NASCAR's greatest runs of success at it's most daunting racetracks
Jimmie Johnson’s eighth career win at Martinsville last Sunday highlighted his dominance at that particular track. Johnson has won seven of the last 14 visits to the track and in 23 starts has an average finish of 5.3. While he still has a way to go to match Richard Petty’s mark of 15 wins at the paperclip, it did bring to mind some past performances at other tracks by NASCAR stars who were able to hit on some unmistakable magic. Let's take a look at the top 12 most dominant streaks in NASCAR:
From Tiny Lund to Jamie McMurray: NASCAR's most noted fill-ins.
With the flurry of press releases that were flying about last Friday, with the announcements and retractions regarding Mark Martin substituting for the injured Denny Hamlin, it brought to light one issue we haven’t had to tackle in a while: NASCAR Super Subs. They can be much more than a wheel holder, and often end up becoming a larger part of the team. It can be an audition for a future ride, or a once-in-a-lifetime shot at greatness. This week we present the Top 10 Super Subs in NASCAR:
10. Richard Petty – 1964 Plymouth Belvedere
Back when stockcars essentially were stock cars, Petty’s ’64 Plymouth was significant for a number of reasons. First of all, look at it: clean and simple lines, looks as right dominating Daytona as it would Pomona … or Ponderosa — a perfect combination of accidental aerodynamics and the debut of Pachyderm Power under the bonnet. The 426 Hemi debuted at the 1964 Daytona 500, and when placed in the pointy Plymouth, it was game over, lights out, thanks for playing, as Petty drove to a one-lap victory over Paul Goldsmith in a Hemi Plymouth Belvedere. Note those 405 horsepower stickers on the hood. Yeah. Right. 405. At what, 3,500 rpm? Child please.
by Vito Pugliese
50 Shades of Gray
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9. Buddy Baker – 1977-1980 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme
The late 1970s and early ’80s were sad times for the auto industry on a number of levels. Smog-controlled engines, the advent of catalytic converters and poor quality control, as well as something known as “velour.” Such were the designs of these machines. There were a few notable exceptions: Smokey & The Bandit Trans Ams, Dodge’s Little Red Express Truck and this beast, Buddy Baker’s No. 28 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. Nicknamed the Gray Ghost by its ability to stealthily blend into the racing surface due to its color scheme and the glare produced by the sun-lit overcast conditions. Baker dominated Speedweeks in 1980, including taking the pole at 194.009 mph. What about this car screams mid-190s? Well, it still owns the record for the fastest Daytona 500, and therefore deserves some love here.
by Vito Pugliese
It’s NOT The Catalina Wine Mixer!
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8. Fireball Roberts – 1962 Pontiac Catalina
In the early 1960s, NASCAR was coming of age. Moving from bullrings and dirt tracks to full-fledged, high-banked superspeedways used as the model for the majority of the tracks on the circuit today, the cars and safety equipment were not quite keeping up with the technology and horsepower. Banjo Matthews’ 1962 Pontiacs prepared by the legendary Smokey Yunick were among the best of that early breed, replete with his trademark black and gold paint scheme. Fireball Roberts swept both Daytona races that season, wearing a t-shirt and a polo helmet. Roberts' nickname was the result of his being able to throw a baseball, but would tragically come to fruition in 1964, after a horrific fiery wreck resulting from a split gas tank at Charlotte. He would succumb to his injuries six weeks later in July 1964 before the Daytona Firecracker race he won just two years prior.
by Vito Pugliese
Silver Fox Box
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7. David Pearson – 1976 Mercury Montego
Some cars look fast standing still, some are fast at speed, and some look like there’s no way it could be fast, — yet is very, very fast. David Pearson’s 1976 Mercury Montego, with its flat front end, was the cousin to Starsky and Hutch’s iconic sled, with which he drove to a 10-win season in 30 stars. He won the Daytona 500 after getting together with Richard Petty on the final lap, and limping across the finish line because he kept his engine running, while Petty stalled his. Of note: That Daytona 500 was Pearson’s only superspeedway win that year; Buddy Baker, Cale Yarborough and Dave Marcis won the remaining events at Daytona and Talladega.
by Vito Pugliese
Give Me A Dew!
