Race Weekend Central

Only Yesterday: The Oh-So-Rare Birthday Win in NASCAR Cup

As all three of NASCAR’s premier series take on Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend, it is also approaching nearly 10 years since a surprisingly extremely rare feat was accomplished at that very track.

For three current or future NASCAR Hall of Famers, some might call it the best gift they could have asked for on their birthday — a NASCAR Cup Series race win.

Given how many drivers have tried their hand at Cup, it’s not too surprising that drivers have, or will have to, race(d) on their birthday. This weekend, no driver in any series will be eligible to win on their birthday (unless Austin Wayne Self and Sage Karam were to inexplicably run the Cup race somehow), but three Cup Series drivers have done it in the past — two of them managed to do it twice.

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So how is this feat so rare? We’ve heard several times in the past that the win was a great birthday gift. Well, most people either win on a crew member or team owner’s birthday (for example, Austin Cindric won the 2022 Daytona 500 on team owner Roger Penske’s 85th birthday) or they win on their birthday weekend (sorry fans, but Trevor Bayne did not in fact win on his 20th birthday, despite Darrell Waltrip’s now-famous quip, “Happy birthday, Trevor Bayne, 20 years old!” — he won the day after his birthday).

So with that being said, let’s take a look at the three drivers who have taken home a trophy for their birthday.

Cale Yarborough

Cale Yarborough (March 27) was the first driver to win on his birthday, and he was actually able to do it twice. The first time came in 1977 at North Wilkesboro Speedway, where he absolutely dominated, leading 320 of the 400 laps.

The second time came six years later at Atlanta Motor Speedway, leading 78 of the 328 laps and holding off Neil Bonnett, who led the most laps at 83.

Yarborough would be the sole driver to accomplish this feat for another 26 years.

Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch (May 2) became the second driver to win on his birthday, and like Yarborough, he has been able to do this twice.

The first time he was able to accomplish the feat came at Richmond Raceway (then called Richmond International Raceway). Despite teammate (and hometown favorite) Denny Hamlin leading 124 laps and dominating the race, Busch was able to take the lead late in the event to win after leading 53 laps total of the 400-lap event. Busch won the event again in 2010, but that race was on May 1, losing the chance to win on his birthday two years in a row.

It took Busch 12 years to win again on his birthday, this time coming in 2021 at Kansas Speedway, a track that had plagued him for years. He only led 20 laps of the 267 contested, but he led when it mattered most, as he also won stage one of the event as well. This race is the most recent race a driver has won on their birthday.

Matt Kenseth

Matt Kenseth (March 10) was the third driver to win on his birthday, and it came in 2013 at Las Vegas. The recently-inducted Hall of Famer led 42 of the 267 laps and held off a hard charge from Kasey Kahne (a recurring theme of his 2013 season) in the closing laps to get his first win with his new team, Joe Gibbs Racing.

The win was the beginning of a spectacular season for Kenseth, as he won seven races en route to a runner-up championship run. It was also the beginning of a spectacular run with JGR, as Kenseth won 15 of his 39 career Cup wins with The Coach.

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So then the question becomes, is there anyone this season who could win a Cup race on their birthday? Well, in 2023, only two drivers are eligible to join the elite list, both born in October. Bubba Wallace (Oct. 8) can make it happen with a win at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL. Just three weeks later, Chris Buescher (Oct. 29) can win at Martinsville Speedway to join the club.

Wallace doesn’t have the best experience on road courses, making his road to a birthday win tougher. On the flip side, Buescher’s most recent win came on the short track at Bristol Motor Speedway. With RFK Racing starting the 2023 season strong, a win at Martinsville is not out of the realm of possibilities for the Prosper, Texas native.

It’s not often to see a rare feat in NASCAR nowadays, but a birthday win is one that surprisingly not many drivers have done. If Wallace and Buescher can do so, it would be the happiest of birthdays for them indeed.

About the author

Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. Currently, he is an editor and co-authors Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the primary Truck Series reporter/writer. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is now a grad student. He is a theatre actor and fight-choreographer-in-training in his free time. He is a loyal fan of the Cincinnati Reds and Carolina Panthers, still hopeful for a championship at some point in his lifetime.

You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.

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