with his victory at Heidelberg Raceway, a half-mile dirt track in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Oct. 2, 1949. Petty won 54 career races in 427 starts

25. Danny Weinberg: Weinberg earned his lone Cup victory in October 1951 at Marchblanks Speedway, a half-mile dirt track in Hanford, California. Weinberg made 17 career starts through 1964 and nabbed seven top fives and nine top 10s.

39. Junior Johnson: “The Last Great American Hero” earned his first of 50 Cup wins at Hickory Speedway on May 7, 1955, his first of five victories that season.

50. Jack Smith: Smith was a 26-time winner at the sport’s top level and claimed his first at Martinsville Speedway on Oct. 28, 1956. Smith competed from 1949-64, highlighted by a five-win season in 1962.

68. Ned Jarrett: Jarrett, patriarch of his family’s racing legacy, won his first Cup race at Myrtle Beach Speedway in South Carolina on Aug. 1, 1959. Jarrett won 50 times to accompany two series championships, claiming the title in 1961 and 1965.

70. Richard Petty: The King of NASCAR won his first of a record 200 career wins at the Southern States Fairgrounds in Charlotte, North Carolina on Feb. 28, 1960. Petty eventually earned seven Cup Series championships.

78. David Pearson: The man who ranks second to Richard Petty in wins with 105 career triumphs. Pearson’s first came in the 1961 World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway driving for Ray Fox.

87. Wendell Scott: Scott became the first Black driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race on Dec. 1, 1963 at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida. However, Scott was not credited with the win until hours later as track promotors didn’t want a Black driver with a white trophy girl. His family was given the trophy ahead of the 2021 regular-season finale at Daytona.

90. A.J. Foyt: The journeyman motorsports legend became the 90th different driver to win in the Cup Series with his victory in the 1964 Firecracker 400 at Daytona. Foyt was a seven-time winner, including a triumph in the 1972 Daytona 500.

93. Cale Yarborough: Yarborough, who won the championship from 1976-78, earned his first win at Valdosta 75 Speedway, a half-mile dirt track in Valdosta, Georgia. Yarborough finished his career with 83 victories.

98. Bobby Allison: Allison, the 1983 champion, won his first of 84 races at Oxford Plains Speedway, a 1/3-mile asphalt oval in Oxford, Maine.

100. Mario Andretti: Perhaps the most transcendent name in motorsports became NASCAR’s 100th different winner in the Cup Series. His lone Cup win came in the 1967 Daytona 500 for Holman-Moody Racing.

112. Darrell Waltrip: Waltrip, a three-time champion, became a Cup winner on May 10, 1975 with a victory at the Nashville Fairgrounds. Like Allison, Waltrip won 84 times in the premier series.

116. Dale Earnhardt: Before he was known as “The Intimidator,” Earnhardt earned his first win on April 1, 1979 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Earnhardt became a seven-time champion and 76-race winner.

124. Bill Elliott: The sport’s 16-time Most Popular Driver won at Riverside International Raceway on Nov. 20, 1983 for his first career Cup win. Elliott, father of Chase, won 44 times as well as the 1988 championship.

128. Rusty Wallace: Fifty-five-time winner Rusty Wallace nabbed his first career win at Bristol on April 6, 1986. The 1989 champion raced through the 2005 season.

134. Alan Kulwicki: Kulwicki, the 1992 champion, only won five times in his tragically shortened career but earned his first at Phoenix on Nov. 8, 1988, introducing the world to his “Polish victory lap,” driving backwards around the track to salute the fans with his driver-side facing the crowd.

135. Mark Martin: Martin claimed his first of 40 wins on Oct. 22, 1989 at Rockingham Speedway in North Carolina. Though he never won the Cup championship, Martin finished runner-up in points five times.

139. Dale Jarrett: Jarrett, the son of Ned, won his first race in a photo finish with Davey Allison at Michigan International Speedway in 1991. Jarrett earned 32 wins in addition to the 1999 Cup championship.

141. Jeff Gordon: A four-time title winner, Gordon won the Coca-Cola 600 in 1994 for his first of 93 victories, third-most behind Petty and Pearson.

149. Tony Stewart: Three-time champion Stewart won three races in his rookie season in 1999. The first of those victories came at Richmond Raceway on Sept. 11.

