Ranking the 5 Best Underdog Stories in NASCAR History

Michael GuadalupeFeatured ColumnistNovember 18, 2012

Ranking the 5 Best Underdog Stories in NASCAR History

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    There have been a lot of underdogs to come and go throughout NASCAR's history.  Just last season alone we saw several underdogs like Trevor Bayne and Regan Smith win races that no one expected them to win.

    Only certain underdog stories, though, will stand the true test of time in NASCAR.  As the 2012 season comes to a close for example, Brad Keselowski and his underdog story have turned out to be one of the best in the history of NASCAR.

    There were other underdogs before Brad, and there will always be underdogs after him as well.

    Some underdog stories happen throughout a driver's career, while others can happen in a season.  As the sport continues to change, the story of the underdog changes with it.

    From the battles of diversity of Wendell Scott, to the miraculous comeback of Alan Kulwicki, NASCAR has seen all types of underdogs throughout its long history—and will hopefully continue to see many more.

    Here are the top five best underdog stories in NASCAR history.

Honorable Mention: Danica Patrick

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    In a sport dominated by men, Danica Patrick is clearly an underdog in the Nationwide and Sprint Cup series.

    Of course there are other female drivers, but Patrick has been thrown into the spotlight this year and will be in the spotlight even more next year as she makes her full time Sprint Cup debut.

    Her underdog story is far from over, but still worth mentioning.  Will she have success in the Sprint Cup series or struggle to overcome the tough competition?

    She's had some difficulty this season already in her limited Sprint Cup debut, crossing paths with Regan Smith, Landon Cassill and even Jeff Burton.

    More drivers will likely try to test Patrick next year and see if she can overcome the challenges of the Sprint Cup series.

    How well she does next season will either make her underdog story one for the NASCAR record books—or one to consider forgetting.

    Regardless, Danica has been in the spotlight this season, and even though she is running in some of the better equipment in NASCAR, she is still an underdog.

5. Brad Keselowski

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    The 2012 season alone has been a great underdog story for Brad Keselowski.

    It started back in the beginning of the year, when Kurt Busch and Penske Racing decided to part ways.  All of a sudden, Keselowski became the main man for Penske Racing, something that is no easy responsibility to shoulder.

    Still, Keselowski proved throughout the year that he could handle being the main driver at Penske.

    Keselowski seemed like a clear underdog entering The Chase.  How would he handle racing for the championship against names like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart?

    Keselowski proved to be a force in The Chase, and not only did he win two races early on, but he also managed to finish better than his average on the first nine Chase tracks.

    Now as he gets set for Homestead, Jimmie Johnson is the only one who is even close to make a run at the title.  He sits 20 points behind Keselowski, but now the Blue Deuce is clearly the top dog with only one race left in The Chase.

    Brad is a prime example of how hard work and determination pay off.  He managed to out race some of the top names in NASCAR and is now in a great position to win his first championship.

    He has had the right attitude, even with everything that went on with his former teammate, A.J. Allmendinger, and Dodge announcing that they are leaving NASCAR after this season.

    With only three years of full schedule Sprint Cup experience behind him, Keselowski is already turning out to be one of the best drivers in NASCAR.

    His underdog story this year has been one of the best in NASCAR history.

4. Benny Parsons

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    Benny Parsons was given a shot to race for Ford Motor Co. back in August of 1964.  Parsons and Cale Yarborough were the two drivers in which Ford hoped to turn into NASCAR all-stars.

    Parsons didn’t impress in his debut, but Yarborough ran with the leaders and impressed Ford Motor Co.

    Yarborough earned himself a NASCAR ride within the year, while Parsons had to go back to short track racing.

    Another opportunity came for Parsons in 1969, and eventually he got his shot when he filled in for an injured Buddy Young in 1970.

    Parsons impressed when he filled in for Young, and by the end of the year L.G. DeWitt, who hired Parsons, decided to keep him on the payroll.

    In 1973 Benny managed to win the Winston Cup championship, but it was far from an easy task.  The DeWitt team had no sponsorship in 1973 and only had three cars to use for the entire season.

    Regardless of those two major setbacks, Parsons took advantage of the points system that year, which awarded points for each lap completed along with overall finishing position.  He managed to complete 9,311 laps out of a possible 10,258 for the season.

    During the last race of the season, Parsons' car suffered a lot of damage, and drivers from other teams rallied to help put his car back together.

