The 1960’s began the launch of what many claim was the ‘golden era’ in NASCAR. Muscle cars ruled the speedways. Many star drivers surfaced throughout the decade, but not all of them were able to clinch the NASCAR Grand National title. Below is the list of the top drivers who were unable to capture a NASCAR championship in the decade of the 1960’s.
Junior Johnson (Robert Glenn, Jr)
Many NASCAR fans remember Johnson as one of the greatest team owners in NASCAR history. However, the old school fans of the 1950’s and 1960’s recall Johnson’s driving days. The former moonshiner began winning races in the 1950’s, but by the 1960’s, he was a recurrent winner on the NASCAR Grand National Series tour. He notched 34 wins in 203 races from 1960 to 1966. His finest season behind the wheel was in 1965 when he won 13 races in 36 starts. His highest ranking in the championship standings occurred in 1961 when he finished sixth with seven victories. Johnson retired from driving in 1966 at the age of 35. He remained in NASCAR as a team owner, winning six championships.
Lorenzen may not be a household name to the new NASCAR fans, but the older fans remember the days when ‘The Golden Boy’, or ‘Fast Freddie’ would occasionally turn left with the big boys. Lorenzen never competed in a full season, but that did not stop him from winning his share of races. In 1964, Lorenzen won eight of 16 races he competed. He won 26 total races in 122 starts from 1960 to 1967. Many feel that Lorenzen could have won several championships had he completed a full schedule. In the 1960’s, NASCAR seasons were sometimes 50 to 60 races in length. Lorenzen never competed in more than 29 races in one season. That was in 1963, and he finished third in the final NASCAR Grand National standings that year.
Bobby Isaac and Jim Paschal
While Johnson and Lorenzen were no-brainers to make the list, the third choice was particularly difficult. Isaac and Paschal enjoyed success throughout the decade, so it was virtually impossible to exclude either of the wheelmen. Isaac won 21 races in 171 starts, but 17 occurred in 1969. He did not compete in most of the races until 1968, which was the year he finished second in the championship standings. His extraordinary 1969 season was the primary reason why I could not discount Isaac. He would go on to win the championship a year later in 1970. Paschal won 18 races throughout the decade. He did not have the big season like Isaac, but Paschal’s wins were spread out over the years. He won five races in 1963. His best championship ranking was sixth in 1962 and 1967.
Honorable mentions include Dick Hutcherson; Fireball Roberts; Bobby Allison; LeeRoy Yarbrough