TALLADEGA — Rusty Wallace never won at Talladega? Seriously?
That doesn't seem like it should be true. Wallace, a popular and accomplished NASCAR driver, won 55 times on the Cup circuit. He drove full-time on the circuit from 1984-2005. He won a Cup championship in 1989 and finished second in 1988 and 1993. He placed in the top 10 in 13 other seasons.
In 2103, he entered the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.
But a Cup victory never came his way. It's fair to say he's the best NASCAR driver never to tame Talladega Superspeedway.
"Yeah, I'd love to have won a Cup race here," Wallace said with a laugh during a recent visit to the track. "I got so close but yet so far away."
He points out that he did win at the track, just not on the Cup series. He won the International Race of Champions (IROC) race in 1991 and a Grand American race in 1980.
He isn't alone in having bad luck at Talladega. He is one of six drivers to win a NASCAR Cup championship since the track opened in 1969 but never to win there.
Wallace said the draft maneuvering required to succeed at the Talladega and Daytona tracks is unique and makes it that much harder to win.
"This isn't the track where you bring the best car and it's all about you or the pit crew," he said. "You can have the best of everything, but if you don't have good people you're working with during the race, via teammate or a friend or somebody on that last lap willing to go for it with you, you're just not going to win."
Again, Wallace laments that he didn't have the necessary circumstances at the end of Talladega races.
"There's been so many races I've led until the last lap only to finish 10th or 15th," he said. "You can fall that far back if you fall out of that coveted draft, as they call it."
A brief look at the eight best drivers never to win at Talladega:
1. Rusty Wallace
Although he didn't win a Cup race at Talladega, Wallace did score one of his most coveted victories at the track.
In 1980 when he was only 23, he won a Grand American event at Talladega in a car he built himself. That event helped serve notice that Wallace was a driver to watch.
In his career, he drove in 706 Cup races and finished in the top 10 349 times, which is nearly half. He led nearly 20,000 laps in his career. He drove in 45 Cup races at Talladega. His best finish was fifth in 1988. Three times, he finished sixth.
2. Kurt Busch
He has won 31 Cup races, and although none came at Talladega, he's done well at the track. In 37 starts, he has placed in the top five eight times.
He had one stretch from 2004 to 2007 in which his finishes were fifth, seventh, eighth, seventh, third, third and seventh. He was third in his first Cup race at Talladega in 2001, placing behind Bobby Hamilton and Tony Stewart. In the spring race in 2018, he was second behind Joey Logano.
He won the Cup championship in 2004, finishing 36th and fifth in two runs at Talladega that year.
3. Benny Parsons
A popular and dominant driver, Parsons won the Cup championship in 1973 and finished in the top five every year during 1972-80. He finished with 21 Cup victories.
At Talladega, he had 11 top-five finishes, but never drove to Victory Lane, even though he won the pole twice. He was second to David Pearson in 1974 and Richard Petty in 1983.
4. Alan Kulwicki
Kulwicki won only five Cup events, but his career was cut short when he died in a plane crash April 1, 1993. He wasn't a dominant driver until his final full season in 1992 when he won the Cup championship and recorded 11 top-five finishes, including a sixth-place finish at the Talladega spring race. He also had a fourth-place finish at Talladega in 1990.
If his plane hadn't crashed, would he have won at Talladega eventually? We don't know, but he was at his peak in 1992, and it's hard not to wonder what his final numbers would've looked like had he had a full career.
5. Carl Edwards
He won 28 Cup races, and only 27 drivers won more all-time. He didn't win a Cup championship, although he was second twice, third once and fourth twice.
Relative to his record at other tracks, he rarely had much success at Talladega, although he had three top-five finishes. His best result came in the rain-delayed race in the spring of 2013. He won the pole and finished third behind winner David Ragan and runner-up David Gilliland. In a two-lap overtime finish, Ragan passed Edwards on the last lap, calling it a "true David vs. Golliath moment."
6. Ricky Rudd
He drove 906 Cup races from 1975-2007 and won 23 times. He finished in the top 10 of the Cup standings 17 times. He won nearly $45 million in race earnings and led almost 8,000 laps.
He made 59 starts at Talladega but didn't win one, even though he had 10 top-five finishes.
He was third in four races, but his best chance might've been in the summer race in 1992. He led a race-high 54 laps, but wound up fourth behind winner Ernie Irvan, runner-up Sterlin Marlin and third-place Davey Allison.
7. Bobby Isaac
In a sense, it's unfair to include Isaac on his list. Talladega Superspeedway opened in 1969, and he wasn't a full-time Cup driver after 1970.
Even so, he was the Cup champion in 1970 and won 37 career Cup races. His record at Talladega is interesting. He raced at the speedway only eight times but won the pole in his first five tries, including once in 1969, twice in 1970 and twice in 1972. He was second in both races in 1970, losing to Talladega ace Pete Hamilton both times. Hamilton won only four Cup races, but two came at Talladega.
In 1972, Isaac finished second to David Pearson in the spring race.
8. Martin Truex Jr.
He won the 2017 Cup championship, was second in 2018, and leads in the current standings. He's still looking for a win at Talladega. He was fifth in 2006 and 2015.
Only 39, Truex, is at his peak, however, as he picked up 22 of his 25 career Cup victories within the last four years.