With no Cup Series race this Easter weekend, let’s dream wildly. Who would win in a Cup Series race that only included winless drivers?
Hundreds of drivers have competed in the Cup Series and never gotten to experience the thrill of winning a race and we wanted to figure out who could be the best of them all.
Is it G.C. Spencer, who has the most second-place finishes of any winless driver? Cyde Lynn, who had 73 top 10s in his career? Or is it Larry Thomas, who had 56 top 10s in just over 120 Cup starts before he was killed in a non-racing car crash in 1965?
Maybe it’s someone like Alex Bowman or Daniel Suarez, two guys who are currently competing in the Cup Series.
Since NASCAR’s charter system guarantees 36 teams entry into each Cup Series race, we dug through Racing Reference and found 36 of the best drivers* in NASCAR history without a Cup win to their credit with the completely impossible idea of pitting them against each other at a track like Martinsville or Bristol in relatively equal equipment.
It’s a fun thought exercise. Especially when there’s no racing to watch. Here’s our field of 36 drivers in the race that’s guaranteed to have a first-time winner. Who do you think would take the checkered flag?
(*To be considered, drivers had to compete in more than two seasons of Cup competition. Sorry William Byron. You’ll probably win at some point anyway.)
Arrington had 103 top-10 finishes in 560 starts. While he had 10 top-10 finishes in a season twice, his best points season came in 1982 when he was seventh in the standings. Arrington led just 14 laps in his Cup Series career.
Ballard finished in the top 10 of the points standings from 1971-1973. His best season in the points came in 1972 when he finished sixth despite having an average finish of 18th. He had 34 top 10s in 175 starts.
Beam had 57 top 10s in 194 starts. He was fourth in the 1959 standings when he has 12 top 10s in 30 races. He had just three top-five finishes.
Blaney has just 28 top 10 finishes and finished inside the top 20 of the points standings just once. But he didn’t arrive to the Cup Series full-time until he was 37 and drove just one full season with a top-tier team.
Bliss won the 2002 Truck Series title and drove just one full season in the Cup Series. He scored seven top-10 finishes in his 179 starts across 20 seasons and finished fourth at Richmond in 2004 in his third and final start for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Bodine had just 21 top 10s in 241 career Cup starts and never finished higher than 20th in the points. He had much more success in the Truck and Xfinity Series. Bodine won two Truck titles and combined for 37 wins in the two lower series.
Bowman has 14 top-10 finishes in 126 starts. Though, as you likely know, he spent the first 71 starts of his career with BK Racing and Tommy Baldwin Racing. He hasn’t scored a top-10 finish through the first nine races of 2019.
Castles had 178 top-10 finishes and 51 top-five finishes in 498 career starts. He also scored 26 top-five finishes in 1969 and 1970 yet never won a race. Crazily enough, he only led laps in three of his top-five finishes.
The Hall of Fame car owner had 76 top 10s in his 285 starts. He finished in the top five in six different races and was fifth in the 1975 points standings. While Childress might have snagged a win in the 1980s had he kept driving, he made a pretty good decision to hire a guy named Dale Earnhardt to drive his car.
Crider was sixth in 1964 when he had top 10s in 30 of the 49 races he drove in. That was his best and last season. He drove just three races in 1965.
Dallenbach’s best season came in 1999 when he had six top 10s and was 18th in the standings while driving the No. 25 car for Hendrick Motorsports. He drove in just 41 more Cup Series races after that and ended his career with six top fives and 23 top 10s in 226 career starts.
Gordon had 29 top-five finishes and 111 top 10s in his 449 starts. He finished third in the points standings in both 1971 and 1973.
Green has 16 Xfinity Series wins to his name and a championship but never won a Cup Series race in his 270 starts. He had 16 top-10 finishes and finished second at New Hampshire in 2002 while racing for Richard Childress.
Grissom won the 1993 Xfinity Series title but never found success in the Cup Series. He had 18 top-10 finishes and five top fives in 151 career Cup starts.
Harb had 42 top 10s in 144 career starts. He finished in the top five 13 times and had a best finish of second at Winston-Salem in 1963. Yes, A Petty Enterprises car (driven by Jim Paschal) won that race.
Sam Hornish Jr.
