Winning a Cup Series race is what every young NASCAR hopeful looks forward to as their careers unfold. For some, this dream comes true many times over, with constant visits to victory lane and more trophies than they know what to do with. For others, winning is a feat they accomplish only once or twice, and it is savored for years. Then there are the really unfortunate racers — the ones that never win anything.
Can you call a driver “successful” if they’ve never won a race? It’s tricky, but I’d argue that you can. There are a myriad of reasons that a driver can go winless in their career, but that doesn’t make them a failure in the sport. Yes, winning cements your place in history, but you can still be remembered as one of the “best of the rest” without actually winning a race. Here are the 20 best NASCAR drivers that never won a Cup Series race.
20. Ron Fellows
Go ahead, throw your shade at me. Yes, Ron Fellows only has five career top-ten finishes in the Cup Series, but he only raced in 25 races — all but one of them at Sonoma and Watkins Glen, the series’ two road courses. Fellows was one of the first “Road Course Ringers” to show up in NASCAR in the 1990s. The term is used to describe a driver who is skilled at road course racing, usually driving full time in a sports car series who comes to NASCAR just to race on road courses.
Fellows has three top-five finishes at Watkins Glen, including two second place finishes in 1999 and 2004. As much as he was a part-time driver, Fellows was dominant whenever he stepped into decent equipment. Several times he had to overcome a poor qualifying result and charge through the field, still managing a top-ten finish. Fellows had so many opportunities to win during his few Cup Series starts, but was always a victim of an untimely crash, or a pit road penalty. If Fellows had been able to bypass even some of his bad luck, he’d likely have two or three Cup Series victories as a ringer.
No, Fellows never drove full-time in NASCAR and he rarely drove on oval tracks at all. But look at his results, he’s one of the best drivers to never win a race.
19. Kevin Lepage
No, Kevin Lepage never came remotely close to winning a Cup Series race. And no, he was never a legitimate contender in the Series. This is easily construed by his nine top-ten finishes in 201 career races. But if you take a closer look at the situation, you’ll see that Lepage achieved so much more than he ever should have, given his situation.
The only decent ride that Lepage ever had was when he drove for Roush Racing from 1999 to 2000. He’d have all but two of his career top-tens in this span. After that period of his career, Lepage drove nothing but garbage race cars for small, independent NASCAR teams. In 2005, Lepage would take his No. 37 R&J Racing car and finish ninth in the Daytona 500. That was a massive accomplishment considering he wasn’t even expected to qualify for the race in his crappy, slow car.
Lepage overachieved in poor equipment so many times that it’s what he became known for late in his career. Sure, he was never gonna win a race but let’s give the guy some credit for what he did with so little.
18. Robert Pressley
Robert Pressley was a mainstay in NASCAR for three decades, from the 1980s to the 2000s. He raced in all three of NASCAR’s national touring series and spent seven seasons in the Cup Series. At the Cup level, success was very hard to find for Pressley. He spent several years driving for smaller teams like Leo Jackson Motorsports and Jasper Motorsports. These teams din’t have the same funding or resources of the top-level teams. Pressley preserved however and achieved 11 career top-ten finishes in 205 starts. Remarkably, the best season Pressley had in the Cup Series was the final season of his career in 2001, when he’d finish 25th in points.
After leaving the Cup Series in 2001, Pressley turned to the Truck Series and became a regular, winning two races in the 2002 season. He also raced full-time in the Xfinity series in 2004 before entering semi-retirement in 2005.
17. Scott Riggs
Scott Riggs was poised to be the next great NASCAR Cup Series driver when he made his debut in 2004. After several dominant seasons in the Truck and Xfinity Series, Riggs signed with MB2 Motorsports to race full-time in the Cup Series in 2004. After two lackluster years with MB2, he headed to Evernham Motorsports in 2006. He would have his best season in 2006, finishing 20th in points despite missing the season-opening Daytona 500. Riggs would be released from Evernham before the end of the 2007 season, after a string of poor results.
Following his release from Evernham, Riggs would spend the next several years bouncing around several small Cup Series teams and making a few starts in the lower NASCAR series. He would disappear from NASCAR in 2014 and has yet to make a return. Riggs ended his career with 16 top-ten finishes in 208 races.
16. Sam Hornish Jr.
Sam Hornish has enjoyed two distinctly different stages of his career in NASCAR — his absolutely God-awful beginning and his status today as a threat to win whenever he shows up.
Sam Hornish Jr. moved to NASCAR in 2008 after winning three Indycar titles. As previously mentioned, the first season of his NASCAR career is very forgettable. He had a string of poor finishes and failed to qualify for several races. He’d improve slightly in 2009 and 2010, but it wasn’t enough to keep his ride. His owner Roger Penske moved Hornish down to the lower-level Xfinity Series in 2011. Hornish would actually perform well and win two races over the next three seasons and contend for the championship in 2012 and 2013.