150. Joe NemechekNemechek became winner No. 150 on Sept. 19, 1999 with a victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Nemechek, father of Truck and Xfinity Series driver John Hunter Nemechek, won four times in his Cup career.

151. Dale Earnhardt Jr.He went to Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway on April 2, 2000, the first of two victories in his rookie season. Earnhardt, who was voted Most Popular Driver 15 times, won 26 events, including two Daytona 500s.

152. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth earned his first win in the 2000 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Kenseth won the 2003 championship in addition to 39 races.

156. Kevin HarvickIn only his third start driving in place of the late Dale Earnhardt, Harvick, the 2014 champion, earned his first of 58 Cup victories at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2001.

160. Kurt BuschThe 2004 series champion won the 2002 Food City 500 at Bristol for his first of 33 career wins.

161. Jimmie Johnson: Before joining Petty and Earnhardt as seven-time champions, Johnson earned his first career victory in April 2002 at Auto Club Speedway, the first of three wins in his rookie year.

168. Kyle BuschBusch, now the lone active driver with two Cup championships, earned his first win at Auto Club on Sept. 4, 2005. Busch is the winningest active driver with 59 victories.

169. Denny HamlinHamlin snagged his first win at Pocono Raceway in June 2006 and went on to sweep the track’s races in his rookie year. Hamlin now has 46 career wins.

172. Martin Truex Jr.Truex earned his first win at Dover International Speedway in June 2007 and now has 31 total wins. Truex won the 2017 championship.

175. Brad KeselowskiThe 2012 champion won at Talladega Superspeedway in April 2009 for his first of 35 career victories.

177. Joey LoganoLogano’s first win came in a rain-shortened event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, his home track, in his rookie year of 2009. Logano won the 2018 title and now has 27 career victories.

186. Kyle LarsonThe defending series champion claimed his first victory at Michigan in 2016 while driving for Chip Ganassi Racing. With 11 wins in the past two seasons, Larson now has 17 career triumphs.

189. Ryan BlaneyBlaney fought off Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch to bring the Wood Brothers back to Victory Lane at Pocono in June 2017. Blaney, now driving for Team Penske, has seven career wins.

191. Chase ElliottThe 2020 champion earned his first win at Watkins Glen International in August 2018 and currently sits at 13 wins.

192. Alex BowmanBowman, who most recently won at Las Vegas, visited Victory Lane for the first time at Chicagoland Speedway in June 2019. Vegas marked Bowman’s seventh win.

198. Bubba WallaceWallace became the first Black driver since Scott in 1963 to win a Cup Series race by nabbing a rain-shortened victory at Talladega in October 2021.

199. Austin CindricCindric became the first rookie to win the Daytona 500 since Trevor Bayne in 2011.

200. Chase Briscoe: Briscoe made history as the sport’s 200th winner Sunday at Phoenix, driving for boyhood idol and team owner Tony Stewart at Phoenix.

Dr. Diandra: Is Talladega really the biggest, fastest, fiercest track?

0 Comments

Talladega Superspeedway has a reputation as one of the wildest tracks on the NASCAR circuit.

Is it hype? Or do the numbers prove the point?

The biggest

Talladega is the longest oval track in the NASCAR circuit. At 2.66 miles (14,045 feet), one Talladega lap is the length of about 468 football fields. Talladega is longer than Mauna Kea is tall.

If we measure lengths in terms of Talladega:

  • The distance from Charlotte to Nashville (the location of the NASCAR awards ceremony) is 339 Talladegas.
  • If you flew direct from Los Angeles to New York City, you would cover 2500 Talladegas.
  • Martinsville is just 0.20 Talladegas.

Talladega also holds the record for banking in current Cup Series tracks with 33 degrees. Talladega’s banking is so high that the outside lane of the 48-foot wide racing surface is 26.1 feet higher than the inside lane. That difference is about the height of a two-story house.

Talladega is a tri-oval. Think of it as three straight lines connected by three curves.

A graphic showing the tri-oval shape and how it got its name

 

While tri-oval describes the track shape, it is also used to refer to the frontstretch — the most triangular part of the track.

