Busch's best

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Even with the increased numbers of Buschwhackers in recent seasons, the 25-year history of the current incarnation of the Busch Series has been dominated by its own stars.

In many cases, drivers who have struggled on the Cup side of things have found much greater success in Busch. Others have spent their entire racing careers exclusively on the Busch circuit.

Chosen for their accomplishments – and not just for wins or total championships – here is my list of the top drivers in Busch Series history, in no particular order:

Sam Ard: Arguably the most successful driver ever in the series if you prorate his accomplishments with time on the circuit. Ard competed for just three seasons in the Busch Series, yet won a pair of championships (1983 and 1984) and was runner-up in the other year (1982). He left on top, having won his second title at the age of 45. The Asheboro, N.C. native had incredible statistics, including a career 3.1 average starting position and a career 5.5 average finishing position. In 92 starts, he had 22 wins (including 10 en route to his first title in 1983), 67 top-fives and 79 top-10s, plus 24 poles (including 10 in 1983). Is also tied with Mark Martin for career wins from the pole (nine). Yet for all his efforts, Ard managed to win a grand total of just under $379,000 in prize money.


Martin

Mark Martin: The winningest driver in Busch Series history with 47 triumphs. Ironically, he never has come close to winning a championship because he's only been a part-time driver on the circuit. With 215 career starts, he averages a win in roughly every five races he competes in. In fact, since 1987, he has failed to win at least one race in a season just three times (he still is looking for his first win of 2006). The Batesville, Ark., native also has 100 career top-five and 137 total top-10 finishes, plus 28 career pole positions.


Green

Jeff Green: One of the biggest conundrums in NASCAR racing. While he has yet to win his first Cup race after 206 career starts, the Owensboro, Ky., native has been one of the best drivers in the Busch Series, with 16 wins, 87 top-five and 127 top-10 finishes in 250 career starts in NASCAR's junior league. He also has 24 career poles. The series champion in 2000, he also has runner-up finishes in the final standings in 1999 and 2002. As for 2006, Green has yet to make a start, potentially marking only the second time since 1990 that he has not participated in at least one Busch event (he also sat out the 2004 campaign to concentrate on his Nextel Cup duties).


Truex

Martin Truex Jr. : Protégé' of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Truex won the last two Busch Series championships before making the full-time jump to Nextel Cup this season. And he won at Talladega in his sole Busch appearance thus far this season. The Mayetta, N.J., native has finished in the top-10 52 times in 85 career Busch starts, including 13 wins and 22 other top-fives outings, along with 10 poles. To date, he has earned nearly $6 million.


Ingram

Jack Ingram: The second-winningest driver in Busch Series history with 31 triumphs, Ingram is a true anomaly. After failing to win in 19 career Winston Cup starts, the Asheville, N.C., native finally found his racing niche when he began his Busch career at the advanced age of 45. He competed in 10 seasons, making 275 career starts and winning the championship in his first season (1982) as well as in 1985. He also had runner-up points finishes in 1983 and 1984 and three other top-five finishes, as well.


Earnhardt

Dale Earnhardt: The seven-time Winston Cup champion was also one heck of a Busch Series driver. He never raced more than one-half of any particular season, but the Kannapolis, N.C., legend competed in 136 races, winning 21 of them and notching a total of 75 top-10 finishes.


Junior

Dale Earnhardt Jr. : Like father, like son. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won championships in his first two full seasons on the Busch circuit (1998 and 1999). All told, Earnhardt, who continues to race a handful of Busch events each season, has 20 career Busch wins, 23 other top-fives and an additional 12 top-10 finishes in 88 career starts.


Houston

Tommy Houston: Started more Busch races than any other driver in series history. From 1982 to 1996, he took the green flag 417 times, with 24 wins, 123 top-fives (most of all series drivers) and 198 top-10s (also most of all series drivers). He also earned 18 pole positions. Yet even with all the success he enjoyed during his 15 seasons – including seven top-five and three other top-10 season finishes – Houston never won a Busch championship. The closest he ever came was runner-up to Rob Moroso in 1989. Also noteworthy is that Houston is the uncle of Teresa Earnhardt, widow of the late Dale Earnhardt.


Green

David Green: Oldest of the three racing Green brothers (Jeff and Mark), Green has been a virtual Busch Series institution. He has made 366 career starts in the series with nine wins, 72 top-fives and 143 top-10 finishes, as well as 22 poles. He was series champion in 1994 and finished second in 1996 and 2003, but is struggling so far this season: ranking 24th with just one top-10 finish in the first 10 races.

Patty Moise Although she never won a race in 133 career starts, Moise deserves recognition for her lengthy Busch Series career and for helping to pave the way for other female drivers in the sport, including Shawna Robinson and Erin Crocker. The Jacksonville, Fla., native's best finish was seventh at Talladega in July 1995, but she did start on the outside pole at Atlanta in August 1987. Also of note: Moise is the wife of long-time Busch competitor Elton Sawyer, who recently was named director of competition for the 2007 entry of the two-car Toyota team owned by Red Bull energy drink.

Other notable drivers

  • Jason Keller: The leading money leader in Busch Series history with nearly $10.8 million to date.

  • Dale Jarrett: Third in series history in top-five finishes (103 in 328 starts) and second in career top-10 finishes (174).

  • Tommy Ellis: Tied with Martin as the most prolific pole winner in series history (28). Earned 22 career wins, as well as the 1988 Busch Series championship.

  • Larry Pearson: Son of the legendary David Pearson and cousin of the late Davey Allison, won back-to-back championships in 1986 and 1987. While nothing to write about on the Winston Cup circuit, Pearson had 15 wins and scored in the top 10 in about half (129) of his 259 career Busch Series starts.

  • Randy LaJoie: In addition to back-to-back championships in 1996 and 1997, LaJoie, who has 15 career wins, also has the fifth-most starts in series history (348).