Hornish spent 2014 as a part-time driver, making eight Xfinity starts and winning at Iowa. He’d return full-time to the Cup Series in 2015 with Richard Petty Motorsports. He’d have three top-tens and would leave the team at the end of the year. Hornish spent 2016 and 2017 as a part-time driver in the Xfinity Series, winning two races.
Although Hornish was never a true contender at the Cup level, his longevity in the sport in remarkable. His career seemed over before it started but he preserved to enjoy a respectable career. Today, as a part-time driver, he is a threat to win every time he shows up on the circuit.
15. Reed Sorenson
Reed Sorenson showed up in NASCAR at the end of the 2004 season and was immediately the best thing since sliced bread. He raced full-time in the lower-level Xfinity Series in 2005, winning two races and finishes fourth in points. He was immediately moved up to the Cup Series for 2006. He performed admirably in his first two Cup seasons, earning 11 top-ten finishes. In 2008, his decline began and he’s bouncing from team to team since.
Sorenson returned to the Xfinity Series full-time in 2011 in an attempt to revitalize his career and it appeared to work. He finished fourth in points and won the race at Road America. Sorenson seemed poised for a return to the Cup Series but there just weren’t any open seats with a competitive team. Sorenson served as a part-time driver for several teams until 2014 when he raced his last true full-time season with Tommy Baldwin Racing. Since 2014, Sorenson has been making several starts a year for the small, Premium Motorsports team, with poor results.
Sorenson seemed poised to takeover NASCAR early in his career, but the results just never materialized. Had his career gone another way and he’d stayed in competitive equipment, we’d likely remember him in a much different way.
14. Jeff Green
Jeff Green is the kind of guy that we all assumed would have retired years ago, but he just keeps hanging around. Green began racing in the Cup Series in the mid 1990s but after a few brutal seasons, he moved down to the Xfinity Series, where he’d win the 2000 championship. After finishing second in points in 2001, he moved back up to the Cup Series in 2002 — which would actually be his best season, with six top-ten finishes and a 17th place points finish.
Green would spend five more seasons racing in the Cup Series with mixed results. He’d often do quite well in qualifying and then have mediocre finishes in the actual races. Overall, he’d finish his Cup Series career with 16 top ten finishes in 270 starts. Not the best results, but he manage to hang around a lot longer than other drivers of similar talent.
Today, Green still races in the Xfinity Series for several small teams as a start-and-park, or field-filler. As much as his actual racing career may be over, Green still loves going to to the race track every weekend.
13. Wally Dallenbach Jr.
Before his job as a NASCAR commentator and analyst for TNT, Wally Dallenbach spent ten seasons racing in NASCAR’s Cup Series. Originally a Trans-Am Sportscar driver, Dallenbach’s transition to NASCAR was tough. He wouldn’t have his first top ten on an oval track until his third season. Despite his inexperience on oval tracks, Dallenbach was always a threat to win on the Series’ two road courses. He has 10 top-ten finishes between Sonoma and Watkins Glen, including his best finish of second place, twice. Overall, he had 23 top-tens in Cup Series competition.
Other than at Sonoma and Watkins Glen, Dallenbach was rarely a threat to win in NASCAR, as he didn’t really figure out driving on oval tracks until his career was nearly over. Dallenbach’s best chance at winning a race came in 1999 when he signed to drive with Hendrick Motorsports. Statistically, it was his best season but he wasn’t able to pull of a victory. After one more lackluster year in 2000, Dallenbach hung up his driving gloves and began his broadcasting career.
12. Todd Bodine
Todd Bodine is one of those weird cases where you’re left scratching your head. How was this guy not more successful than he was? He always raced for smaller teams with smaller budgets and still managed to have several good finishes every season. Even into the latter parts of his Cup Series career, Todd Bodine was overachieving in lesser equipment.
Bodine actually only spent five full-time seasons racing in the Cup Series but he managed 21 top-ten finishes and won five poles. Where Bodine really shined was qualifying. He would often be hired by small teams that weren’t locked into a race because they knew he would out qualify the other small teams. Bodine was doing this long after his full-time Cup Series career ended.
Bodine’s final full season in the Cup Series came in 2003 and he turned his attention to the Truck Series, where he would go on to be one of the most dominant drivers in the Series’ history. He’s win two championships and 22 races before retiring in 2013.
11. Kenny Wallace
Kenny Wallace is best known for his time spent in NASCAR’s lower-level Xfinity Series. In his 25-year career, Wallace ran 547 races in the Xfinity Series and won nine of them. But Wallace also spent a lot of time racing at NASCAR’s highest level, the Cup Series.