And Talladega’s frontstretch is formidable. The 4,300-foot segment is banked at 16.5 degrees. Talladega’s frontstretch has more banking than all three of Pocono’s turns.

The backstretch, known as the Alabama Gang Superstretch, isn’t too shabby, either. It’s 1,000 feet longer than Daytona’s backstretch. If you were to unroll Richmond, its entire 0.75-mile length would just cover Talladega’s backstretch.

Talladega’s infield is so large that it could hold the L.A. Coliseum, Martinsville, Bristol, Dover, Richmond and the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

A graphic showing that it's possible to pack five smaller tracks, plus the NASCAR Hall of Fame into Talladega's infield

The Fastest

Bill France Sr. originally envisioned Talladega as Indianapolis Motor Speedway with higher banking. At a time when raw speed was the big attraction, higher banking would allow Talladega to wrest away the closed-track speed record from Indy.

In 1970, just six months after Talladega hosted its first race, Buddy Baker became the first driver to break the 200 mph mark on a closed course.

Baker’s breakthrough happened at a testing session. It wasn’t until 1982 that Benny Parsons became the first Cup Series driver to qualify over 200 mph. Just four years later, all but one of the 42 drivers starting the spring race qualified over 200 mph.

In May 1987, Bill Elliott set the all-time Cup Series qualifying record at 212.809 mph. That record will likely never be broken. During the race, Bobby Allison got airborne and crashed into the catchfence. NASCAR subsequently mandated restrictor plates (and now tapered spacers) to keep speeds down and cars on the ground.

Restricting airflow to the engine makes drafting even more important. That, in turn, leads to large packs of cars racing within inches of each other. That’s why four of the top-10 closest finishes in the Cup Series happened at Talladega.

In the spring 2011 race, Jimmie Johnson beat Clint Bowyer by just two-thousandths (0.002) of a second. That ties the famous 2003 Ricky Craven/Kurt Busch Darlington finish for the smallest margin of victory in Cup Series history.

Of all Talladega races run after NASCAR introduced electronic scoring in May 1993, 44 ended under a green flag. Of those races:

  • Seven (15.9%) were won by less than 25 thousandths of a second.
  • Fifteen (34.1%) were won by less than one-tenth of a second.
  • Thirty-nine (88.6%) were won by less than two-tenths of a second.
  • The largest margin of victory was 0.388 seconds.

The Fiercest

Pack racing leads to more contact. Out of 35 Talladega races run under the current green-white-checkered rule, 14 (40%) ended under caution. Rain caused one of those yellow/checkered finishes. The rest were due to accidents.

In 64 races since 1990, Talladega has seen 228 caution-causing spins or accidents, which involved 1,120 cars.

Almost half (49.2%) of these incidents involved only one or two cars. A one- or two-car accident is no less problematic for the drivers involved than a larger crash. But the more cars involved in accidents, the more likely a driver is to be knocked out of the race.

  • 3.5% of all accidents since 1990 involved 20 or more cars.
  • 5.7% of accidents collected 15 or more cars.
  • 16.7% were 10-car or larger crashes.
  • 38.2% involved five or more cars.

While probable, the Big One is by no means inevitable.

Neither are accidents in general. Three races since 1990 finished with no cautions, but all three of these races took place before 2003. The lowest number of cautions in a Talladega race since 2003 is three. That happened at the fall races in 2013 and 2015.

The average number of caution-causing accidents and spins in a Talladega race is 3.5.

  • Seven races (10.9%) had a single caution-causing accident or spin.
  • 14 out of 64 races (21.9%) had four caution-causing accidents or spins
  • 13 of 64 races (20.3%) had three caution-causing incidents.

Races with four or fewer accidents make up 71.9% of all Talladega races — which means that races with five or more accidents only account for 28.1%.

The numbers definitely uphold Talladega’s reputation. Although the track itself remains the same, the racing varies. Tune in to NBC (2 p.m. ET) to see whether this fall’s bout is accident-filled or accident-free.

Talladega Xfinity results: AJ Allmendinger edges Sam Mayer

0 Comments

AJ Allmendinger, who had had several close calls in Xfinity Series superspeedway races, finally broke through to Victory Lane Saturday, edging Sam Mayer to win at Talladega Superspeedway.

