Race Weekend Central

NASCAR 101: Active Drivers Without a Cup Top 5

156 races. That’s how many starts it took for Matt DiBenedetto to have a top five in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition.

After a Cup career that began in 2015 and yielded four top 10s prior to 2019, DiBenedetto wheeled his No. 95 to a fourth-place run at Sonoma Raceway, scoring his first top five.

“I am just so lucky to be doing this,” he said post-race. “I know I say it every time I get interviewed, but my path to get here has been so out of the ordinary and old school, and I’m so thankful.”

With his fourth-place finish, check off another Cup driver who’s got at least a top five to their name. It’s not nearly as elusive a crowd as those who’ve visited victory lane, but a top five is no easy feat — even at a place like, say, Daytona International Speedway or Talladega Superspeedway, where the lesser-knowns can occasionally steal a top finish.

Of the 55 drivers who’ve started at least one Cup race in 2019, 21 have earned at least one top five in 2019. An additional 12 have finished in the top five in a past season, while seven more are running in a different NASCAR national series but have a top five at some point.

DiBenedetto’s 155-race drought prior to No. 156 being the charm actually stood as the longest streak without a top five to start a career by any driver who’d entered a Cup race in 2019 before Sonoma. It was also the second-longest among any driver who’s made at least one national series start in 2019 and has raced in the Cup Series in the past.

Now that DiBenedetto’s got that monkey off his back, here’s the 10 with the longest streaks now.

10. Gray Gaulding (50)

Gray Gaulding‘s ninth-place run at Talladega in 2017 remains his only top 10 in the Cup Series in 50 starts entering Chicagoland Speedway this weekend. He did, however, snag his first top five in the Xfinity Series at Talladega earlier this year.

9. Ross Chastain (51)

The Gander Outdoors Truck Series (and, to a lesser extent, Xfinity Series) spoils that have befallen Ross Chastain in the last year have yet to translate to the Cup Series, mostly because each of his 51 starts have come in lackluster equipment. His 10th-place finish at Daytona in February marked his first top 10.

8. William Byron (52)

Chances are it’s just a matter of time before William Byron is off this list, but for now, the driver of Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 24 is still trying to break into the top five in his second full-time season. He already has four top 10s in 2019, equaling his overall 2018 mark.

7. Corey LaJoie (73)

Corey LaJoie is the first of this bunch who also doesn’t have a top 10 to his name, though he won’t be the last to be mentioned. He’s nearly gotten one twice this year, with an 11th-place run at Talladega followed by a 12th at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

5 (tie). Justin Allgaier (76)

Should he never return to the Cup Series, Justin Allgaier will conclude his 76-race career in the series sans a top five and with just one top 10, an eighth at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2015. The consolation: he has 76 top fives in the Xfinity Series, including seven in 2019.

5 (tie). Jeffrey Earnhardt (76)

Three seasons of running more than or nearly half the Cup schedule between 2016 and 2018 have given Jeffrey Earnhardt a good chunk of starts on his resume, but he hasn’t yet been able to close the deal with a top 10, let alone a top five. Last year at Daytona, he came close, finishing 11th in the summer event. At Charlotte in the spring, he snagged his first Xfinity top five; the power of Joe Gibbs Racing and all that.

4. Timmy Hill (87)

Timmy Hill has never been a guy to wow ya, mostly because he’s never received a chance in NASCAR’s top series in stellar equipment. That’s why he not only hasn’t nabbed a top 10 in Cup but also has just three Xfinity top 10s in 173 starts. At least we’ll always have his 14th-place run with MBM Motorsports at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year.

2 (tie). Michael Annett (106)

Michael Annett‘s three full-time Cup seasons between 2014 and 2016 were very much not the stuff of legends, the driver’s stints with Tommy Baldwin Racing and HScott Motorsports resulting in zero top 10s and an average finish of 31.2. The Xfinity Series has been much kinder to him, especially recently, given his season-opening win in the series this year.

2 (tie). Ty Dillon (106)

The inheritor of the longest career-starting streak without a top five among active Cup drivers following DiBenedetto’s triumph, Ty Dillon will move into sole possession of the second-most among all active national series drivers after this weekend, since he’s starting the Cup race at Chicagoland while Annett merely drives in the Xfinity event. It’s been a lackluster start to his Cup career, but with many more top 20s coming his way at Germain Racing in 2019, a break that gets him into the top five could be coming soon.

1. Travis Kvapil (271)

Chances are Travis Kvapil will hold this illustrious designation either until he retires completely or until someone with a worse top five record than his comes out of retirement. Despite a strong Truck Series career and championship, Kvapil, who last started a Cup race in 2015, has never quite been able to get into the results page’s upper reaches. He came closest with a pair of sixth-place runs, both at Talladega, in 2008 and 2014.

About the author


Rutherford is the managing editor of Frontstretch, a position he gained in 2015 after serving on the editing staff for two years. At his day job, he's a journalist covering music and rock charts at Billboard. He lives in New York City, but his heart is in Ohio -- you know, like that Hawthorne Heights song.

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