From the mid 1990s to the early 2000s, Wallace spent several lackluster years driving for various Cup Series teams, often as a fill-in or replacement driver. Overall, Wallace spent just eight full-time seasons in the Cup Series but he did earn 27 top-ten finishes and won three poles. Wallace’s best career finish was second place, three times. In fact, Wallace finished second to Dale Earnhardt at Talladega in 2000, which would be Earnhardt’s last win before his death in 2001.
Despite never being a top-level Cup Series talent, Wallace became a fan favourite during his time in NASCAR and was even voted into the 2007 All-Star race by the fans. Today Wallace works as a pit reporter and analyst for Fox Sports.
10. Hut Stricklin
Overall, Hut Stricklin was never a serious contender in NASCAR. If you look at his career results, there isn’t much that stands out. His best points finish was 16th in 1991 and he was never able to pull off a win. But if you look deeper, Stricklin actually had a decent career. He had 29 top-ten finishes in just over 300 career starts, essentially one top ten finish per every ten races. If you average that out over today’s schedule, he’d average three top-tens per year. That’s a helluva lot better than a lot of recent full-time drivers. *Cough* Danica Patrick *Cough*
Stricklin’s career really only lasted 10 season, if you leave out the years he drove for terrible teams and missed a bunch of races. Although Stricklin’s career results don’t look overwhelmingly great, he only spent six years driving for decent, established teams. Had he been with a powerhouse team like Hendrick Motorsports or Richard Childress Racing, he’d likely have found victory lane at least once.
9. Dave Blaney
If you don’t like Dave Blaney, then you must be dead inside. Blaney was such a lovable driver during his time in NASCAR. You always wanted to see him pull off the upset and win his first race. I still remember watching him win his only career Xfinity Series race at the age of 43. He danced around and celebrated like he was an 8-year-old that just got a puppy for Christmas. It was such a pleasant sight.
Blaney raced 13 full-time seasons in NASCAR’s Cup Series, but was never able to finish higher than third. He had just 28 top-ten finishes in his career but allow me to provide some context: Blaney spent the vast majority of his Cup Series career driving for lesser teams. He spent five seasons with Bill Davis Racing, who was rarely a contender to win and even lost manufacturer support during the 2006 season. He also had to live with the growing pains of driving for one of the only teams to switch to the new Toyota chassis in 2007. Blaney spent the latter parts of his career bouncing around between different underfunded teams, because the guy just loved racing, regardless if he was a contender or not.
Blaney finally retired during the 2014 season and the torch was passed to his son Ryan, who sadly is already more successful at 24 than his father ever was. But honestly, a win for Ryan Blaney almost feels as good as watching Dave do well, because you know he’s overjoyed watching his son win.
Dave Blaney will always be one of the most respected and loveable NASCAR drivers, even if he never pulled off that upset we all hoped he would.
8. Dick Trickle
Yes, Dick Trickle does have the best name in NASCAR history, rivalled only by former Xfinity Series driver Cale Gale. But putting his name aside, Trickle was actually a decent driver. Trickle raced from the mid 1980s to the late 1990s and made 303 starts in his career. He was never able to win a race but he did manage 36 topten finishes, including a best finish of third, five times.
Unlike anyone else on our list, Trickle holds the distinction of being the oldest driver ever names NASCAR’s Rookie of the Year. He was 48-years-old at the time. Now most older drivers don’t have much success in NASCAR, but the best years of Trickle’s career came after his 48th birthday. He never won anything, but he did show the young guys that older drivers still have what it takes to wheel a race car.
7. Rick Mast
Rick Mast first made a splash in NASCAR’s developmental Busch (Now Xfinity) Series in the 1980s. He would win nine races and have 95 top-tens in his career, earning a full-time ticket to the Cup Series in 1991. Mast would be a staple at NASCAR’s top level for 12 seasons before retiring following a partial season in 2002.
Mast won four pole positions in his Cup Series career and had 36 top-ten finishes, including a best finish of second at Rockingham in 1994. Mast was never a dominant driver but he had stable results throughout his career and ended up being an overall average driver.
Mast was never able to win at NASCAR’s top level, but he did have a 12-year career and often outperformed drivers with far more skill and experience. He may not have been flashy, but Mast is one of the best drivers to never win a Cup Series race.
6. Mike Skinner
Mike Skinner got his start in NASCAR in the newly-formed Truck Series in 1995. He would go on to win the inaugural championship and 16 races between the 1995 and 1996 seasons. His owner Richard Childress moved him up to the Cup Series in 1997 to be a teammate to Dale Earnhardt in the No. 31 car. Skinner had an up-and-down career in the Cup Series, with his best season coming in 1999 when he finished 10th in the points standings.
