In the 60-plus year history of NASCAR, there have been 177 different drivers who have gone to Victory Lane.
Many many more never quite got the job done.
This list is the five drivers I think had the best careers, despite never getting a “W.” I did not include any drivers that are still active on a regular basis.
These drivers are the ones that really never had "the one that got away."
Honorable mentions Kenny Irwin Jr. and Rob Moroso.
The reason I listed these two drivers is the fact that they had so much potential. Either one of these drivers could have been a championship caliber. Both drivers died way too young.
In 1991, two drivers waged one of the best Rookie of the Year battles in NASCAR history.
The winner was the late Bobby Hamilton, who went on to have a decent career, scoring a handful of victories and a Truck Series Title. The runner-up was Ted Musgrave, who also won a Truck Series title.
In the mid-90s, Musgrave was going to be the next big star, in fact he actually turned down the chance to replace Richard Petty in the famous No. 43 car. In 1994, Musgrave began driving the No. 16 Ford for Jack Roush, a combination that everyone thought would produce many wins. Unfortunately, a few poles were the highlight of the Wisconsin native’s career.
Two runner-up finishes in 1995 and another in 1997 were the best the Roush team and Musgrave could produce. Musgrave has had a successful career in the Truck Series with 17 wins to go along with the 2005 series title.
Without a doubt the most popular driver to have never scored a win at NASCAR’s top level is Kenny Wallace.
The runner-up for the 1991 Busch Series title has had a decent career, despite not being able to find the winner's circle. His best shot came at Talladega in 2000, when he pushed Dale Earnhardt to his final cup victory. Wallace matched that second-place finish a year later at Rockingham, substituting for the injured Steve Park.
Richard Childress is better known as a six-time Sprint Cup Series champion car owner than as a driver.
He did have a decent career as a driver.
A little known fact is that Richard's first Cup start came as a replacement driver in the 1969 Talladega 500, the first ever held at the track.
Many NASCAR driver started boycotting the race due to tire issues. The young North Carolina native was one of the drivers that Bill France Sr. brought in for the event. As an independent driver, Childress scored an impressive 76 top-10 finishes in only 285 starts, including a career best of third at Nashville in 1978.
(By the way, Childress being No. 3 on this list is pure coincidence)
The last of the famed “Alabama Gang,” and perhaps one of the most underrated drivers ever.
In a career that lasted 15 years and included driving stints with legendary car owners such as Junior Johnson, Bobby Allison, Junie Donlavey, the Stavola Brothers, Rod Osterlund, and Kenny Bernstein, the best Hut could manage was a pair of runner-up finishes.
The first came at Michigan in 1991, finishing second to fellow Alabama driver, and his wife’s cousin, Davey Allison. In the 1996 running of the Southern 500, Hut was the man to beat, leading most laps before giving way to Jeff Gordon.
Rick Mast defiantly has his own page in the history books.
The Virginia native has been involved in three of the biggest events in the history of the Cup Series.
First, Rick won the pole for the season finale at the Hooters 500 in Atlanta in 1992. That may have been the most significant race since the very first Daytona 500. That day marked Richard Petty’s last race and Jeff Gordon’s debut as well as perhaps the best championship battle ever between Davey Allison, Alan Kulwicki, and Bill Elliott.
In 1994, Rick won his second career pole. This was for the very first NASCAR event held at the Indianapolis International Speedway. Rick also became the first driver to ever leap a lap in a stock car at Indy.
Later that season at Rockingham, Rick had his best shot at a win come up about a car length short. The winner that day was Dale Earnhardt, who clinched his record-tying seventh Winston Cup Title with the victory.