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6. Darrell Waltrip – 1981-82 Buick Regal
1981 was the first year for the downsized cars, running on a 110” wheelbase. After a decade of running at 115” in big slabs of blubber, the new cars were trim, lean, mean and almost exclusively Buicks due to its more aerodynamic nose (compared to the squared off Grand Prix and Ford Thunderbird). Dodge was an afterthought with the Mirada by this time, so it was up to Darrell Waltrip to establish the new era with the assistance of team owner Junior Johnson in their Mountain Dew machine. And that they did. Waltrip won 12 of 31 races that year= en route to his first championship. He’d win 12 races again a year later in the same car, forever banishing the myth of green racecars being bad luck.
by Vito Pugliese
Awesome Bill from Dawsonville
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5. Bill Elliott – 1983-86 Ford Thunderbird
At the dawn of the small-car era of the early 1980s, Ford was all but absent from circle track competition. Actually, outside of Bob Chandler’s “Big Foot” running amok in stadiums, Ford was all but absent from the motorsports map. When the new swoopy Thunderbird debuted in ’83 that all changed. Its debut didn’t go so hot, as it flew wildly threw the air at Daytona, nearly killing Ricky Rudd in the process. However, as Bill and Ernie Elliott began showing up with their Melling Racing Thunderbirds, the aero-wars began anew. Elliott’s ’85 T-bird was especially dominate, winning the Daytona 500, the first offering of the Winston Million and making up two laps to win at Talladega under green. That’s two laps. At Talladega. Under green flag competition. No Lucky Dog, no waive-around. Every fast car has its secret and theirs was no different; it was actually 9/10 scale in size, so it literally was cheating the wind. Elliott will likely forever hold the fastest lap in competition setting the record with a 212.809 mph.
by Vito Pugliese
The King’s Chariot
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4. Richard Petty – 1972-74 Dodge Charger
Every driver has a car that defines him (or her) and his (or her) career. For Richard Petty and his 200 wins and seven titles, there are two cars: his ’67 Plymouth and the ’74 Dodge Charger pictured here. 31 wins and two titles (including two runner-up championship runs). How does that math work? It used to be you could run a model for four years in NASCAR, and with the garbage rolling out of Detroit back then (particularly for the post-musclecar era for mother Mopar), the best bet was sticking with a proven bullet. The third generation Charger would rule the roost in NASCAR until the 1977 season; in 1978, Petty’s Dodge Mangum produced the King’s first winless season. Petty often mentions the ’73 Charger as is favorite and most memorable car, but the ’74 is essentially the same car. Plus he had that awesome Fu Man Chu.
by Vito Pugliese
From Daytona to Bonneville
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3. Bobby Isaac – 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona
Everybody loves the winged warriors, and Bobby Isaac’s No. 71 K&K Insurance 1969 Dodge Daytona is probably the most successful of the bunch. The Daytona was Dodge’s answer to the Ford Torino Talladega and Mercury Comet Cyclone. The standard Dodge Charger, while looking fast, was a turbulent turd at the big tracks, and the Charger 500 was a Band-Aid fix until the big guns arrived. Isaac won 11 races and the championship during the 1970 season, running the winged ’69 on the high banks and a regular ’70 Charger on the shorts. He would later take it to the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1971 to set several land speed records. The Daytona was also the reason Richard Petty defected to Ford (Chrysler wouldn’t let him drive one – he was a Plymouth man), and why Plymouth would later release the Superbird, to bring him back into the fold. A far cry from today, where they can’t even find an engine supplier to recruit a team they desperately needed. Ah, the good old days …
by Vito Pugliese
Always Bet on Black
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2. Dale Earnhardt – 2000-01 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
By the time the late 1990s rolled around, downforce was the name of the game and Chevrolet was a little late to the part. While Jeff Gordon’s Monte Carlo was about the only Chevy to get a whiff of the ovid-shaped Taurus and its crushing downforce numbers, the design was getting a bit long in the tooth. And the General’s other soldier, the Pontiac Grand Prix, was starting to steal a bit of Chevy’s limelight on the intermediate tracks. Enter the Y2K MC SS. As Todd tells Jeremy upon unveiling his disturbing painting in “The Wedding Crashers,” “It’s both sexual and violent!” You may remember this iteration of the Intimidator’s chariot inching out a win over Bobby Labonte in an Atlanta photo finish, or slicing through the field at Talladega from 18th to the lead in the final four laps for what would be his final – and arguably greatest — win.
by Vito Pugliese
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1. Mark Martin – 1992-95 Ford Thunderbird
The early 1990s will be remembered as the Golden Era of the Modern Era. During this period of the sport’s history, NASCAR managed to catch lightning in a bottle with the perfect balance of aerodynamics, horsepower, tires and innovation allowed within – or just outside — of the rules. The cars looked reasonably close to their production counterparts, and actually had to have the hood, rear deck lid and rearview mirror of their showroom cousins. Martin’s No. 6 Valvoline Roush Ford Thunderbird was probably the best looking racecar and paint scheme of this (or any) era. Try to freehand draw that No. 6 and not screw it up or have it look goofy. Ford dominated the first half of the 1992 season, while Alan Kulwicki and Bill Elliott battled down to the last lap to determine the championship in Atlanta. It was suddenly cool to run a Ford in Cup in the early to mid-’90s, even as Earnhardt and Gordon continued to compile wins and Cups. At least Ford had the good sense to not name the mythical winged creature after a dust-buster-ized minivan.
