NASCAR, the American sport of stock racing is an incredibly popular and competitive field. There is fierce competition between hundreds of drivers, all vying for a position on the starting track. There are many obstacles to overcome in terms of getting the right sponsor, the right team and avoiding accidents and injury. Add to that the intense rivalry that exists among drivers and the tempers that flare in the competitive environment of a race track and it is easy to see why many drivers fail to make the grade. But who are the worst NASCAR drivers? Through misfortune or their own lack of control, here are some of the drivers who haven’t made the grade.
10. Clint Bowyer
Clint Bowyer drives the number 14 Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing and despite winning the 2008 Nationwide Series championship in 2008, he remains an unpopular character among fans. He had a win in 2018 after a five and a half year gap during which time he had a string of hard seasons. His son had never seen his father win, so Bowyer celebrated his long-awaited win by downing a beer in front of the live television cameras and his son.
Bowyer had competed in nearly two hundred races before gaining this recent victory, despite being one of the sport’s hottest anticipated contenders. During this hiatus, Bowyer was involved in some of NASCAR’s most contentious incidents. During the 2012 season, there was a rivalry between two teams that Bowyer got involved in. He was seen running from his wrecked car to go and get involved in a fist fight between the two teams. The next year in the season finale at Richmond, Bowyer made a deliberate move to help out another teammate using an illegal move. However, this seemingly altruistic maneuver backfired and NASCAR handed out huge penalties, rearranged the list of postseason positions and forced Bowyer to go on an apology tour to atone for his behaviour.
9. David Stremme
David Stremme started as a NASCAR driver in 2003, under a driver development contract. His early career was not notable and hit an all-time low in a race at Dover when he came 31st. he was then let go by his team and moved to FitzBradshaw Racing, moving back to Chip Ganassi for the 2004 season. Once again, he was notable by his failure to make any significant mark on the leaderboards, despite having superior equipment with Ganassi.
Over 34 races, he failed to gain a single top ten place in his rookie season. The next year, 2007 saw little improvement, although he did manage to clinch a finish in the top ten at last. This was short lived. By 2009 he was back to his pattern of gaining no top ten finishes, despite racing for reputable teams and being given plenty of chances. He failed to qualify for the Homestead race and was released from his team. The Penske team that Stremme was driving for descended from 12th in the rankings to 20th while Stremme was driving for them during 2009. By 2014 he was driving for Circle but after failing to win anything after 12 races, he was released from that team and seemed to end his NASCAR career.
8. John Wes Townley
Townley had a short career in NASCAR and was fortunate enough to be racing for a team owned by his father. Athenian Racing entered teams in the NASCAR races from 2014 until 2017 when Townley retired and the team folded. Townley competed mostly in the Camping World Truck Series according to Accesswdun. He managed two top ten finishes but was forced to pull out of many races due to injury and missed three races as the result of an ankle injury that he received off the race track.
Unfortunately, Townley is remembered for his off-track antics rather than his prowess as a driver. In 2016, at Gateway International Speedway, he was embroiled in a scuffle with fellow racer, Spencer Gallagher, after the two were involved in a crash. The fight was filmed on national television and Townley received a hefty fine for his unsportsmanlike behavior and a probation for the remainder of the 2016 season. In 2017, at just 27. Townley retired and his father sold off his business. Out of 76 races over eight years, Townley had managed a personal best of finishing 23rd in 2009 and decided to pursue a college career instead of continuing with racing.
7. Jennifer Jo Cobb
Jennifer is 44 and is the only woman racing in the Camping World Truck Series. Her career has not been without controversy and she has been notable for her misdemeanors. She was fined for leaving the scene of a crash before the safety staff had arrived on the scene. She was then placed on probation for the incident, which gave her a larger fine as a result of a subsequent incident when she was found to have a cell phone in her car. Nascar had banned drivers from having cell phones in their cars back in 2012 according to Motorsport.
Jennifer has dreamt of driving in NASCAR but she has had a hard journey. For 27 years she has been trying to make her name in the racing world. She felt she was at a disadvantage for being a forerunner as a woman in this male-dominated world. Some said she couldn’t make it as a woman driver and others felt she was trading on her good looks to gain success and popularity. However, despite her lack of success, Cobb is admired for her determination to succeed against the odds and for her passion for racing.
6. Steve Wallace
The son of the renowned racing driver, Rusty Wallace, Steve has always encountered prejudice and those who say he has only broken into the sport because of the connections and reputation of his famous father. His career has not been without its failures and controversies. He was involved with on-track rivalry with Mason Mingus which resulted in a public fight between the two. The brawl which was captured on camera took place in the pit area of the race track where the track collision had occurred.
