NASCAR Power Rankings: The best who never won

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NASCAR Cup Series history is filled with drivers who never won a race — many who never came close to winning.

Some popped onto the scene for a few races, realized the difficulties associated with success, and moved on. Others stayed for years, generally satisfied with running somewhere in the middle of the pack and making enough money to show up at the next race.

Others were good enough to run consistently in the top 10 but couldn’t break through the checkered curtain.

MORE: Is Cup champion Joey Logano also Driver of the Year?

This week, with the off-season upon us and most of racing at rest, NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings takes a look at the best drivers (inactive with at least 100 starts) who, for one reason or another (or maybe several reasons), never took a Cup checkered flag first:

1. Mike Skinner (286 starts) — Skinner won the first Truck Series championship in 1995 and scored 28 Truck wins and one Xfinity victory but couldn’t break through in Cup. His best Cup seasons were as a teammate to Dale Earnhardt Sr. at Richard Childress Racing.

2. Rick Mast (364 starts) — Mast famously won the pole for the inaugural Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis, giving him the opportunity to entertain a new group of sports writers with his tale of trading a cow for a race car. He had seven top fives and 36 top 10s in Cup along with nine Xfinity Series victories.

3. Dave Blaney (473 starts) — An accomplished driver at many levels, Blaney had 28 Cup top 10s but is perhaps best remembered for a race in which he finished 15th — the 2012 Daytona 500. That race included one of the craziest moments in the sport’s history as driver Juan Pablo Montoya hit a track jet dryer during a caution period, causing it to explode and damage the track. During the two-hour red flag needed to repair the damage, Blaney led the race. If the track couldn’t be repaired or bad weather returned and the race ended early, Blaney would win the 500. He didn’t.

MORE: Silly Season scorecard: New faces, new places

4. Kenny Wallace (344 starts) — Wallace is most famous for a second-place finish — one of 27 top 10s in his Cup career. He drafted behind Dale Earnhardt Sr. over the closing miles of the October 2000 race at Talladega Superspeedway, boosting Earnhardt to what became his final victory. Wallace won nine Xfinity races.

5. Jeff Green (270 starts) — Sixteen Xfinity wins and the 2000 Xfinity championship didn’t translate into Cup success for Green, who had 16 Cup top 10s.

6. Richard Childress (285 starts)Childress made the NASCAR Hall of Fame by building a championship team with driver Dale Earnhardt Sr. His driving career didn’t reach that level, but he finished in the top 10 in points five times and had 76 top 10s.

7. Dick Trickle (303 starts) — Trickle won so many short-track races they eventually stopped counting. He had mixed success in Cup with 15 top fives and 36 top 10s. A claim to fame: Trickle was named Cup Rookie of the Year in 1989 — at the age of 48.

MORE: Dr. Diandra looks at 2022 through the numbers

8. Ted Musgrave (305 starts) — Musgrave had good rides with Roush Racing but couldn’t reach Victory Lane. He had 20 top fives and 55 top 10s.

9. Coo Coo Marlin (165 starts) — Marlin’s son Sterling had the bigger career, but Coo Coo was a dependable driver with nine top fives and 51 top 10s in 165 races.

10. Hut Stricklin (328 starts) — A lesson-known member of the Alabama Gang, Stricklin approached Victory Lane (eight top fives, 29 top 10s) but never stepped in.

Honorable mention: J.D. McDuffie, who made a record 653 starts without a win before losing his life at Watkins Glen International in an accident in 1991.

 

 

 

 

COTA Cup starting lineup

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Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron, who has won two of the first five races of the season, will lead the Cup field to the green flag Sunday at Circuit of the Americas.

Byron will be joined on the front row of the starting lineup by Tyler Reddick, the only driver to win multiple races at road courses last year.

MORE: COTA Cup starting lineup

Austin Cindric starts third and is joined in the second row by Jordan Taylor, who is filling in for the injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 Hendrick car.

Taylor’s performance is the best qualifying effort by a driver making their Cup debut since Boris Said started second in his Cup debut at Watkins Glen in 1999.

