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Curator's Corner / Hall of Famers

Most Championships By Decade

Six Hall of Famers and one future inductee dominated the premier series championship ranks in each of NASCAR’s first seven decades.

Two weeks from Sunday at Phoenix Raceway, NASCAR will crown its latest premier series champion.

Two drivers, Joey Logano and Chase Elliott, can win their second titles, while six others – Ross Chastain, Denny Hamlin, William Byron, Chase Briscoe, Ryan Blaney and Christopher Bell – are looking for their first championship.

Now is a good time to break down title races in NASCAR by decade. And it’s also a perfect time to note that the first and seventh championship cars of Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson are all on display at the NASCAR Hall of Fame as part of our “Dale Jr.: Glory Road Champions” exhibit, which runs through the end of this year.

Winning championships in each of NASCAR’S first two seasons earned Red Byron a spot in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center

1940s – Red Byron, 1 championship

It was tempting to leave Hall of Famer Red Byron (2018) off this list. The NASCAR Strictly Stock Division (now premier series) was formed in 1949, meaning there was only one year of racing in the decade of the 1940s. But since Byron also won the inaugural Modified Division title in NASCAR’s first year of 1948, we’ll include him.

As a driver first and later as a team owner, Lee Petty built Petty Enterprises into the most dominant team of NASCAR’s first 25 years. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images

1950s – Lee Petty, 3 championships

The patriarch of the Petty clan, Lee Petty (2011) amassed an impressive resume, becoming NASCAR’s first three-time champion by winning titles in 1954, ’58 and ’59. Petty also won a record 46 races on dirt tracks and was victorious in the inaugural Daytona 500 in 1959.

The 1968 season saw David Pearson win his second of three premier series championships. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images

1960s – David Pearson, 3 championships

The Spartanburg, South Carolina area produced a lot of great racers, none better than David Pearson (2011), who ranks second all-time on NASCAR’s race win list with 105 victories. Pearson won his first title in 1966, driving a Dodge for fellow Spartanburg racer Cotton Owens (2013) and then went back-to-back behind the wheel of Holman-Moody Fords in 1968 and ’69.

The fifth of a record seven premier series titles was earned by Richard Petty in 1974. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images

1970s – Richard Petty, 5 championships

Richard Petty (2010) richly deserves the title of “The King.” Among his myriad of record-setting accomplishments, Petty is the only driver in NASCAR history to capture five championships in a single decade. The King took crowns in 1971, ’72, ’74, ’75 and ’79. And here’s an eye-opening stat: Petty won 89 races, just in the 1970s. Only two drivers – David Pearson and Jeff Gordon (2019) have won more premier series races in their entire careers than Petty did in a single decade.

Darrell Waltrip trailed Bill Elliott by 206 points with eight races to go but went on to win the 1985 premier series championship. Shown here with Waltrip is car owner/crew chief Junior Johnson. Photo by ISC Archives/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images

1980s – Dale Earnhardt, Darrell Waltrip, 3 championships each

Two of NASCAR’s all-time greats dominated the 1980s. Dale Earnhardt (2010) took his first three titles in 1980, ’86 and ’87. Darrell Waltrip (2012) captured championships in 1981, ’82 and ’85 driving for Junior Johnson (2010).

At the 1994 NASCAR Awards Banquet in New York City, Richard Petty (left) congratulated Dale Earnhardt on his record-tying seventh premier series championship. Photo courtesy of Dozier Mobley/Getty Images

1990s – Dale Earnhardt, 4 championships

Known as “The Intimidator” and “The Man in Black,” Dale Earnhardt won consecutive championships in 1990 and ’91 and again in 1993 and ’94, all while driving for team owner Richard Childress (2017). All told, six of Earnhardt’s record-tying seven championships came behind the wheel of Richard Childress Racing Chevrolets.

A triumphant Jimmie Johnson stood atop his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet after capturing his first championship in 2006. Photo courtesy of Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR

2000s – Jimmie Johnson, 4 championships

After nearly winning on a couple of occasions earlier in the decade, Jimmie Johnson began a remarkable run of five consecutive championships starting in 2006. All of Johnson’s success came piloting Chevrolets fielded by team owner Rick Hendrick (2017). Johnson will be eligible for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame starting in 2024.

An emotional Jimmie Johnson celebrated his seventh premier series championship after winning the final race of 2016 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Photo courtesy of Robert Laberge/Getty Images

2010s – Jimmie Johnson, 3 championships

Jimmie Johnson kicked off the decade of the 2010s by winning his record fifth consecutive championship. Only one other driver, Cale Yarborough (2012) in 1976-78, has won as many as three in a row. Johnson added his sixth and record-tying seventh championships in 2013 and 2016, respectively.

Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen

Tom is the Curatorial Affairs Manager of the NASCAR Hall of Fame and a veteran of more than 20 years in the NASCAR media industry.

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