Wallace was nicknamed ‘The Wrecker’ because of the number of crashes he was involved in and the number of cars he totalled, according to Allleftturns. In a Nationwide race at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Wallace was involved in a crash on the track, but instead of returning to the pit to have his car repaired, he pursued the driver to attempt to punish him and get his revenge by damaging the car further. He was penalized for his behavior on the day by NASCAR. Problems with his sponsors and taming his aggressive behaviors meant that Steve has been stunted in his career and if he had the potential to succeed it was marred by his own difficulties off the track.
5. Scott Speed
Speed has a passion for racing and has tried many different genres of the sport. However, his collaboration with Red Bull for NASCAR was far from successful. The seven-year working relationship broke down when Red Bull left NASCAR after failing to make its mark with Speed and he launched a lawsuit against the company for ending his contract according to Autoweek. In 2009 he was competing well in terms of speed but was involved in a crash which saw him finish way down the leaderboard and then failed to qualify for a number of subsequent races.
In 2010 he suffered misfortune when running out of gas on a couple of races and receiving cautions and the termination of his contract with Red Bull after a career which saw his best finish in 2009 at fifth position. He had failed to reach several performance standards which Red Bull demanded. After that, he remained without a team for most of 2011, then had some limited opportunities in 2012 and 2013, before being released from his team, Levine. Speed cited his passion for racing in interviews but said that his love may have been superior to his experience in some genres, perhaps explaining his lack of success in NASCAR.
4. Norm Benning
Norm Benning is one of the veterans of the NASCAR circuit. He has been racing well into his sixties and still retains enough of a passion for the sport that he continues to pursue his dream. He started his career under a cloud of controversy, faking his age to be allowed to enter, despite being only fifteen years of age. After some years attempting to reach the top of his sport, he was dropped by his sponsor and decided to form his own team, Norm Benning Racing and even acts as his own mechanic, such is his desire to continue in the sport, according to Oldest.org.
Norm is a trier and will not give up. He has become something of a national hero because of his perseverance and determination to continue to try. He has many nicknames among his loyal fans and peers, one of which is ‘the ultimate underdog’. He started his NASCAR career in 1989 and tried to achieve success in the top three tiers. Despite finishing in the last thirty on numerous occasions and failing to qualify for the Daytona 500 races for seven years without success, Benning never gave up.
3. Kim Crosby
Kim Crosby has tried hard to make it in the world of stock car racing. As a woman in a mostly male sport, she faced obstacles other than winning. However, she is determined to make her mark and will try any opportunity that comes her way to fulfill her ambition. She attempted to make her mark in ARCA racing and keeps attempting her dream to succeed in the Busch series. She managed four starts since the 2003 season and peaked at a finish of twenty-first. By 2005 she had parted company with her racing team, Coleman Racing.
She has had bad luck in her career as well. When she did make the qualifying speed, she suffered an engine failure at the America Food World 300. In 2005 she made four starts in the Busch series and finished as 89th out of 149, reports Menstuff. By 2008 she was able to make the grade to compete in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, but unfortunately could not secure sponsorship so was unable to compete. By 2009 Kim had decided to diversify into Monster Jam racing but has said that if an opportunity to compete in NASCAR comes along again, she would love to do it, despite being in her fifties.
2. Casey Mears
Casey Mears has been competing in NASCAR since 2001 but has achieved little success in his career and has been passed from team to team in his bid to gain some credibility on the circuit. In his first race, he managed to finish twenty-eighth and did not make a notable mark on the sport. He was taken on by Chip Ganassi but in his first season, he did not secure any top ten finishes. He had more success in 2004 and 2005 but was stymied by pit stops or lack of fuel and had to be content without a win.
He managed a career-best finish of second in 2006 and at the end of the season was taken on by Hendrick Motorsports and this move seemed fortuitous as Mears won his first race, in a dramatic finish when he just made the finishing line as he ran out of fuel. He repeated this manner of finishing in 2007 with another win just as the fuel ran out. It appeared that his luck had run out, and after a long stretch with no more wins, Hendrick let Casey go. He had a troubled career with his next team, Childress, and was released by them at the end of the 2009 season.
1. Michael Waltrip
Michael Waltrip has had a NASCAR career which has been dominated by bad luck, bad crashes, and bad behavior. Waltrip did not give a good impression on screen either, making an obscene gesture on television in 2005 that cost him a nasty fine and did nothing for his reputation as a sportsman. His team was also involved in a controversial fuel scandal in 2007 when an illegal fuel additive was found in the engine of one of their cars and the team was fined $100,000 by NASCAR.
Waltrip was then involved in a horrendous crash at Bristol Motorspeedway and it was miraculous that he escaped the crash without losing his life. He had tried to pass a fellow driver during the Budweiser 250 Grand National Race and they bumped and this was enough to send Waltrip’s car into a steel gate which broke down and its driver was catapulted into a concrete barrier, wrecking the car. Unbelievably, despite the annihilation of his car, Waltrip survived. There is a catalog of other crashes and failures to qualify for races in Waltrip’s career. Despite some limited successes, from 2011 onwards there were so many crashes that Waltrip was involved in that he was lucky to walk away from racing with his life.