William Byron wins Cup pole at COTA

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William Byron will start on the pole for Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas.

Byron won the pole with a lap of 93.882 mph around the 3.41-mile road course Saturday. He becomes the first Cup driver to win a pole at four different road courses: Charlotte Roval (2019), Road America (2021), Indianapolis road course (2021) and COTA (2023).

MORE: COTA Cup starting lineup

Byron will be joined on the front row by Tyler Reddick, who had posted the fastest lap in Friday’s practice and fastest lap in the opening round of qualifying Saturday. Reddick qualified at 93.783 mph.

Austin Cindric (93.459 mph) qualified third. Former IMSA champion Jordan Taylor, substituting for an injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports, qualified fourth with a lap of 93.174 mph. AJ Allmendinger (93.067) will start fifth.

Taylor’s performance is the best qualifying effort by a driver making their Cup debut since Boris Said started second in his Cup debut at Watkins Glen in 1999.

Ross Chastain, who won this event a year ago, qualified 12th. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen qualified 22nd, former world champion Jenson Button qualified 24th, seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson qualified 31st and IndyCar driver Conor Daly qualified 35th.

Sunday Cup race at Circuit of the Americas: Start time, TV info, weather

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Is this Toyota’s weekend?

Chevrolet won the first four races of the season. Ford won last weekend with Joey Logano at Atlanta. Is it Toyota’s turn to win its first Cup race of the season? Or does Chevrolet return to dominance?

Chevrolet drivers have won 11 of the past 12 Cup races on road courses. The exception was Christopher Bell‘s win for Toyota at the Charlotte Roval in last year’s playoffs. Chevrolets have won the two previous Cup races at COTA: Chase Elliott in 2021 and Ross Chastain in 2022.

Details for Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas

(All times Eastern)

START: Brendan Hunt, who plays Coach Beard in “Ted Lasso” on Apple TV+, will give the command to start engines at 3:38 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:49 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 12:30 p.m. … Drivers meeting at 2:45 p.m. … Driver introductions at 3:05 p.m. … Invocation will be given by Sage Steele, ESPN broadcaster, at 3:30 p.m. … Jaime Camil, actor from “Schmigadoon” on Apple TV+, will perform the national anthem at 3:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 68 laps (231.88 miles) on the 3.41-mile, 20-turn road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 15. Stage 2 ends at Lap 30.

TV/RADIO: Fox will broadcast the race at 3:30 p.m. Pre-race coverage begins at 2 p.m. on FS1 and moves to Fox at 3 p.m. … Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. and will also stream at goprn.com; SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

STREAMING: Fox Sports

FORECAST: Weather Underground – Mostly cloudy with a high of 80 degrees and a 2% chance of rain at the start of the race.

STARTING LINEUP: COTA Cup starting lineup

LAST YEAR: Ross Chastain scored his first career Cup win in a physical battle with AJ Allmendinger on the final lap. Alex Bowman finished second. Christopher Bell placed third.

CATCH UP ON NBC SPORTS COVERAGE:

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Dr. Diandra: With Chase Elliott out, these are the best Next Gen road racers

Drivers to watch at COTA

North Wilkesboro’s racing surface will prove challenging to drivers 

NASCAR Power Rankings: Christopher Bell is new No. 1

NASCAR Saturday schedule at Circuit of the Americas

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Saturday will be a busy day at Circuit of the Americas, as all three national series are on the track.

Cup will qualify ahead of the Craftsman Truck and Xfinity Series races.

The forecast Saturday calls for sunny conditions and no chance of rain all day. The high is expected to be 69 degrees during Cup qualifying, 76 degrees at the start of the Truck race and 81 degrees for the start of the Xfinity race.

Zane Smith looks to win his second consecutive Truck race at the road course in Austin, Texas. AJ Allmendinger seeks his second consecutive Xfinity win at COTA.

Saturday, March 25

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 10:30 a.m.  — Truck Series
  • 2 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup qualifying (FS1)
  • 1:30 p.m. — Truck race (42 laps, 143 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 5 p.m. — Xfinity race (46 laps, 156 miles; FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)