The 1970’s featured an elite group of drivers that dominated the win column in NASCAR Winston Cup. Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough combined to win eight championships in the 1970’s, keeping other hungry drivers from winning a title. Nevertheless, several drivers other than Petty and Yarborough won races and created some headlines. Below is a list of the top drivers that did not win a NASCAR Winston Cup championship in the decade of the 1970’s.
After winning three championships in the 1960’s, Pearson cut back his schedule beginning in 1970. He won 47 races in 167 starts over the course of the decade. In 1973, Pearson won a staggering 11 races in 18 starts. In 1976, he won 10 races in 22 starts. He made analysts wonder how many more championships Pearson could have accrued had he competed in full seasons. Most of his success came with the Wood Brothers, including the memorable 1976 Daytona 500 victory when he and Petty crashed coming to the checkered flag. Pearson limped home with the victory. He left the Wood Brothers in 1979 following a disagreement, and began to reduce his schedule even more in the 1980’s. He competed in his final race in 1986.
In the early 1970’s, it appeared as if Allison was going to win multiple championships. He won 11 races in 1971, and 10 in 1972. He was unable to prolong the momentum into the coming seasons, and encountered a winless drought that lasted through the 1976 and 1977 seasons. He came back strong in 1978 and 1979, winning five races in each of those seasons. He won 41 races in 313 starts over the course of the 1970’s. By the late 1970’s, Allison was acknowledged as the top driver without a NASCAR Winston Cup championship trophy on his mantle. That finally changed in 1983 when he captured the title that eluded over the previous two decades.
When Waltrip entered the NASCAR scene in the 1970’s, he was the young fresh face. He could wheel a racecar with the best of them, and enjoyed trash talking, hence the nickname ‘Jaws’. Fans were not accustomed to a guy like Waltrip. When he began to beat the popular veterans, the dislike from the fans continued to intensify. Despite the taunts and jeers from the grandstands, Waltrip became a frequent visitor in the winner’s circle throughout the mid and late 1970’s. He won 22 races in 189 stars. His finest season of the decade occurred in 1979, when he won seven races, and narrowly lost the championship to Petty by only 11 points. Waltrip drove for DiGard for most of the decade. His victories in the 1970’s were just the beginning stages of a remarkable run of success in the 1980’s.
Honorable mentions include Buddy Baker; Donnie Allison; James Hylton; Dave Marcis