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Curator's Corner / NASCAR 75th Anniversary

Biggest Winners of The 1990s

Chevrolet and Ford drivers squared off for superiority on NASCAR tracks during the decade of the 1990s.

Greatness in NASCAR can be defined in different ways, but ultimately, it comes down to one fundamental question: How much did a driver or team win? How many race wins and how many championships?

With that question in mind, we went back to the decade of the 1990s to see who the biggest winners were. The results may surprise you.

We planned to look at the 10 drivers with the most race victories from 1990-99, but the list grew to 11, since there was a three-way tie for the ninth spot on the list.

Of the 11 drivers who won the most races in the 90s, eight already have been inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame and one more is on the ballot for the Class of 2024. Six of the 11 drivers have also won Cup Series championships. In fact, they’ve combined to win 16 titles.

The truth is, winning gets a driver noticed.

So let’s look at the drivers who won the most races in the 1990s.

In 1998, Geoff Bodine was voted one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers of its first 50 years. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

10. Geoff Bodine, 11 wins

For 1990, Bodine left Rick Hendrick (Class of 2017) to drive for another Hall of Famer, Junior Johnson (Class of 2010). In his first season with his new team, Bodine won three races. After just two years, with Johnson, Bodine switched teams again in 1992, moving to Bud Moore’s (Class of 2011) operation. Late in the ’93 season, Bodine bought the late Alan Kulwicki’s (Class of 2019) race team and became an owner driver.

Jeff Burton was one of Jack Roush’s top drivers in the late 1990s. Photo courtesy of Jamie Squire/Allsport

10. Jeff Burton, 11 wins

With 11 victories in the final three years of the decade, when he drove for Roush Racing (now RFK Racing), Jeff Burton slid into the list of top 10 winners of the 1990s. A career-high six of Burton’s victories came in 1999, topped off with triumphs in two of NASCAR’s majors, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Joining Hendrick Motorsports revitalized Terry Labonte’s career in the mid-1990s. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

10. Terry Labonte, 11 wins

The older of the championship-winning Labonte brothers, Terry Labonte (Class of 2016) holds the NASCAR record for most years between titles. Terry captured his first Cup Series crown driving for Billy Hagan in 1984 and his second in 1996, the latter title behind the wheel of a Chevrolet fielded by Rick Hendrick (Class of 2017).

By the end of the 1990s, Bobby Labonte was ready to run for a championship. Photo courtesy of David Taylor/Allsport

8. Bobby Labonte, 12 wins

Joining Joe Gibbs Racing in 1995 proved to be a great career move for Bobby Labonte (Class of 2020), as he scored his first three career race victories that season. Labonte quickly became a regular threat to win, finishing second in the Cup Series points standings by 1999. The following year, Labonte would join his older brother Terry as a Cup champion.

A budding star, Davey Allison won 19 Cup Series races in just 195 starts. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

7. Davey Allison, 13 wins

It’s never possible to know what would happen to a driver’s career had it not been cut short by tragedy, and that’s certainly true of Davey Allison (Class of 2019) who perished in a helicopter crash 30 years ago this month. That said, Allison averaged four wins per season from 1990-92, so it’s likely he would have posted much bigger numbers had he raced the full decade.

Injuries cut short Ernie Irvan’s once-promising career. Photo courtesy of David Taylor/Allsport

6. Ernie Irvan, 15 wins

All of Ernie Irvan’s 15 Cup Series victories came during the 1990s, with the first one coming at Bristol Motor Speedway in 1990, when Irvan drove the bright yellow No. 4 Morgan-McClure Motorsports Chevrolet with sponsorship from Kodak. Irvan won seven races with Morgan-McClure and eight more in another iconic car of the era, the black No. 28 Robert Yates Racing Ford Thunderbird.

The final Cup Series champion of the last century was Dale Jarrett. Photo courtesy of Jamie Squire/Allsport

5. Dale Jarrett, 22 wins

What happens when a Hall of Fame team owner hires a Hall of Fame driver? In the case of Robert Yates (Class of 2018) and Dale Jarrett (Class of 2014), it meant they won a lot of races, capped off by capturing the 1999 Cup Series championship. Jarrett’s signature victory in his title season was a triumph in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Driving for fellow Hall of Famer Jack Roush, Mark Martin was one of the most dominant drivers of the 1990s. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

4. Mark Martin, 30 wins

Another pairing of two Hall of Famers, driver Mark Martin (Class of 2017) and team owner Jack Roush (Class of 2019) produced big results in the 1990s, when Martin never finished lower than sixth in points, with six finishes in the top three. His most prolific year was 1998, when he piloted Roush’s Ford to seven victories, including a win at the inaugural Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Joining forces with team owner Roger Penske was a brilliant career move for Rusty Wallace. Photo courtesy of David Taylor/Allsport

3. Rusty Wallace, 33 wins

Here’s an impressive stat: Rusty Wallace (Class of 2013) is the only driver to win at least one race every year in the decade of the 1990s. Wallace, the 1989 Cup Series champion, won twice in 1990, his final season with Blue Max Racing. He spent the rest of the decade driving for close friend and business partner Roger Penske (Class of 2019), posting monster seasons in 1993, when he won 10 races, and ’94, when he won eight more.

In the 1990s, Dale Earnhardt won more championships than any other driver. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

2. Dale Earnhardt, 35 wins

Dominating the first half of the decade of the 1990s, Dale Earnhardt (Class of 2010), won four championships – 1990, ’91, ’93 and ’94. All of Earnhardt’s race victories and championships in this decade came when he drove for fellow Hall of Famer Richard Childress (Class of 2017), with another Hall of Famer, Kirk Shelmerdine (Class of 2023) serving as his crew chief for the 1990 and ’91 titles.

The first three of Jeff Gordon’s four Cup Series titles came in the 1990s. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

1. Jeff Gordon, 49 wins

While Dale Earnhardt trounced the competition in the first half of the 1990s, Jeff Gordon (Class of 2019) ruled the roost in the second half of the decade. From 1995-99, Gordon won three Cup Series titles and a whopping 47 races, compared to just 11 for Earnhardt. Gordon’s victory totals are even more impressive considering he only raced seven full seasons during the decade.

Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen

Tom is the Curatorial Affairs Manager at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. For more than 25 years, he has been part of the NASCAR media industry.

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