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The Weirdest Ways to Win a NASCAR Race

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Joshua Lipowski

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What’s Happening?

Winning a NASCAR race is the pinnacle of many drivers’ careers. Some drivers have won multiple races across all 3 NASCAR National Touring Series. Whether it’s a driver’s only career win or one of many, some NASCAR races have been won in strange ways.

  • For this list, we will focus on all three NASCAR National Touring Series. Any race win from any of these series is eligible.
  • As far as a “Weird” was to win a race, we will focus on races that were won through unorthodox methods instead of just racing. We want to look at weird and rare moments that allow drivers to win races no one expected them to.
  • Fans love seeing drivers win races in strange ways. It gives fans something new to talk about, and they talk about it for more than just the race itself.

The Replacement Driver Win

We see this happen occasionally, particularly if drivers are injured. The injured driver may start the race to become eligible for driver points, only to be relieved partway through, and the replacement driver finishes out the race. However, it’s rare for the replacement driver to win the race, which happened in 2007 at Milwaukee in the Xfinity Series.

Denny Hamlin was supposed to run in the Cup Series in Sonoma, California, and the Xfinity Series in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on the same weekend. To allow Hamlin to complete his Cup obligations, Aric Almirola practiced and qualified the car on the pole. Hamlin was supposed to be in Milwaukee in time to start the race, but his helicopter pilot couldn’t find a place to land.

Almirola started the race and led the first 43 laps, but, was taken out of the car when Hamlin arrived. Hamlin made up the time lost in the driver swap and won the race. Officially, Aric Almirola is credited with the win since he started the race.

A Lightning Strike

Weather-hampered NASCAR races are quite common, and plenty of drivers have taken advantage of rain storms to win races. However, lightning is the strangest force of nature to put an end to a race. This happened in the 2019 Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona.

Summertime in Daytona is treacherous for weather with pop-up showers and thunderstorms galore. The 2019 race was delayed a day, and drivers were racing the rain again on the makeup day. With rain approaching, Justin Haley’s team decided to let him stay out as the one-to-go signal was given before a restart.

As the field completed that last caution lap, lightning struck. NASCAR displayed the red flag, and the race never started again. Justin Haley took home his first and, so far, only career Cup Series win.

Inspection Failure

It is indeed possible to win a NASCAR race despite not crossing the line first. It’s incredibly rare, but, NASCAR has taken wins away thanks to post-race inspection failures. This happened in the first Cup Series race ever.

Glenn Dunaway ran away with the first Strictly Stock Race at the old Charlotte Speedway by 3 laps. However, NASCAR found that he had illegally modified the rear springs after the race. That was a no-no, and Jim Roper won the race, his only career win.

For many years afterward, NASCAR would shy away from taking wins away from drivers who failed inspection, but that changed in recent years. The Cup Series saw this in 2022 when Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch failed inspection after finishing 1-2. Chase Elliott was awarded the win despite not leading a single lap all race long.

A Driver Boycott

People may think the modern charter negotiations are as bitter a Cold War NASCAR has ever seen. However, the inaugural race at Talladega in 1969 blew this situation out of the water.

During early practice sessions, drivers found the tires Goodyear and Firestone brought could not withstand the sustained speeds. The newly formed “Professional Drivers Association”, which was definitely not a driver’s union, we swear, expressed their concerns to NASCAR. Bill France refused to listen to these concerns, and drivers elected to walk out. (This is an overly nice way of putting it, so, check out the video for the full story)

Well, except for three drivers: Bobby Isaac, Jim Vandiver, and Richard Brickhouse. France filled out the field with cars from the support race held the day before, and Vandiver and Brickhouse battled in a league of their own. Brickhouse took home the win under somewhat controversial circumstances. To this day, many believe Vandiver should have won, but a scoring error allowed Brickhouse to win.

A Boneheaded Mistake

In NASCAR, the race is all but over when the caution is out on the final lap. All drivers need to do is putter around at caution flag speed, take the checkered flag, and the race is over with the running order the same as when the caution flag flew unless the driver miscounts the laps.

Mark Martin was leading the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Bristol in 1994 when the caution came out with five laps to go. In those days, there was no overtime, so if a late caution came out with insufficient time to restart the race, they would ride out the final laps under caution.

Under the white flag lap, Martin pulled off the track and into the pit area to head to victory lane, one lap too soon. As a result, David Green passed Martin to take home the win. Strangely enough, this was Green’s only win in 1994, when he won the Xfinity Series Championship. After the race, Martin laughed off his mistake, saying, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. There’s nothing else I can say.”

Anything can happen at a NASCAR race. This list is proof of that very principle.

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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