Hall of Fame Road Warriors
by Tom Jensen March 25, 2022
Hall of Famers Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart posted big road-course numbers but there’s someone new at the top of the list.
It wasn’t too long ago that NASCAR road racing was an afterthought, a schedule anomaly that most drivers simply gritted their teeth to get through. Sure, there were a few drivers who could turn right and left with equal aplomb, but the majority merely tolerated road races because they only happened a couple of times a year.
With six of 36 races on the 2022 premier series schedule, all serious title contenders must be able to master the road courses as well as the ovals.
Given that the premier series this week is making its second visit to the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, it seemed like a good time to check the record books and find out who truly has mastered the art of road course racing. Frankly, the results surprised even us.
Here are top five all-time NASCAR road course masters, based on winning percentages with a minimum of at least 15 starts.
5. (tied), Rusty Wallace, 13.04 percent
A Hall of Fame inductee in the Class of 2013, Rusty Wallace enjoyed tremendous success on the NASCAR road courses, winning six of the 46 premier series road races he competed in. Wallace’s road-racing resume includes three victories at Watkins Glen International, two more at the long-defunct Riverside International Raceway course in Southern California and a sixth victory at Sonoma Raceway.
5. (tied) Bobby Allison, 13.04 percent
Now here’s a freaky and fluky stat for you: Even though their careers overlapped for less than a decade, Rusty Wallace and Bobby Allison had exactly the same stats on road courses, where they each made 46 starts and won six times. However, 43 of Allison’s 46 road course starts and all six of his victories came at Riverside International Raceway in Southern California. The only exceptions were in New York, where Allison competed in one event at Bridgehampton Road Circuit in 19656 and a pair of races at Watkins Glen International in 1986 and ’87.
4. Jeff Gordon, 19.14 percent
Five victories at Sonoma Raceway, his home track in Northern California, and four more at New York’s equally picturesque Watkins Glen International make Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon (2019) the all-time leader in premier series road course victories with nine. However, in terms of winning percentage Gordon’s nine victories in 47 starts works to 19.14 percent – still an awesome number, but not the best ever.
3. Tony Stewart, 23.53 percent
In 34 road-course starts, Hall of Famer Tony Stewart (2020) won eight times. His five victories at Watkins Glen International are the most ever at that track and Stewart added three more victories at Sonoma Raceway. One of the most emotional of those wins came at Sonoma in 2016, where Stewart scored his 49th and final premier series victory by trading paint – and trading the lead – on the final lap with former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin.
2. Tim Richmond, 31.25 percent
Despite the fact that his career was cut early by health issues, Tim Richmond knew how to wheel a race car at most any track, including road courses, where he posted an impressive total of five victories in just 16 starts. Richmond swept both races at Riverside International Raceway in 1982, later adding two more wins there and another at Watkins Glen International. One can only wonder what kind of numbers he might have posted had he lived longer.
1. Chase Elliott, 36.84 percent
Still just 26 years old, Chase Elliott has by far the highest road-course winning percentage of any driver who’s competed in at least 15 road races. Elliott’s seven road-course wins are within hailing distance of all-time win leader Jeff Gordon’s nine victories. And that’s with just 19 road course starts, including last year at Circuit of the Americas, where in monsoon-like conditions, Elliott delivered Chevrolet’s record 800th Cup victory. What’s most impressive is that Elliott already has victories on five different road course. If he continues at this pace, Elliott will easily shatter ever road course mark in the NASCAR record book.