The IndyCar and Indianapolis 500 champion never put it together in the Cup Series. He had just 12 top 10s across 167 career starts. Seven of those came in 2009 when Hornish was 28th in the Cup Series standings.
The 2003 Truck Series champion had just eight top 10s in 271 starts. His best season came in 2008 when he had four top 10s while driving for Yates Racing. If this mythical race was anything like Kvapil’s Cup career, he’d start near the back in inferior equipment.
The Virginia native had 47 of his 73 career top-10 finishes in 1967 and 1968. He was fourth in the points in 1968 and his best finish came when he was second at Monroe in 1966.
Coo Coo Marlin
Sterling’s father had 51 top-10 finishes in 165 career starts. His best season was in 1975 when he had four top fives and was 20th in the standings.
Mast had 36 top 10s in 364 career starts. He was 18th in the points standings twice and may be most remembered for starting on the pole in the first Brickyard 400. He finished 22nd in that race.
McDuffie was tragically killed during the 1991 Cup Series race at Watkins Glen at the age of 52. He holds the record for most Cup Series starts without a win (653) and had 12 top fives and 106 top 10s. He finished inside the top 10 of the points standings twice.
The Truck Series champion had 55 top-10 finishes in 305 career starts. He was seventh in the points in 1995 and had seven top-five finishes that season. He finished second on four different occasions.
Putney was seventh in 1965 and eighth in 1966. He had 49 career top-10 finishes. Twenty-four of them came in 1965. He finished in the top three on nine occasions.
Ruttman had 19 top fives and 60 top 10s in 225 career Cup Series starts. He was 12th in 1983 when he had four top fives and 10 top 10s and 15th in 1986 when he had a career-best 14 top 10s in the season. Ruttman won 13 Truck Series races and finished in the top six of the points standings in each of the six full seasons he ran.
Sears had 17 top-five finishes in 1969 and was seventh in the points standings. That came after two-straight seasons of fifth-place points finishes. Sears also had an impressive top-five rate too. He had 48 top-five finishes in his 318 starts.
Seifert scored 49 top 10s in his 234 career races but had just three top fives. He had two 13th-place finishes in the points standings, including in 1971 when he ran just 37 of the 48 races on the schedule.
The Truck Series champ had 39 top 10s in 286 career Cup Series starts. His best season came in 1999 when he had five top fives and 14 top 10s while finishing 10th in the standings as a teammate to Dale Earnhardt.
Spencer had 55 top-five finishes in 415 starts. He was fourth in the 1965 season when he had 14 top fives and 25 top 10s across 47 races. His seven second-place finishes are the most of any driver without a victory.
The man with one of the best NASCAR driver names ever had 29 top 10s in his 328 career starts. He finished in the top five eight times and his final top-five finish was a second-place at Darlington in 1996 while driving the Circuit City car for the Stavola Brothers.
Suarez has scored five top fives and 25 top 10s in his 81 Cup Series starts for Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing. As long as he keeps driving for top tier teams it’s probably just a matter of time before he wins a race.
Thomas finished inside the top 10 of the points standings for four-straight seasons between 1968-1971. He amassed 65 of his 77 career top-10 finishes in those four years but only had three top fives.
Thomas was killed in a street car crash in 1965 after racing for four years in the Cup Series. He had 18 top fives and 56 top 10s in just 126 starts over those four seasons and scored 27 top 10s in 43 races in 1964.
The short track ace didn’t get his first full-time Cup ride until he was 47 years old. He had 15 top fives and 36 top 10s in 303 starts. He was 15th in the points standings during his rookie season of 1989 and never finished inside the teens again.
Wallace won nine Xfinity Series races in his career. He had just 27 top-10 finishes in his Cup career and had six top-five finishes. Three of those top fives came in 1999 when he finished 22nd in the points standings.
Wallace had 14 top 10s over 197 career Cup Series starts. His best finish came at Phoenix in 2001 when he le 45 laps and finished second while driving the No. 12 for Team Penske.
Yeley has just two top fives and eight top 10s in 276 career Cup Series starts. And, amazingly, he’s made 314 Xfinity Series starts and 34 Truck Series starts without winning any of them either. Every race needs a field-filler.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports
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