    By the end of the last race, he would win the championship by 67.15 points over rival Cale Yarborough.

    Benny Parson was a true underdog and proved his perseverance in by winning the championship in a year where it seemed almost impossible.

3. Bobby Allison

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    Bobby Allison had a lot of success in NASCAR.  That doesn't mean he wasn't an underdog.

    Allison and his brother Donnie were two of the original underdogs in NASCAR before the sport started to take off.

    Allison had success in racing before NASCAR.  He won races in Alabama and, with his brother Donnie and their friend Red Farmer, set up a shop and called themselves the Alabama Gang.

    Eventually, Bobby entered NASCAR but was one driver who built his own cars.  Unlike the bigger names of the Pettys, for example, Allison didn't have a big budget but still managed to beat the top drivers in the sport from the 1960s to the 1980s.

    It took Allison a while before he managed to win his first and only title in 1983, but before that he was always a title contender.

    He was the underdog throughout the 1970s and '80s, finishing the season several times in second place behind Darrell Waltrip.

    In 1989, Allison was involved in a bad wreck at Pocono that caused massive head injuries and put him into early retirement.

    The tragedy wasn't over for Allison as he ended up losing his two sons Clifford and Davey in 1992 and '93.

    Bobby Allison has overcome a lot in his NASCAR career, and it has made him one of the best drivers to enter the sport.  He was a true underdog who persevered through extremely difficult times.

    Allison's entire racing career has been one big underdog story, which is why he is such a fan favorite to this day.

2. Wendell Scott

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    Wendell Scott was the definition of an underdog.  He entered NASCAR at a time when the sport was dominated by white men.

    Before getting into NASCAR, though, Scott was already a proven driver.  He won 128 amateur races on a low budget.  He entered NASCAR in 1961 with a car purchased from Buck Baker.

    Scott worked on his own cars and was clearly under-funded when compared to some of the bigger teams in the sport.

    Eventually, in 1963, with a car that Scott purchased from Ned Jarrett, he managed to win his first race.

    Except NASCAR didn’t officially credit him for the win.

    Scott did win, though, on the one-mile dirt track down in Jacksonville, Florida.  Instead, NASCAR decided to award Buck Baker with the win.

    Maybe it’s because of racing culture at the time, or perhaps something else, but for whatever reason NASCAR decided not to award Scott with the win. They would eventually correct themselves, and two years later they credited him with the victory.

    Even after being robbed a trophy and a trip to victory lane, Scott continued to race in NASCAR.  He eventually had to retire in 1973 because of injury, but he earned one win and 147 top-10 finishes in his career.

    Scott was the first, and only, African-American to win a NASCAR race.  He was a pioneer for the sport and a true underdog.

    With an extremely low-budget, Wendell had success in NASCAR and proved he could race with the best of them.

1. Alan Kulwicki

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    1992 was Alan Kulwicki's underdog year.  He was not only a driver but an owner as well.

    When the season started, Kulwicki looked like one driver who didn't have a shot at winning the championship.  If being an owner and a driver isn't stressful enough, Kulwicki thought he had a big sponsor in Maxwell House locked down in 1991, but he ended up losing the sponsorship to Junior Johnson's team.

    So 1992 didn’t look like it was going to be Kulwicki's year.

    He barely made it to the Daytona 500 and had to accept a provisional spot at the last row of the starting field.  He ended up rallying from a 41st start and finished in fourth once the Daytona race ended.

    Kulwicki's 1992 season was all about rallying back and never giving up.

    With six races left in the season, Kulwicki trailed the point's leader, Bill Elliot, by 278 points.  He had no chance of catching up to the leader, unless Elliot ran into major trouble.

    Luck ended up being on Kulwicki's side, as Elliot and the Johnson team ran into mechanical problems that let the other contenders catch up.

    Everything came down to the last race of the season as six drivers had a shot to win the championship.  Eventually, four out of the six were knocked out of the race, and it came down to just Kulwicki and Elliot.

    They battled back and forth through the second half of the race, and by the time the white flag waved, Elliot had won the race.

    But Kulwicki won the championship.

    Leading one more lap than Elliot, Kulwicki finished 10 points ahead of Elliot and won the Winston Cup title.

    Kulwicki overcame the largest point deficit in NASCAR history.  He was a clear underdog entering the 1992 season but managed to turn his bad luck around and walk away with the title.