Allmendinger’s margin of victory was .015 of a second. Mayer finished second by a few feet.

Following in the top five were Landon Cassill (Allmendinger’s Kaulig Racing teammate and his drafting partner at the end), Ryan Sieg and Josh Berry.

Noah Gragson, who had won four straight Xfinity races entering Saturday, was 10th. Austin Hill dominated the race but finished 14th.

MORE: Talladega Xfinity results

MORE: Talladega Xfinity driver points

AJ Allmendinger wins Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

0 Comments

Veteran driver AJ Allmendinger slipped past youngster Sam Mayer in the final seconds and won Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway.

As drivers in the lead pack scrambled for position approaching the finish line, Allmendinger moved to the outside and, getting a push from Kaulig Racing teammate Landon Cassill, edged Mayer by a few feet. The win ended frustration for Allmendinger on superspeedways.

Following Allmendinger, 40, at the finish were Mayer (who is 19 years old), Cassill, Ryan Sieg and Josh Berry.

Noah Gragson and Allmendinger have qualified for the next playoff round. The other six drivers above the cutline are Ty Gibbs, Austin Hill, Josh Berry, Justin Allgaier, Mayer and Sieg. Below the cutline are Daniel Hemric, Brandon Jones, Riley Herbst and Jeremy Clements.

MORE: Talladega Xfinity results

MORE: Talladega Xfinity driver points

“This is Talladega,” a wildly happy Allmendinger told NBC Sports. “Yes, I hate superspeedway racing, but it’s awesome to win in front of the Talladega crowd.”

Austin Hill dominated the race but dropped out of the lead to 14th place  in the closing five laps as drivers moved up and down the track in search of the best drafting line.

The first half of the race featured two and sometimes three drafting lines with a lot of movement and blocking near the front. In the final stage, the leaders ran lap after lap in single file, with Hill, Allmendinger and Gragson in the top three.

MORE: Safety key topic as drivers meet at Talladega

Hill led 60 laps and won the first two stages but finished 14th.

Gragson was in pursuit of a fifth straight Xfinity Series win. He finished 10th.

Remarkably for a Talladega race, the entire 38-car field finished. The race was the 1,300th in Xfinity history, marking only the third time the entire field had been running at the finish. The other two races were at Michigan in 1998 and Langley Speedway in Virginia in 1988.

Stage 1 winner: Austin Hill

Stage 2 winner: Austin Hill

Who had a good race: AJ Allmendinger got the “can’t win on superspeedways” monkey off his back with a great final lap. … Sam Mayer made all the right moves but was passed in the madness of the final run down the trioval. … Landon Cassill finished a strong third and gave Allmendinger, his teammate, the winning push.

Who had a bad race: The race had to be disappointing for Austin Hill, who ran the show for most of the afternoon, winning two stages and leading 60 laps, more than twice as many as any other driver. While blocking to try to maintain the lead late in the race, he fell to 14th. … Playoff driver Jeremy Clements finished a sour 20th and is 47 points below the cutline.

Next: The Xfinity Series’ next playoff race is scheduled Oct. 8 at 3 p.m. (ET) on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. The race will be broadcast by NBC.

Safety key topic in meeting for drivers at Talladega

0 Comments

TALLADEGA, Ala. — Cup drivers met Friday with Jeff Burton, director of the Drivers Advisory Council, and discussed safety issues ahead of this weekend’s playoff race, which will be without two drivers due to concussion-like symptoms from crashes.

Alex Bowman and Kurt Busch will not race Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. 

Busch suffered his head injury in a crash at Pocono in July. Bowman’s injury followed his crash last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. Both were injured in accidents where the rear of the car hit the SAFER barrier first.

Two drivers injured in less than three months — and the series racing at a track where crashes are likely — raises tension in the Cup garage. 

Denny Hamlin blasted NASCAR on Saturday, saying it was “bad leadership” for not addressing safety concerns drivers had with the car. Hamlin also said that the Next Gen vehicle needs to be redesigned.

Burton, who also is an analyst for NBC Sports, said in an exclusive interview that Friday’s meeting was lengthy because there were several topics to discuss. Burton didn’t go into details on all the topics.