Skinner would amass 39 top ten finishes in his Cup Series career with 286 career starts. Although he never won race, he was known for his ability to qualify well. Late in his career, Skinner was often hired by small, underfunded teams that weren’t locked into races and needed to qualify their way in. Skinner often qualified well in poorer equipment and outperformed teams with many more resources.
Skinner left the Cup Series after the 2003 season and returned to his roots in the Truck Series, becoming a Series regular for the next seven seasons, winning 12 more races and contended for the championship several times. Skinner ended up having a 20-year career in NASCAR, even though he never went to victory lane at the top level.
5. Ted Musgrave
If you’re like me, you’re too young to remember Ted Musgrave racing in the Cup Series and remember him best for his time in the Truck Series, including his championship win in 2005. But Musgrave spent 14 season driving in the Cup Series, the best of which were his five season at Roush Racing in the mid 1990s.
In 305 career starts, Musgrave finished in the top-ten 55 times and won five pole positions. His best season came in 1995, finishing seventh in points with 13 top-ten finishes. Musgrave never won a Cup Series race, and his best finish was second place — a feat he managed twice.
Following the 2000 Cup Series season, Musgrave turned his attention to the Truck Series where he would go on to win the aforementioned championship and 17 total races as one of the most dominant Truck Series drivers of the 2000s.
4. Joe Ruttman
Poor Joe Ruttman. With all his success during his time in NASCAR he was never able to find victory lane in the Cup Series. Rutmann started racing in NASCAR in the early 1980s and would race off and on throughout the 1980s and 1990s. He would have 60 top tens in the cup series between 1981 and 1993 in just 243 career races. This span includes three second place finishes and several third place finishes.
Ruttman raced well into his late 40s and did end up finding great success in NASCAR’s Truck Series in the 1990s and 2000s, winning 13 races and finishing in the top-five in points five times. But unfortunately this success never translated to the Cup Series, leaving Ruttman without a victory.
3. Buddy Arrington
In 560 career Cup Series races, Buddy Arrington was somehow never able to find victory lane. Arrington raced throughout the 1970s and 80s and would have 103 top ten finishes. His best career finish was a third place run at Talladega in 1979. Arrington is distinctly known for his loyalty to Daimler-Chrysler throughout his time in NASCAR, racing only Dodge and Chrysler cars.
Arrington also spent the vast majority of his career driving for his own team as an owner-driver. This may have negatively affected his his performance, as many owner-drivers lack the resources of the larger powerhouse teams. But despite that, Arrington is fondly remembered as a fan favourite for his never-give-up attitude and devotion to racing, despite the results.
2. J.D. McDuffie
Every sport has a few records that no one would ever want to have, like most strikeouts, lowest free-throw percentage, etc. J.D. McDuffie holds one of those in NASCAR. He holds the record for the most Cup Series starts without a victory — 653. In fact, in 653 career races, his best finish was only third place on two different occasions. How is it possible for a driver to start that many races and never win? Well, actually it’s easily explainable.
There are so many variables that go into each race, such as how fast the car is, getting involved in crashes, racing against more talented drivers, and so on. Oh yeah, McDuffie also held the record for most last place finishes until Joe Nemechek surpassed him in 2014.
Now McDuffie wasn’t just a bottom feeder at the back of the pack turning laps and collecting a paycheque. McDuffie actually has 106 top-ten finishes in his career, although most of these came early on. By the latter stages of his career he was barely able to qualify for races, sticking around much longer than he should have. McDuffie was tragically killed in a crash during the 1991 Cup Series race at Watkins Glen when he was 52-years-old.
Despite his mixed results, McDuffie is the second best driver to have never won a race and his 106 top-ten finishes are all the proof we need. Yeah, he probably should have retired long before his death in 1991. But the guy just loved racing and who are we to tell him to stop?
1. Cecil Gordon
Cecil Gordon (No relation to four-time champion Jeff Gordon), raced in 449 NASCAR Cup Series races throughout the 1970s and 1980s, but was miraculously never able to cross the finish line first. Even more miraculous is that of the 112,908 laps he completed in his career, he only led 23 of them.
Gordon never won, but he did come close on many occasions. He ended his career with 111 top-tens in his 449 starts, an average of a top-ten every four races. Even by today’s standards, he was an above average driver. His best season was 1973 where he would finish in the top-ten in two thirds of the races on the schedule and end up third in the points standings at the end of the season, despite not winning a single race. Gordon actually finished in the top-ten in points five times in his career, making him quite the accomplished driver. But however accomplished he was, he will always be best known for never finding victory lane.