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Top 10 Amazing Feats in NASCAR History

Top 10 Amazing Feats in NASCAR History

10. Harry Gant: Oldest driver to win a Cup Series race

Every driver has his or her own way of preparing for the rigorous grind of competition. You have the gym rats like Carl Edwards and Mark Martin; cross-trainers like Jimmie Johnson; Bobby Allison driving around Hueytown with the windows up and heater on in the summertime; and David Pearson who … uh, smoked cigarettes. Harry Gant had his own Rocky IV form of training: roofing. Handsome Harry Gant was a fan favorite during his tenure in NASCAR. His No. 33 Skoal Bandit was an iconic car first fielded by legendary Hollywood stuntman and director Hal Needham and later by the Jackson Brothers. Gant won eight races after turning 50 years old — the final victory coming at 52 years, seven months, six days. During his improbable run of four consecutive wins in 1991, Gant was greeted at tracks with signs proclaiming “Life Begins at 51.”

By Vito Pugliese

9. Darrell Waltrip: Seven consecutive wins at Bristol (1981-84)

Bristol has always been a track that, when a driver and team hit on something that worked, rewarded them with a notable run of success; Fred Lorenzen, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Kurt and Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski can attest to that. However, no driver mastered the East Tennessee bullring as thoroughly and for as long as Darrell Waltrip. From 1975-86, DW notched 19 top-3 finishes (10 wins) for a 23-race average finish of 4.4. From 1981-84, the Hall of Famer won an astounding seven straight races — three times from the pole — in his Junior Johnson-prepared Chevys and Buicks. And Waltrip didn’t lie in the weeds waiting to pounce, as was his MO at other tracks — he dominated, leading at least 215 laps in six of the seven-straight victories. No other driver has ever come close to DW’s antics at Bristol. “Follow me in Tennessee,” indeed.

By Vito Pugliese

8. Tony Stewart: Current driver with most consecutive seasons with at least one win (15)

Good thing Tony Stewart knocked out that win at Dover a couple of months ago. After 15 years in the Cup Series, he kept his winning ways going in a year that got off to a slow start in 2013. However, Stewart rebounded for the June win, and was then parked for the foreseeable future with a broken leg suffered in a sprint car accident. With his buddy Kevin Harvick joining the fold at Stewart-Haas Racing next season — and a few months to recover, sit, stew and slam soda cookies — you know he’s going to be fired up next year to make things right again … and keep his 15-year win streak going.

By Vito Pugliese
Photo by Action Sports, Inc.

7. Ricky Rudd: 16 straight years with a win/788 consecutive starts

Ricky Rudd had a most impressive run through NASCAR’s Modern Era, earning at least one win per season from 1983-98. During this span, Rudd also became NASCAR’s “Iron Man” with the most consecutive starts (788) in the history of the series. He did so with six different owners: Richard Childress, the DiGard Racing team, Bud Moore, Kenny Bernstein, Rick Hendrick, Robert Yates, the Wood Brothers and his self-owned Rudd Performance Motorsports. “The Rooster’s” biggest win? I’d call that a tie between the 1997 Brickyard 400 and at Richmond in 1984, two weeks removed from competing in the Daytona 500 with his eyes taped open following a horrific crash in the Busch Clash. After all, that ’84 win served as the inspiration for Rowdy Burns’ epic pool table rant in the cinematic masterpiece “Days of Thunder.”

By Vito Pugliese

6. Petty Enterprises: Most all-time Cup/Grand National team wins (268)

This should really come as no surprise. Even with all of the success that Rick Hendrick has enjoyed over the last 30 years (215 wins, 10 titles), he has yet to exceed the numbers put up by the Petty clan. 268 wins and 10 titles are pretty lofty numbers, even if they did race 50-60 times a year back in the day. Well guess what? They still had to show up, work on the car, race, and win — and they did just that from 1949-2008. Keep in mind that the bulk of these wins came against a large contingent of NASCAR Hall of Famer in their primes: David Pearson’s 105 wins and three championships; Cale Yarborough’s 83 wins and three titles; Darrell Waltrip’s 84 wins and three titles; Bobby Allison’s 84 wins and two championships; and a handful against Dale Earnhardt, who was laying the groundwork to tie The King’s record of seven Cups through the early ’80s.