Safety was a key element of that meeting. Burton, whose role with the Drivers Advisory Council is to coordinate the group and communicate with NASCAR, discussed the cooperation level with NASCAR.

“We feel like we have cooperation with NASCAR,” he said. “We know the commitments from NASCAR. They’ve made real commitments to us. We want to see those commitments through. I believe that we will in regards to changes to the car. 

“We want to see that come to conclusion as soon as possible. They have made commitments to us and are showing us what is happening, communicating with us in regard to timing, and we want to see it come to conclusion, as they do. 

“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get some changes done before last weekend. It just takes a long time to test stuff.”

NASCAR has a crash test scheduled next week on a new rear clip and rear bumper. Even if the test goes well, there’s not enough time for any such changes this season with five races left.

The frustration from drivers — and voiced by Hamlin and Kevin Harvick — has been that NASCAR was informed about issues with a stiffer car for more than a year. Some questions were raised after William Byron crashed in a test in March 2020 at Auto Club Speedway.

“William Byron busted his ass at (Auto Club) Speedway and that should have raised a red flag right off the bat,” Harvick said Saturday.

Hamlin said more drivers needed to speak up about concerns with the car.

“I know a lot of young guys are just happy to be here, but they ain’t going to be happy when their brains are scrambled for the rest of their lives,” Hamlin said.

Byron is looking for changes to be made.

“I want to have a long career, and I don’t want to have a series of concussions that make me either have to step way from the car or have to think about long-term things,” he said.

Chase Elliott also shared his frustrations Saturday.

“You come off a week like we had in Texas and somebody getting injured and then you come into here, where odds are we’re probably all going to hit something at some point (Sunday) and probably not lightly at that,” Elliot said.

So what do drivers do?

“Do you just not show up?” Elliott said. “Do you just not run? I don’t think that’s feasible to ask. There’s always an inherent risk in what we do and it’s always been that way. 

“My frustration is … I just hate that we put ourselves in the box that we’re in right now. It’s just disappointing that we’ve put ourselves here and we had a choice. We did this to ourselves as an industry. 

“That should have just never been the case. We should not have put ourselves in the box that we’re in right now. So my disappointment lies in that that we had years and time and opportunity to make this thing right before we put it on track and we didn’t, and now we’re having to fix it. 

“I just hate that we did that. I think we’re smarter than that. I think there’s just a lot of men and women that work in this garage that know better and we shouldn’t have been here.”

Burton told NBC Sports that drivers did not discuss in Friday’s meeting running single-file in Sunday’s race as a form of protest.

“It wouldn’t be surprising for me to see single-file (racing Sunday) because of what happened at Texas and what could happen next week (at the Charlotte Roval),” Burton said. “Drivers need a period of calmness. 

“There was not a discussion, a collaborated effort or any sort of thing of how you race (Sunday). That conversation did not come up in that meeting.”

Harvick said Saturday that he’ll continue to be vocal about safety issues.

“I’ll do whatever I have to do to make sure these guys are in a good spot,” Harvick said. “Whatever I have to do.”

Harvick later said: “I don’t think any of us want to be in this position. We have to have the safety we deserve to go out and put on a great show and be comfortable with that. 

“Obviously, we all have taken the risks of being race car drivers, but there’s no reason we should be in a worse position than we were last year.”

Harvick said it was a matter of trust.

“The reality of the situation is much different than what they’re looking at,” Harvick said of NASCAR officials. “I think that the trust level is obviously not where it needs to be from getting it fixed. I think they’re going to have to earn the trust level back of reacting quick enough to do the things that it takes. The drivers’ opinion, especially when it comes to safety side of things, has to be more important than the data or more important than the cost. Safety can’t be a budget item.”

Corey LaJoie, who is a member of the Drivers Advisory Council board, said that while challenges remain with the car, he sees the effort being made by NASCAR.

“Nothing happens quick in this deal when you have 38 teams and you have seven cars per team,” LaJoie told NBC Sports. “It has to be a well-thought-out process to implement the changes.

“It’s easy to get up in arms and prickly when we have guys like Alex and Kurt out. You don’t ever want that to happen. Every conversation I’m having is what we, as the Driver Council, is trying to communicate to NASCAR and NASCAR making proactive changes and moving timelines up aggressively to try to implement these changes.”