Dale Earnhardt: The Michael Jordan of NASCAR's Dream Team? (ASP, Inc.)
Throughout the Olympics one often hears about a “Dream Team’’ in one sport or another. So what about NASCAR?
Members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council were asked if they were an owner with four teams and could pick any Cup driver in any era, who would be the four for their Dream Team? Their picks proved quite interesting.
They also debated Jeff Gordon’s chances of making the Chase and Sunday’s Pocono race. Here’s what Fan Council members had to say:
Who is on your NASCAR Dream Team?
74.3 percent selected Dale Earnhardt Sr. 58.9 percent selected Jimmie Johnson 43.2 percent selected Tony Stewart 38.7 percent selected Richard Petty
Others 33.2 percent selected Jeff Gordon 23.6 percent selected David Pearson 18.8 percent selected Kyle Busch 15.1 percent selected Cale Yarborough 10.6 percent selected Tim Richmond 10.3 percent selected Dale Earnhardt Jr. 9.6 percent selected Darrell Waltrip 7.5 percent selected Davey Allison 6.8 percent selected Junior Johnson 6.5 percent selected Matt Kenseth No other drivers received more than 5 percent of the vote
What Fan Council members said:
• Dale Earnhardt for sheer tenacity and stubborn will. Jeff Gordon because he’s won championships with multiple crew chiefs. Cale Yarborough because he is the only driver who has REALLY won three championships back-to-back-to-back (sorry, I'm not counting Chase trophies — that is over 10 races not a full season.) David Pearson because he has an amazing winning record while rarely running a full schedule.
• I would want a team deep with knowledge, and someone to groom. That is why I picked Kyle Busch. Could you imagine Busch with the tutelage of Petty, Earnhardt and Jaws?
• Tony, Kyle, Dale (Sr.), and David Pearson. That's a winning team for certain! Four guys who could win in anything they stepped foot in. And can you imagine what the conversations and fights in the hauler would be like? Woohooo!
• The King: Because he is The King with wins that would guarantee me sponsors and TV “face time.” But also because he cares about the fans to a legendary level and would bring me a very loyal fan base. Smoke: Because if it has wheels and I need it to cross the finish line first, I want his butt in that seat. Curtis Turner: If he couldn't swing deals to get sponsorship money for me, he'd come up with some scheme to get someone else to give me the money. And he had no fear when it came to racing. Bill Elliott: Another great racer who took care of his cars more than the other three! Popular, a great back story, media friendly and sponsor sensitive.
• I picked DW, Tim Richmond, Kyle Busch and Smoke. All four can wheel anything with tires, and do it well. I went with an old-school/new-school theme. I see all four of these guys sort of being one in the same in their respective periods. There is enough talent there to fill Lake Lloyd but the egos and attitudes would be the only problem!
• Big E, Smoke, Busch and Junior Johnson. Give 'em a big slice of badass!
• Had to go with Earnhardt Sr. and Richard Petty, just because they are the best drivers this sport has seen. Then I went with two darkhorse choices: First, Terry Labonte just because he is one of the most consistent and level-headed drivers the sport has seen, and can definitely be a true asset on a Dream Team. Then I went with Buddy Baker because he has driven so many types of vehicles, not just NASCAR, and has a true need for speed and aggressive style that could help win in a style like in an Olympic-like format.
• I tried to go with some from a different era. So I went with Davey Allison, who let's face it, if he were still alive, would have been a great champion and made some great stats. Jimmie Johnson — five championships all in a row, people think he's vanilla, but he'll blow your socks off. Enough said. Dale Earnhardt — people feared him on the track and he’s a seven-time champion. Enough said. And Cale, first driver to win three championships (consecutively) and one hell of a driver.
• I chose The Intimidator because he knew what he needed from a car at all times and could rattle the best out there. He always gave 100 percent and hated losing. Seven titles and 76 wins along with a strong fan base (helps sales) would give my team a strong boost. Smoke has won in multiple forms of racing and is one of the best stock car drivers in recent memory. I would take Smoke in a one-race, winner-take-all battle over anyone. Pearson is a confident driver, but he will sneak up on you. Anyone that can be as dominant at Darlington and the big tracks like the Silver Fox will be on my team. Ned Jarrett is humble, well-spoken and drove as hard as he needed to. He would save the equipment and drive intelligently. I like the balance of my team and feel as though it could stand up against any team.
• Obviously, the best three drivers ever: Dale Sr., the King, and Five-Time. For my fourth driver, I went with Tim Richmond. Had he not be taken from us far too early, Dale Sr. would not have seven titles.
