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What is the Worst Manufacturer in NASCAR History?

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Joshua Lipowski

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What’s Happening?

In NASCAR, manufacturers are just as important to many fans as teams and drivers. That does not mean every manufacturer has had success in NASCAR. Here, we take a deep dive back into the history of NASCAR to uncover who truly is the WORST manufacturer in NASCAR history.

  • Many people think of the General Motors brands, Ford, and Toyota when they think of NASCAR. However, many other companies have entered the sport throughout its history to varying levels of success.
  • We will only look at the NASCAR Cup Series. The only requirement is that a manufacturer must have entered at least one NASCAR Cup Series race throughout its history.
  • Throughout the early years of the sport, and even into today, fans gravitate towards certain manufacturers. Whether it’s the car they drive to work every day or the same car as their first favorite driver.

The Evolution of Manufacturer Support in NASCAR

Manufacturer support in NASCAR has changed over the years. In the early days, it was as simple as a driver buying a car off the showroom floor and bringing it to a race. As time went on, manufacturers began “factory-backing”, which continued off and on until 1972. Nowadays, manufacturers are still in the sport, but they primarily offer support through technology and financial backing.

Pretty much any automaker you can think of had a car in a NASCAR race at some point during its early years. Maybe they did not provide factory support to NASCAR, but they did have cars entered into NASCAR races. As a result, many manufacturers did not find much success in NASCAR because they simply did not try.

Those Who Failed to Win a Single Race: Pre-Modern Era

According to the Manufacturer Wins List on Jayski, only 16 manufacturers have won a NASCAR Cup Series race. Well, about twice that number have entered NASCAR at least once. According to Motor Racing Sports, 29 manufacturers have entered into NASCAR.

That means 13 manufacturers have failed to win a race. A few of these that Motor Racing Sports listed include international manufacturers that Motor Racing Sports lists such as Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Austin Healy, MG Motor, Porsche, Leyland Motors, and Volkswagon. American manufacturers include Henry from Kaiser-Frazer, Packard, Tucker, and Willys. That makes up only 11.

Still, when talking about the WORST manufacturer in NASCAR history, these easily could count as the worst. However, none of these manufacturers competed in the modern era of NASCAR. What about those who competed in NASCAR’s modern era?

The Modern Era

In NASCAR’s modern era, Dodge, Chrysler, Plymouth, Ford, Mercury, Buick, AMC, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and Toyota have all started races. Dodge, Ford, Buick, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac all won races and Championships in modern era NASCAR, so, they are all out. That leaves Chrysler, Plymouth, Mercury, and AMC. Here is an analysis of each manufacturer.

Chrysler

Chrysler was very active in NASCAR throughout the modern era through their Dodge brand. However, Chrysler itself did not have much of a presence in NASCAR. Only one driver drove a Chrysler in the modern era, Buddy Arrington.

Arrington was fiercely loyal to Mopar. He ran a Chrysler Imperial off and on between 1981 and 1985, and he failed to win a race. Now, this seemed to be more of an Arrington thing than a Chrysler thing, so, is it fair to call Chrysler the WORST manufacturer of the modern era because of this? Regardless, Chrysler did not try much with their namesake brand in the modern era.

Plymouth

Plymouth was another Chrysler Corp. brand that ran up into the 1970s. As NASCAR moved into the modern era, Chrysler shifted their racing focus to Dodge. Richard Petty was Plymouth’s biggest star in the 1960s, but, by 1973, he switched to Dodge full-time.

Petty got 7 of 8 wins with Plymouth in 1972 before switching to Dodge, and he also won the Championship that year. According to allpar.com, the last Plymouth win in NASCAR was in 1973 with Dick Brooks. Even though it fizzled out of NASCAR very quickly, Plymouth did have a hand in a Championship, so, that makes it tough to call it the worst manufacturer.

Mercury

Mercury was relevant in NASCAR thanks to one race team, The Wood Brothers. Starting in 1968, The Wood Brothers began winning with the Ford brand, and they won with it all the way through 1980. Mercury and the Wood Brothers won 64 races.

The #21 Purolator Mercury became one of the most famous race cars in NASCAR history. While it never won a Championship, it was easily one of the greatest cars of its era. This may be one of the more underrated manufacturer runs in NASCAR.

AMC

The AMC Matador had a brief and fleeting moment in the sun in NASCAR. Roger Penske fielded the AMC Matador for a myriad of drivers between 1972 and 1975. Mark Donohue won once and Bobby Allison won four times in the Matador.

Penske never ran a full season with the Matador. However, he and Allison did win 3 races in 19 starts in 1974. What if Penske ran a full season with the Matador? Could it have won races?

Conclusion

Any manufacturer who gave an honest effort during the modern era found some sort of success. The reason some manufacturers did not win a Championship can be chalked up to a lack of attempts.

Statistically, Chrysler could be considered the worst because they are the only manufacturer in the modern era that failed to win a race. However, the company did try with their other brands.

Plymouth had a hand in a Championship, even though Dodge had a hand in it as well. AMC won races, but it never had a full-season opportunity.

Looking at the absolute worst, it would likely go to one on the list of manufacturers that did not win a race during the pre-modern era.

Still, it does show the effort that manufacturers put into the sport. They do not join it without a reasonable expectation that they will be competitive.

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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