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The Best One-Off Victories in NASCAR History

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Chris Hansen

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Throughout the 75-year history of NASCAR racing, fans have seen legends like Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, and Jimmie Johnson drive into Victory Lane following epic on-track battles on a Sunday afternoon.

However, there are some races where unpredictable finishes reign supreme and fans are left in awe at what they witnessed from the grandstands or on their television screens.

It’s not uncommon to see an unfamiliar face in Victory Lane at the end of NASCAR races but what were some of the most memorable one-off victories in NASCAR’s 75-year history?

5. Casey Mears 2007 Coca-Cola 600

The 2007 running of NASCAR’s longest race featured some of the most patriotic paint schemes throughout the 43-car field featuring a camouflage Budweiser Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to Jimmie Johnson running the Power of Pride colors. In typical Coca-Cola 600 fashion, this race came down to a fuel mileage battle within the final 10 laps.

Casey Mears, a journeyman in the Cup Series, assumed the lead as the leaders started making pit stops late in order to make it to the end on fuel. Driving a camouflage #25 for Hendrick Motorsports, Mears coasted across the finish line to score the lone NASCAR Cup Series victory of his career. Second-year driver J.J. Yeley of Joe Gibbs Racing finished second, while Kyle Petty of Petty Enterprises stretched his fuel enough to place third.

4. Regan Smith 2011 Southern 500

In the early 2010s, Furniture Row Racing was not the powerhouse organization it later became when Martin Truex Jr. took over the #78. With Regan Smith the driver, Furniture Row Racing scored at the time the biggest victory of their Cup tenure at the time by winning one of NASCAR’s Crown Jewel races in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

In true Darlington fashion, a late caution for contact between Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch sent Clint Bowyer careening into the inside wall, causing a sprint to the finish.

Running on older tires during a NASCAR Overtime restart, Smith held off a hard-charging Carl Edwards to score his lone win of his Cup Series Career that concluded at the end of the 2018 season as Smith filled in for Kasey Kahne in the #95 for Leavine Family Racing.

Despite moving back down to the Xfinity Series and winning multiple races in that series, Smith’s triumphant victory in the 2011 Southern 500 was truly a career-defining moment for one of the smaller teams in NASCAR at the time.

3. Johnny Benson Jr. 2002 Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400

We all know the name Johnny Benson Jr. in the world of NASCAR racing. Most recently, Benson won a Craftsman Truck Series title in 2008 going head-to-head with fellow veteran Ron Hornaday Jr for that season’s championship.

The Cup Series career of Benson didn’t have many bright spots, in fact, of Benson’s 274 total Cup Series starts, he only managed to score 58 top-10 finishes as a Cup driver.

The lone victory of Johnny Benson’s Cup career came at Rockingham Speedway in the fall of 2002. That day, Benson’s crew chief James Ince believed his driver was going to be very close to hitting the end of the race on fuel.

Nonetheless with one eye on the fuel gauge and the other in the rearview mirror, Benson survived a furious charge from Mark Martin to score the first and only Cup victory of his career.

2. Paul Menard 2011 Brickyard 400

Perhaps no other track rivals Daytona as most prestigious like Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In 1994, the stars of NASCAR came to Indianapolis for the very first Brickyard 400. At the time, many fans and drivers alike were unsure of if Indianapolis would remain a popular racing destination on the NASCAR schedule.

The 2011 running of the Brickyard 400 saw one of the most heart-wrenching moments as Paul Menard, driving for Richard Childress Racing found himself at the head of the pack.

Closing in on the neon #27 Chevrolet was 4-time Brickyard 400 winner at the time, Jeff Gordon. To make things more intense, Menard was seeking to stretch his last tank of fuel to the finish while contending with lapped traffic in the closing laps.

Under the watchful eye of owner Richard Childress, Menard was able to make it all the way to the checkered flag on fumes, ahead of Gordon to score his only Cup Series victory at one of the pinnacles of stock car racing.

1. Trevor Bayne 2011 Daytona 500

Perhaps no win in NASCAR was bigger than that of Trevor Bayne taking the historic Wood Brothers to Victory Lane in the Super Bowl of NASCAR: the Daytona 500.

Two-car tandem style drafting dominated the day, while a big crash early knocked out pre-race favorites Jeff Gordon, and Jimmie Johnson among others, quickly turning the sports’ biggest race into a race of attrition.

In a race featuring 16 caution flags, rookie Trevor Bayne rocketed out to the lead following a push from veteran Bobby Labonte on the last restart of the afternoon. From there, Bayne held off the hard-charging pair of Carl Edwards and David Gilliland to score one of the most improbable first wins in NASCAR history.

Bayne’s win in the Daytona 500 was one of the biggest victories in the sport, launching Bayne into the spotlight as a driver to watch for years to come.

NASCAR’s 75-year history has seen its fair share of one-win wonders in big races like the Daytona 500 and Southern 500 and many others. These are only some of NASCAR’s one-win wonders. What are some of your one-win wonders?

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Chris Hansen

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