NASCAR Sprint Cup Champions

NASCAR - More Than Just Speed

NASCAR racing is the second most popular sport in the USA, surpassing basketball and baseball in 2012 as the most watched sport.

This is pretty unusual for a motor sport. In general team sports tend to do better with the public, NASCAR bucks that trend.

But NASCAR racing is about more than speed and the Sprint Cup is the ultimate prize for the driver who proves him or herself consistent over its long season.

Some NASCAR Sprint Cup Champions have only lifted the trophy once, others have done it on numerous occasions.

This article will list all of the NASCAR Spring Cup Champions from its inception in 1949 to 2012.

Red Byron - first winner of the NASCAR Sprint Cup
Red Byron - first winner of the NASCAR Sprint Cup | Source
The much-lived Hudson Hornet, still wowing motor show crowds today.
The much-lived Hudson Hornet, still wowing motor show crowds today. | Source

NASCAR Sprint Cup Champions - 1950s

We can't look at NASCAR in the 1950s without first at least acknowledging the great racing of NASCAR's first champion, Red Byron in the inaugural season of 1949 when the Sprint Cup was then called the Strictly Stock series.

Red Byron was successful at Talladega before his win but did not race much after 1950, preferring to run his own race team.

He spent most of the 1950s trying to develop an American Formula 1 Grand Prix car. Sadly, he died of a heart attack in 1960, aged just 45.

Bill Rexford's 1950's Sprint Cup championship victory was something of an anomoly. Rexford was from New York and raced mainly in the north-east. 1950 was his only year racing in NASCAR's Nationwide series. He is one of only 2 non-Southern drivers to become champion and remains the youngest NASCAR champion ever.

The rest of the 1950s Sprint Cup wins were dominated by 3 other drivers, Tim Flock, Herb Thomas and Lee Petty.

Flock had a tricky career beset with conflict arising from his participation in union support for drivers. Lee Petty more or less started the Petty 'dynasty' of NASCAR drivers and was the father of NASCAR's most successful driver in terms of wins, Richard Petty.

Herb Thomas was one of the most successful drivers of the 1950s in terms of poles and wins and was most well known for driving one of NASCAR Sprint Series most well-loved cars, the Hudson Hornet.

1950s NASCAR Strictly Stock Series

YEAR
DRIVER
MANUFACTURER
1950
Bill Rexford
Oldsmobile
1951
Herb Thomas
Oldsmobile
1952
Tim Flock
Hudson Hornet
1953
Herb Thomas
Hudson Hornet
1954
Lee Petty
Hudson Hornet
1955
Tim Flock
Chrysler
1956
Buck Baker
Chrysler
1957
Buck Baker
Chevrolet
1958
Lee Petty
Olsmobile
1959
Lee Petty
Plymouth

NASCAR Sprint Champion, Joe Weatherly's Gravestone

The gravestone is in the shape of the NASCAR Riverside Park track at which he died
The gravestone is in the shape of the NASCAR Riverside Park track at which he died

NASCAR Sprint Cup Champions - 1960s

Rex White's victory in 1960 was to be his only year as one of the NASCAR Strictly Stock champions in spite of enjoying an illustrious racing career for most of the early 60s. In 1960, the year of his victory, he won $13,000. He remained largely self-financed for the bulk of his racing career so his victory was all the more amazing.

One of the most popular drivers of the 1960s was Joe Weatherly, famous for some of his outrageous stunts on the tracks when doing warm up laps etc. Weatherly lived fast and hard enjoying his fame and the partying that went with it.

He is the the only reigning NASCAR champion to die in a race. This happened at Riverside International Raceway where his head struck a retaining wall when he was leaning out of the window (window nets are now mandatory but were not at the time of his death).

Who knows how far Joe might have gone, he was a NASCAR champion twice and arguably, died in his prime.

The 1960s also saw the first NASCAR wins for Richard Petty.

1960s NASCAR Strictly Stock Series

YEAR
DRIVER
MANUFACTURER
1960
Rex White
Chevrolet
1961
Ned Jarrett
Chevrolet
1962
Joe Weatherly
Pontiac
1963
Joe Weatherly
Pontiac
1964
Richard Petty
Plymouth
1965
Ned Jarrett
Ford
1966
David Pearson
Dodge
1967
Richard Petty
Plymouth
1968
David Pearson
Ford
1969
David Pearson
Ford
Richard Petty in 2006
Richard Petty in 2006 | Source

NASCAR Sprint Cup Champions - 1970s

Both Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough dominated the standings during the 1970s NASCAR seasons with both winning multiple championships.

