Top 10 NASCAR Drivers to Never Win the Daytona 500
Top 10 Drivers to Never Win the Daytona 500
As the field crossed the finish line at 11 p.m. this past Sunday night, it wrapped up another Daytona 500 -- possibly the greatest one ever.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. etched his name into history again by winning his second Great American Race (first win was in 2004). He joins an impressive list of 11 drivers to win the Daytona 500 multiple times in their careers. The list includes current teammates Jimmie Johnson (two) and Jeff Gordon (three), as well as Cale Yarborough (three) and Richard “The King” Petty (seven).
What makes the Daytona 500 the crown jewel of NASCAR is how historic and elusive it is. Super speedway racing is so unpredictable, it’s nearly impossible to guess who will win. Just when one car takes the advantage, another one is right alongside to take the lead. It’s fast, aggressive and chaotic.
When you race win the Daytona 500, and many never do, it’s a moment you’ll never forget. Take “The Intimidator” Dale Earnhardt Sr., for example. For years he experienced heartbreak at Daytona. Whether it was a mechanical failure or bad luck, the Harley J. Earl Trophy eluded him. It took him 20 years before he finally won the race in 1998.
Earnhardt Sr. isn’t the only driver to have had success in the Great American Race elude him. There have been plenty of other names who never even made it to victory lane. On the following slides, you’ll find the top 10 drivers to have never won a Daytona 500. Some of these names might surprise you; they certainly shocked me.
10. Donnie Allison
Donnie Allison might be one of the most infamous drivers when it comes to the Daytona 500, but not because he won. Primarily, his career is remembered for his fight in turn No. 3 with Cale Yarborough in 1979 Daytona 500. The drivers were battling all alone for the lead on the last lap, and wrecked. Afterward, both climbed out of their cars and traded blows right then and there.
Over the course of his career, Allison never won a championship and only won 10 races, but he started the Daytona 500 on the pole twice and finished in the top 10 four times.
9. Harry Gant
Harry Gant won 18 races over the course of his 22-year career, but the Daytona 500 eluded him. For as good as he was on the short tracks and speedways, things never came together as he averaged a 21st-place finish at Daytona.
8. Tim Richmond
Tim Richmond had a chance to be one of the greatest drivers in the history of the sport, but the AIDS virus took his life in his mid-30s. He ran just four full seasons at the series’ top level and collected 13 victories. His highest finish in the Daytona 500 was 22nd, but he did win the July race at Daytona in 1986.
7. Mark Martin
Mark Martin came way too close to lose in 2007. As the field exited turn No. 4, a multi-car melee ensued. It became a drag race to the finish line and Kevin Harvick edged Martin by .02 seconds, the closest finish in the history of the track, let alone race. Obviously, that was the closest that Martin has ever gotten in his 31-year career in NASCAR.
Over the course of his 31-year career, Martin has won 40 races and averages a 14th-place finish. Including his second-place finish in 2007, Martin has finished in the top 10 12 times.
6. Bobby Labonte
Bobby Labonte won the series championship back in 2000 and made his way to victory lane 21 times over the course of his 23-year career, but never in the Daytona 500. His best chance came back in 1998 when he started on the pole, but finished second to Dale Earnhardt Sr.
5. Terry Labonte
A two-time champion, Terry Labonte drove in his final Daytona 500 this past weekend and finished 20th. Three times has Labonte been a bridesmaid, but he never took home the grand prize.
4. Ned Jarrett
Ned Jarrett won 50 races, two championships and was inducted in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011, but he never won the Great American Race. Jarrett finished with six top-10 finishes in the Daytona 500 and came as close as third in 1963.
3. Buck Baker
One of the early pioneers of the sport, Buck Baker won back-to-back championships in 1956 and 1957 along with 46 races in 26 years. In 2013, he was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, something well-deserved. One thing he never did check off his to-do list as a driver was a Daytona 500 win. Even dating back to the years when they raced on the beach, victory lane eluded him.
2. Rusty Wallace
Rusty Wallace won 55 races and the 1989 Sprint Cup Series Championship (then called Winston Cup Series). He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2013, but never found victory lane in the sport’s most infamous race. His highest finish was third, but it wasn’t uncommon for trouble to find him during the race.
1. Tony Stewart
The one called “Smoke” has yet to make his way to victory lane in the Daytona 500. Tony Stewart has won 48 races, three championships and is a sure-fire Hall of Famer when it’s all said and done. However, he’s now 0-16 in the Daytona 500 after mechanical issues doomed him last Sunday night.