NASCAR Top 10: Darrell Waltrip ranks first for career championship point under current scoring system; Rudd leads active drivers. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 24, 2003) -- Three-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Darrell Waltrip, who ...
NASCAR Top 10: Darrell Waltrip ranks first for career championship point under current scoring system; Rudd leads active drivers.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 24, 2003) -- Three-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Darrell Waltrip, who retired at the conclusion of the 2000 season, has maintained his position as the top points-producing driver since the current scoring system was instituted in 1975, but the list of challengers for that title is mounting.
While Waltrip remains No. 1 on the NASCAR Top 10 list for most NASCAR Winston Cup championship points accumulated under the current scoring system, he has seven active drivers continually closing the gap, including the fast-approaching Ricky Rudd.
Waltrip, tied for third in all-time history with 84 wins, amassed 96,550 championship points in 769 races that stretched across that 26-year span. He was buoyed by his consistency as he finished among the top 10 in the championship 15 consecutive seasons from 1975-89 and 18 overall. Waltrip's best season in terms of overall championship points came in 1981, when he captured his first NASCAR Winston Cup title. He posted 4,880 points to edge Bobby Allison for the crown by 53 points.
Although he added two more championships in 1982 and '85, his second-best point total did not come in either of those title-winning seasons. It came in 1979, when he earned 4,819 points to finish runner-up to Richard Petty by a mere 11 points.
Rudd poses the biggest threat to Waltrip's reign at No. 1. Rudd moved into second earlier this season; he currently has a career total of 94,646 championship points in 783 starts. Rudd, who trails Waltrip by 1,904 points, surpassed Dale Earnhardt for the No. 2 position following a 15th-place finish at Darlington in mid-March.
Rudd, one of five drivers in this NASCAR Top 10 who is still pursuing his first NASCAR Winston Cup title, had his best single-season point total in 2001 when he finished fourth in the championship with 4,706 points. The total topped his previous career-best he established a year earlier when he earned 4,575 points on his way to a fifth-place finish.
Earnhardt, a seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion whose career was cut short in 2001 as a result of a fatal accident, is third behind Rudd with 93,650 championship points in 676 starts. Interestingly, Earnhardt's career-best single-season point total was not produced in any of those seven title runs.
Earnhardt posted 4,865 points in 2000 en route to a runner-up finish to Bobby Labonte. His second-highest total came in his 1987 championship run, when he registered 4,696 points. He is being pursued in the NASCAR Top 10 by three other former NASCAR Winston Cup champions who remain active in the series.
Terry Labonte is No. 4 with 93,125 points in 761 starts and has closed to 525 career championship points of Earnhardt. Labonte maximized his career-best single-season point totals as both resulted in NASCAR Winston Cup championships. He had 4,657 points in 1996 to edge Jeff Gordon by 37 points and 4,508 in 1984 to top Harry Gant by 65 points. Bill Elliott is No. 5 with 87,336 career championship points in 711 starts. Elliott's career-best single season total also resulted in a NASCAR Winston Cup crown, as he recorded 4,488 points in 1988 to edge Rusty Wallace by 24 points. Wallace, who a year later earned the lone NASCAR Winston Cup championship of his career, is No. 6 with 78,440 points in 614 starts. His best point total came last season when he earned 4,574 en route to a seventh-place finish in the championship.
The final four in the NASCAR Top 10 have never won a NASCAR Winston Cup championship, but only one is retired. Mark Martin paces the group with the No. 7 ranking by virtue of his 71,812 career championship points in 546 starts. Martin, a championship runner-up four times, owns a record among this NASCAR Top 10 group. His point total of 4,964 in the 1998 season when he finished second to Gordon ranks No. 1 for the highest single-season point total among these drivers. With 544 career starts, he also has the least amount among the NASCAR Top 10 group.
Martin is followed by Kyle Petty, who sits at No. 8 with 70,273 career points in 660 starts. His best single-season totals came in consecutive seasons (1992-93) when he finished a career-best fifth in the championship both years. He had 3,945 points in '92 and 3,860 in '93.
Dave Marcis, the last of the three non-active drivers in the NASCAR Top 10, concluded his career in 2002 with 69,396 points. His best point total came in 1978, when he posted 4,335 points en route to a fifth-place finish in the championship. Marcis' second-best total (4,061), however, resulted in a career-best runner-up finish in the 1975 series championship won by Richard Petty.
Sterling Marlin rounds out the NASCAR Top 10 list, securing the No. 10 position with 66,386 points in 584 starts. Marlin had his two best single-season totals result in career-best performances in the NASCAR Winston Cup championship. He recorded a career-high 4,741 points in 2001 and his second highest was 4,361 in 1995, the seasons he finished third in the title race.