Richard Petty has earned his name of 'The King' of NASCAR champions. He has won more NASCAR races than any other driver, won the Daytona 500 7 times, the Sprint Cup 7 times (equalled by fellow champion, Dale Earnhardt), a record number of pole positions at 127 and over 700 top 10 finishes in his 1,185 starts, that's 60% of all of his races.

Cale Yarborough won the NASCAR championships 3 years in succession and went on to have a very long career in NASCAR, sometimes splitting his 'seat' with another driver at various teams to enable him to concentrate on other interests. He created his own NASCAR team and was also an actor in a few episodes of Dukes of Hazzard. He never really achieved any success with his own team though he was involved with NASCAR racing right until 2000.

1970s NASCAR Grand National Series

YEAR
DRIVER
MANUFACTURER
1970
Bobby Isaac
Dodge
1971
Richard Perry
Plymouth
1972
Richard Perry
Plymouth
1973
Benny Parsons
Chevrolet
1974
Richard Perry
Dodge
1975
Richard Perry
Dodge
1976
Cale Yarborough
Chevrolet
1977
Cale Yarborough
Chevrolet
1978
Cale Yarborough
Olsmobile
1979
Richard Perry
Chevrolet

NASCAR Sprint Cup Champions - 1980s

The 1980s saw the rise and rise of Dale Earnhardt Snr as the outstanding NASCAR driver and champion of his age.

Earnhardt had come from a racing family; his father Ralph was a motor racer so it seems it was in his blood.

Dale Earnhardt would win his first NASCAR Winston Cup Championship in 1980 and win a further 6 in the next 13 years. A record only matched by Richard Perry.

Dale Earnhardt is the father of current NASCAR racer, Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Earnhardt died in a NASCAR race in the Daytona 500 in 2001. He was 49 years old.

He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in the first ballot and is still revered as one of the greatest NASCAR Sprint Cup Champions of all time.


R.I.P Dick Trickle - sad news about one of the 1980s most well-loved drivers, Dick Trickle - full news story here.

1980s Winston Cup Series

YEAR
DRIVER
MANUFACTURER
1980
Dale Earnhardt
Chevrolet
1981
Darrell Waltrip
Buick
1982
Darrell Waltrip
Buick
1983
Bobby Allison
Buick
1984
Terry Labonte
Chevrolet
1985
Darrell Waltrip
Chevrolet
1986
Dale Earnhardt
Chevrolet
1987
Dale Earnhardt
Chevrolet
1988
Bill Elliott
Ford
1989
Rusty Wallace
Pontiac

NASCAR Sprint Cup Champions - 1990s

In the 1990s, Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon were the 2 dominant drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championships (then still known as the Winston Cup).

Dale Earnhardt basically just picked up where he left off in the early 90s and was NASCAR Sprint Cup champion 4 times in the decade, in 1990, 91, 93 and 94.

Only Alan Kulwicki spoiled him getting 3 wins in a row when he became NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion in 1992. Alan Kulwicki was certainly not your typical NASCAR driver. He was an engineering graduate who knew his car inside out and spent as much time advising his paddock crew as he did driving the car.

Sadly, Alan Kulwicki was killed in a plane crash in 1993, aged just 38.

Jeff Gordon was not far behind Earnhardt with 3 NASCAR Sprint Championship wins in the 90s. He wasl went on to win again in 2001.

Jeff Gordon is still racing in 2012.

1990s Winston Cup Series

YEAR
DRIVER
MANUFACTURER
1990
Dale Earnhardt
Chevrolet
1991
Dale Earnhardt
Chevrolet
1992
Alan Kulwicki
Ford
1993
Dale Earnhardt
Chevrolet
1994
Dale Earnhardt
Chevrolet
1995
Jeff Gordon
Chevrolet
1996
Terry Labonte
Chevrolet
1997
Jeff Gordon
Chevrolet
1998
Jeff Gordon
Chevrolet
1999
Dale Jarrett
Ford

NASCAR Sprint Cup Champions - 2000s

In the noughties, NASCAR has gone from strength to strength.

