With all due respect to IndyCar, the premier (and most popular) motorsports circuit in the U.S. is undoubtedly the NASCAR Cup Series. Formula 1 likely has that honor on a worldwide basis but here in the States, the Cup Series takes the cake.
Established in 1949 as the Strictly Stock Division, the series was then known as the Grand National Division from 1950 to 1970 before taking on the Cup Series name in 1971, which is when NASCAR began leasing the naming rights. Winston, Nextel, Sprint, and Monster Energy have all been sponsors over the last four decades but the series is now simply called the NASCAR Cup Series as Coca-Cola, Busch Beer, Xfinity, and GEICO have shared sponsorship as the Premier Partners since the start of the 2020 season.
Since the series was first established, nearly 200 different drivers have won at least one race. Now, we’re not going to give you that entire list but we’ll at least give you the top five.
T4. Darrell Waltrip – 84
Darrell Waltrip spent 29 years (1972-2000) in the NASCAR Cup Series and recorded 84 victories in 809 starts with 24 of those victories coming in 1981 and 1982 — he won a dozen races in each of those years. Waltrip, a three-time points champion, won the 1989 Daytona 500 and holds the record for the most victories in the Coca-Cola 600 with five. His last Cup Series victory came in 1992.
T4. Bobby Allison – 84
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Bobby Allison made his NASCAR Cup Series debut in 1961 but stepped away for a few years to compete in short-track racing before returning to the series in 1965. In total, Allison competed in the series in parts of 25 seasons and won 84 races in 718 starts, although he technically won 85 but wasn’t given credit for a victory in 1971 as he wasn’t driving the proper type of car.
Some even credit him with 86 wins as there was some controversy in Charlotte in 1973 with the engines of Cale Yarborough and Richard Petty, who finished ahead of Allison at the National 500. But despite Allison’s objections and threats regarding what he thought were oversized, which led to an investigation, the results were never changed. Allison’s final Cup Series victory came at the 1988 Daytona 500, his third victory at “The Great American Race.”
3. Jeff Gordon – 93
Like Bobby Allison, Jeff Gordon raced parts of 25 seasons (1992-2016) in the NASCAR Cup Series but won nine more races, although he did have an additional 87 starts. The “Rainbow Warrior” reached double digits in victories in three consecutive seasons from 1996 to 1998, which included the first of three wins at the Daytona 500, and recorded at least one victory in 20 of his 25 seasons. Gordon also won four points championships during his Cup Series career.
2. David Pearson – 105
One of just two drivers with more than 100 NASCAR Cup Series victories, David Pearson won 105 races in the series in 574 starts over the course of 27 seasons (1960-1986). He attempted a short comeback in 1989 as he was set to replace an injured Neil Bonnett in Charlotte but chose not to run as he experienced back and neck pain following testing for the event.
Now, what’s crazy about Pearson’s total of 105 victories is that it actually should be a lot more. However, for the majority of his career, Pearson chose not to run a full Cup Series schedule, instead opting only to compete in certain races in most years. The three-time points champion won his final race in 1980.
1. Richard Petty – 200
As most NASCAR Cup Series enthusiasts know, Richard Petty tops the all-time wins list with an even 200 in 1,184 career starts. “The King” competed in the series for 35 years (1958-1992) and is tied with Jimmie Johnson (who just missed out on this countdown with 83 wins) and Dale Earnhardt Sr. (who sits in eighth place with 76 wins) for the most points titles with seven. Petty won a record 27 races in 1967 and topped the 20 mark again with 21 victories in 1971. With just those two seasons alone, Petty would be tied for 16th on the all-time wins list.
Stats courtesy of Racing Reference