• This was one of the toughest questions ever! To put together my Dream Team I not only took into consideration talent but drivers who would complement each other and help each other be better than their raw talent alone. In my opinion, the all-time, all-around leadership of Richard Petty, the take-no-prisoners attitude of Dale Earnhardt Sr., the steadying even-keel resolve of Jeff Gordon and the feisty drive-the-wheels-off-anything-with-superb-car-control of Kyle Busch would blend perfectly, creating an unbeatable team.
• Most importantly, I would want Chad Knaus, Ray Evernham, Smokey Yunick and Dale Inman as my Dream Team’s crew chiefs.
Jeff Gordon: Closing in on a Chase bid? (ASP, Inc.)
Will Jeff Gordon make the Chase? Gordon moved to second in the wild card standings (based on a tiebreaker) after his Pocono win. In late June, 29.2 percent of Fan Council members thought Gordon would make the Chase. So, what do Fan Council members think now?
70.5 percent say Gordon WILL make the Chase 29.5 percent say Gordon WILL NOT make the Chase
What Fan Council members said:
• Absolutely! If anyone has noticed he has been competitive all year, but that bad luck streak did him in. It is gone and they are rejuvenated to keep it going. He's going into the next five races at tracks where he can dominate for sure. NEVER count out Jeff Gordon!!
• I'd love nothing more than saying “yes he will make the Chase,” but I'm afraid 2012 will not be Jeff's year. The only thing he's been consistent with is bad cars and bad luck this season. He deserves better.
• I gave this a lot of thought before checking “yes” — I don't want to jinx it! But I honestly feel he has had the cars and most definitely the ability to win all season but has been slammed with the worst luck of his career. It's about time the law of averages kicks in and he posts the finishes he should have had all along. The same way a bad streak can start with an out-of-the-ordinary occurrence, a good streak can start with one. Wasn't it fitting that his win drought was ended by rain?
• Just about gave up on the 24, but he is alive and some of his good tracks are coming up. Still think he needs one more win, as both Kyle (Busch) and Ryan (Newman) are capable of winning any week.
• All of the Hendrick cars are running great right now. If Jeff Gordon can stay on the track and race up front, he can definitely make the Chase.
• I think he will make the Chase. He seems to be running a little better than Ryan Newman and Kyle Busch at the moment.
• No. Flashes of brilliance so far, but too inconsistent. Gustafson has seemed to always have this issue though, going back several years to the Kyle Busch days. He is one of the best crew chiefs when he is on, but if he is just a little off, count on them running in the 20s.
• (Gordon) had an eighth-place car and his teammate's bonehead move gave him the win. He's not going to get in. They've been way too inconsistent.
• After all the bad luck he has had in 2012, this may be just what he needs to get right for the Chase!
• I think his team is headed in the right direction. Wouldn't be surprised to see him get another win.
Grade Sunday’s Cup race at Pocono
54.8 percent called it Good 26.9 percent called it Fair 10.2 percent called it Great 8.2 percent called it Poor
What Fan Council members said:
• Giving it a “poor” rating because of what happened with the weather. As soon as the severe thunderstorm WARNING was issued, the stands should have been cleared, the cars parked and everyone taking shelter. Innocent people were hurt and one fan lost his life. Totally unacceptable.
• Since a fan died at the race and nine others were injured, I can't give this race any other grade other than “poor,” no matter what happened on the track.
• Once again, Pocono was one of the better races of the season. No one thought we would say that at the beginning of the year. However, I can't rate this as "great” due to the bizarre officiating for the rain. There were apparently about three laps where the track was completely clear, but NASCAR wouldn't wave the green due to the upcoming storm. If NASCAR was that concerned, they should have brought the cars to pit road immediately instead of fooling around under caution for no reason and risking fan safety.
• The race should have been rescheduled for Monday. All one had to do was look at the radar. That was no race.
• The rain made the race better than normal with a possible “moving finish line.”
• The rain being imminent from the start made the race more like a Truck Series race than a normal Cup race. Intensity from the green flag, no driving around for 300 miles then deciding to go.
• As a seasoned fan, I enjoy and understand the complicated strategies when the race is clearly going to be ended after the halfway point is reached and rain is imminent. I think it might be different for new fans coming into the sport. The racing was good and clean — typical Pocono for me. I enjoyed it.
• It sucks when someone wins because of rain that really did not have a good chance of winning.
• Good race for Pocono. It wasn't as exciting as the last Pocono race, but it wasn't as boring as the previous Pocono races. I enjoyed watching the passes for the lead when they occurred. I enjoyed watching Carl Edwards and others come through the field. I was thoroughly disappointed by the 48-17 incident, but things happen when the 17 gets anxious.
The Backseat Drivers Fan Council was founded and is administered by Dustin Long. Fans can join by sending Dustin an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please include the following information:
Name, city, state, Twitter name, e-mail address and favorite driver.