Jimmie Johnson has completely dominated this last decade, becoming NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion in successive years between 2006 and 2010.

Jimmie Johnson began his racing career on motorcycles before moving to buggies and off road trucks. He then moved to other off-road vehicles before becoming a driver in the Nationwide Series, in which he was incredibly successful recording 24 top 10 finishes and 1 win.

His career in NASCAR Sprint Cup racing began in 2002 where he finished 5th overall and was considered one of the most promising rookies that year.

In his NASCAR Sprint Cup career to date Jimmie Johnson has achieved 60 wins and 248 Top 10 finishes.

Many suspect Jimmie Johnson has a few NASCAR Spring Cup Championships in him yet.

2000s NASCAR Nextel and Sprint Cup Series

YEAR
DRIVER
MANUFACTURER
2000
Bobby Labonte
Chevrolet
2001
Jeff Gordon
Pontiac
2002
Tony Stewart
Ford
2003
Matt Kenseth
Ford
2004
Kurt Busch
Ford
2005
Tony Stewart
Chevrolet
2006
Jimmie Johnson
Chevrolet
2007
Jimmie Johnson
Chevrolet
2008
Jimmie Johnson
Chevrolet
2009
Jimmie Johnson
Chevrolet
2010
Jimmie Johnson
Chevrolet
2011
Tony Stewart
Chevrolet
2012
Brad Keselowski
Dodge

The Rise and Rise of NASCAR

NASCAR has proved itself something of a shape shifter over the last 6 decades, altering its formats, its series names, its vehicle series at regular intervals and far from driving its fans crazy, it has actually offered motorsports fans more variety, more excitement, more races, more reasons to turn up and watch the cars go round.

One fan on a forum described the NASCAR Sprint Cup as 'an assault on the senses' - NASCAR is America's second most popular spectator sport for a reason .

NASCAR advertises itself as a family event - going to the track is a day out with time for tailgating and spending time with your friends and family, followed by the colourful, loud, fume-filled atmosphere that is NASCAR Sprint Cup Racing.

NASCAR's Sprint Cup Champions deserve their accolades, wealth and prestige - NASCAR racing is a tough format where only the strong survive season after season.

Only 29 different drivers have won during its 63 year history, showing that a desire to win again is in every NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship's heart and soul. Long may that desire last!

Many thanks for reading.

More by this Author


Comments 10 comments

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Dianna, thanks for reading - I quite like Jeff Gordon too :o) but I have a hankering for Jr to win!


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

I have attended NASCAR racesa through the years and enjoyed watching some of these drivers listed. I wonder what Jimmy's secret is to dominating this decade? Anyways, Gordon is still doing well and may prove himself again this coming year. Great read and quite interesting.


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Bill, I'm sure there are hundreds of hubbers out there ready to put me in my place re: NASCAR but I thought I would give it a go anyway :o) Next stop....baseball (you know how much I love baseball) :o)


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Jackie, you should still dig out those cards! Many thanks for reading and for your comment on the layout (which took ages to set up!).


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Janine, thanks for reading and sharing. I am pretty new to NASCAR, only been watching it for the last few years on and off and I still prefer Formula 1 racing but I do admire their stamina and courage doing what they do. I think the Dale Snr story is terribly poignant and I imagine a lot of his fans are rooting for Jr every time he races.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

Look at you telling us about NASCAR! Your interests never fail to amaze me. Great summary of this sport.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

This is a great layout! I sort of moved away from all this but use to really love the racetrack. I have many Earnhardt cards I meant to have checked out years ago, probably waited too long now. Love this.


Janine Huldie profile image

Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

My brother is a huge Nascar Fan and loved Dale Sr. and now Jr., too. Am totally sharing this one with him. Thanks seriously and have voted up a ton and tweeted, too!!


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Georgie, I think most motor sports fans want to see Jr's name join this list and he deserves it! I hope he finally does it next year, that would be a season's end worth waiting for. Thanks so much for commenting!


Georgie Lowery profile image

Georgie Lowery 4 years ago from Slaton, Texas USA

I'm waiting to see Dale Jr's name added to this list. Great breakdown of the Cup winners! :)

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working