By Vito Pugliese
Photo by Action Sports, Inc.

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5. Most consecutive wins in NASCAR’s Modern Era (4)

Dale Earnhardt, Bill Elliott, Harry Gant, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin, Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough

Talk about the “Drive for Five” stalling out. How close did each of these eight drivers come to capturing the modern era record for consecutive race wins? Yarborough finished second at the Southern 500 in 1976 (by 12.2 seconds) and Earnhardt was fourth at Talladega (of all places) in ’87. Elliott stalled at four once Bristol showed up on the docket while Martin’s quest for five faded at Richmond in 1993, but he also ended Gordon’s five-win chances in ’98 at Bristol. Waltrip’s four wins in ’81 were bookended by Neil Bonnett, with DW finishing second both times. And the only thing Johnson hasn’t won yet – besides Watkins Glen and Michigan – is five in a row. And are you willing to write that off?

By Vito Pugliese

4. Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch: Closest finish in history (.002 seconds)

I’ve long said that the oldest tracks on the circuit produce the most memorable finishes — maybe because there are just more memories to be had? — and this gem from Darlington in 2003 is no exception; in fact, it may set the precedent. Bouncing off the walls and one another, Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch staged an unbeatable finish in the spring race at the venerable old joint, one that made “Days of Thunder’s” over-the-top, on-track antics look pedestrian. What was the difference in Craven’s .002-second win? The pointy Pontiac proboscis, which edged out the blunt, ovoid nose of Busch’s Taurus.

By Vito Pugliese

3. Rick Hendrick: Current consecutive yearly win streak for a car owner (28 years)

What started out as a side project for a Charlotte, N.C., car salesman has become a racing empire that rivals anything from Maranello to Mooresville. Rick Hendrick earned his first Cup Series win as a car owner in 1984 with Geoff Bodine, but the 28-year streak with at least one win per season began in ’86 — again, with Bodine — in the Daytona 500. Since, Hendrick has had 16 drivers contribute with wins in his Cup cars: Bodine, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, Terry Labonte, Mark Martin, Casey Mears, Jerry Nadeau, Joe Nemechek, Brian Vickers, Tim Richmond, Ricky Rudd, Ken Schrader, Darrell Waltrip and some desert truck-type from El Cajon, Calif., with really big eyebrows.

By Vito Pugliese
Photo by Action Sports, Inc.

2. Jimmie Johnson: Five straight Cup titles

Nine drivers had won two Cup Series/Grand National titles in a row. A pair — Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty — had done it twice. Heck, Cale Yarborough won three consecutive with Junior Johnson in the 1970s. But no one saw Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus coming. Sure, they looked the part when the duo burst onto the Cup scene in 2002 and claimed three victories out of the gate. And top 5 points finishes their first four years on the circuit — including runner-up showings in 2003 and ’04 — were impressive. But Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports team rewrote the record books by winning five — five! — straight Cup championships from 2006-10. That feat alone should land both driver and crew chief in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. And save the “Yeah, but it was in the Chase Era” BS: Every team knew the championship format going in. Team 48 dusted the competition for half a decade.

By Matt Taliaferro
Photo by Actions Sports, Inc.

1. Richard Petty: Most wins in a season/consecutive wins: (27/10)

Want to know how he got the nickname “The King”? In 1967, Ford may have been making things right with Ferrari in France, but Richard Petty’s Plymouth Belvedere laid waste to the landscape of professional motorsports in North America. In 48 starts during the 49-race Grand National season, Petty won 27 times (56.25 percent winning percentage – that would be 20 wins in this era), 10 race wins in a row (the equivalent of seven consecutive today), 38 top 5s, 40 top 10s and 18 poles. Things could have gotten really ugly considering he finished second on six occasions. And spare me the garbage argument of “a different time, different era and they raced a lot more” — everyone waxes poetic about stock cars not being stock cars anymore … well, here you go: The Petty’s raced a car with an engine you could check an option box for in a vehicle hauled to the track on an open trailer that was prepared by the driver, his brother and a cousin. So unless somebody wins every race from now until Talladega, this is the ultimate single-season performance in NASCAR history, and one of the most notable in all of professional sports.

By Vito Pugliese
Photo by Action Sports, Inc.