NASCAR’s Biggest West Coast Winners
by Tom Jensen June 04, 2021
Nine Hall of Fame inductees have won at least three races in California. Here’s the list.
With NASCAR headed to the lush Northern California wine country for this Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 premier series race, it’s time for another quick history lesson.
On Oct. 28, 1951, Marchbanks Speedway, a 0.500-mile dirt track in the Northern California town of Hanford, hosted a 200-lap race that was won by Danny Weinberg. Driving a Studebaker, Weinberg scored his only premier series race victory in 17 career starts over parts of seven seasons.
That was NASCAR’s first visit to The Golden State.
A lot has happened since then.
To date, there have been 148 premier series races at 15 different tracks throughout California.
Just nine NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees have at least three race wins at California tracks. Interestingly, none of the nine has won races at more than two California tracks.
8. Benny Parsons, 3
The 1973 premier series champion, Benny Parsons (Class of 2017), won on the Riverside International Raceway road course in 1978 and at the 2.5-mile Ontario Motor Speedway oval in both 1979 and ’80.
8. Cale Yarborough, 3
Driving for car owner Richard Howard, Cale Yarborough (2012) swept a pair of road races at Riverside International Raceway in 1974. Four years later, on his way to a then-record third consecutive premier series title, Yarborough won there for car owner Junior Johnson (2010).
6. David Pearson, 4
In his heyday behind the wheel of the iconic No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Mercury, David Pearson (2011) won three consecutive races at Riverside International Raceway in 1976 and ’77. He drove the same car to victory at Ontario Motor Speedway in 1976. Hall of Famer Glen Wood (2012) owned the team, with brother Leonard Wood (2013) serving as crew chief.
6. Rusty Wallace, 4
Driving the No. 27 Raymond Beadle-owned Pontiac similar to the one in the Hall of Fame’s “Dale Jr.: Glory Road Champions” exhibit, Rusty Wallace (2013) won the last two premier series races staged at Riverside International Raceway in 1987 and ’88. He won again in a Beadle Pontiac at Sonoma Raceway in 1990, and picked up another Sonoma victory six years later driving for Roger Penske (2019).
3. Richard Petty, 5
The fact that Richard Petty (2010) set a NASCAR record with 200 premier series race victories suggests he was good at just about every track he went to. That said the only track he ever won on in California was Riverside International Raceway, where Petty posted five race victories between 1969 and ’77, all with his Petty Enterprises team. Petty’s 1972 Riverside trophy is on display in Heritage Speedway at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
3. Darrell Waltrip, 5
Like fellow Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace, Darrell Waltrip (2012) had a richly earned reputation as being a short-track ace. And like Wallace, Waltrip was also a tremendous road-course racer, winning five times at Riverside International Raceway. Waltrip won three times at Riverside in 1979 and ’80 with DiGard Racing, and twice more with Junior Johnson in 1981 and ’86.
3. Tony Stewart, 5
Versatility was always a hallmark of Tony Stewart’s (2020) talent behind the wheel, something he showed off in California. After winning twice at Sonoma Raceway with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2001 and ’05, Stewart drove his own Stewart-Haas Racing entries to victories at Auto Club Speedway in 2010 and ’12. Stewart also was behind the wheel of SHR No. 14 when he scored his final career victory at Sonoma in 2016.
1. Bobby Allison, 8
At Riverside International Raceway, Bobby Allison (2011) won six premier races, a huge number. But what’s really impressive is that Allison earned those victories with five different teams and five different brands of cars, all between 1971 and ’81. Allison’s 1981 Riverside triumph came with Waddell Wilson (2020) serving as chief, and Wilson’s winner’s trophy is on display in Heritage Speedway. The 1983 premier series champion and leader of the “Alabama Gang” of racers also won at Ontario Motor Speedway in 1974 and ’78.
1. Jeff Gordon, 8
Given that he’s a native of nearby Vallejo in Northern California, it’s no surprise that Jeff Gordon (2019) holds the all-time career mark for victories at Sonoma Raceway with five. Gordon, who spent his entire premier series career driving for Hall of Fame team owner Rick Hendrick (2017), also won three times on the Auto Club Speedway oval in Southern California. Gordon’s 2006 Sonoma trophy is in Heritage Speedway.