Race Weekend Central

NASCAR 101: Longest Cup Streaks Without a Pole

Entering the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, Brad Keselowski had 14 poles to his credit — by no means a deplorable number.

However, it came with a caveat. In 2018, Keselowski won no poles, and his last one before then came at the second Michigan International Speedway race of the season in 2017. Before the event last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, that drought had continued throughout 2019, ending as Keselowski started first Sunday, eventually finishing 10th.

Keselowski’s pole snapped a 68-race pole-less streak, a mark that you might think was among the longest in the series entering New Hampshire. The reality, however, is a bit different.

Before his pole, Keselowski’s streak was the ninth longest among active Cup drivers who’ve entered at least one Cup event in 2019. Of those in front of him at that time, seven have streaks that stretch into the triple digits.

Here’s the latest top 10, thanks to Keselowski’s New Hampshire qualifying triumph.

10. Paul Menard (39 starts, 2018)

Paul Menard‘s mark of 39 races without a pole holds probably the biggest asterisk of anyone here. That’s because he actually won a pole in 2018 at Chicagoland Speedway. That marked his first pole in the Cup Series since 2008 and was just his second overall.

9. Alex Bowman (55, 2018)

Like Menard, Alex Bowman‘s last Cup pole also came in 2018. However, his streak is larger simply because it came in the first race of 2018, the Daytona 500.

8. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (82, 2017)

With just two poles to his credit in his Cup career, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is not exactly known as a pole-winning threat, which makes his 82-start streak without one fairly unsurprising. His last came at Talladega Superspeedway in 2017, when he won the race from the pole.

7. Jamie McMurray (148, 2014)

Jamie McMurray‘s streak is likely to remain at this mark, barring a move out of the retirement he’s enjoyed since the Daytona 500. In 2014, he won the last of his two poles, coming at two very different tracks: Sonoma Raceway and Martinsville Speedway.

6. Ryan Newman (208, 2013)

The inclusion of Ryan Newman in this list will be a shock to just one side of the NASCAR contingent, while others might not think anything of it. The former group is made up of those who followed the sport in the early 2000s, when Newman was a pole-winning machine, rattling off 51 between 2001 and 2013. Had that pace remained intact, he would have been considered one of the best all-around qualifiers in series history — and shoot, maybe he still will be. But the former front row fiend hasn’t won a pole since New Hampshire in late 2013.

5. JJ Yeley (222, 2007)

In just two years has JJ Yeley competed in all 36 events of a Cup seasons, and in one — 2017 — he snagged what is currently his only Cup pole, doing so at the spring race at Michigan.

4. Reed Sorenson (257, 2007)

Reed Sorenson‘s only Cup pole to date also came in 2007 in one of his only full-time seasons in the series. His No. 1 qualifying result? Indianpolis Motor Speedway.

3. David Ragan (288, 2011)

Texas Motor Speedway and Indianapolis — those are the sites of David Ragan‘s two Cup poles, and both of them came in the same year, 2011. Ragan’s previous seasons with Roush Fenway Racing did not yield any poles, and his starts since, largely with Front Row Motorsports, have not either.

2. Casey Mears (326, 2007)

A two-pole sophomore season for Casey Mears in the Cup Series in 2004 was followed by a single qualifying win in 2007 at Chicagoland. It remains his final pole to date.

1. Clint Bowyer (425, 2007)

Ah, 2007 — the year a bunch of guys won poles and then stopped being able to qualify all that well, apparently. Same goes for Clint Bowyer, who despite 10 career wins — the most recent earlier this year — has only won a pole twice, both in 2007. The last came at New Hampshire in 2007, when he won from the pole. Note, however, that he’s come close a few times in 2019 to breaking the streak, qualifying second once and third three times.

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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