There are several ways to be considered elite.
Maybe it’s hitting the double-digit win column in a single season. Maybe it’s winning seven championships or 75 or more races. Maybe it’s dominating a single race, such as winning by 14 laps or leading 588 miles of the Coca-Cola 600.
But what about winning in all three of NASCAR’s top premier series?
Often called a “triple threat,” these drivers have won at least one race in the NASCAR Cup, Xfinity, and Craftsman Truck series in their career. To date, only 41 drivers have accomplished this feat, with Tyler Reddick becoming the most recent driver to do so, winning his first Cup race at Road America in 2022.
There are a bunch of active drivers who have won two out of three series and could join the list this year but would need some help (for example, AJ Allmendinger would need to join a Truck team, which is not likely), making it next to impossible to happen for most, at least this season. For other drivers, becoming a triple threat is very possible.
Alex Bowman could join the list if he wins the Truck Series race at North Wilkesboro Speedway in May. Noah Gragson could also become a triple threat member should he win a Cup race this season. Other drivers, such as Ty Dillon, also have a shot, but would need a lot of help to notch that Cup win he needs to join the list.
But is there any weight to being a “triple threat?”
In the 2000s, with the competition so much tighter than before with the playoffs and stage breaks, it certainly could be argued that you are noteworthy if you accomplish this feat. In the grand scheme of NASCAR? Not so much.
The Xfinity Series was founded in 1982, around 35 years after NASCAR was founded. Elite NASCAR drivers of that time, such as Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, David Pearson and Cale Yarborough were still active in the Cup Series and could try their hand at the Xfinity Series, should they have desired.
However, the Truck Series was formed in 1995. Given that NASCAR is in its 75th season, that leaves a whopping 47 seasons of drivers unable to compete for the triple threat. All of the drivers who proved themselves as some of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history had since retired, making it impossible for them to complete the triple sweep.
Petty only won in the top level of NASCAR. He never won an Xfinity or a Truck race — in fact, he never attempted a race for either series. But he is still rightfully “The King” despite not being a triple threat. In fact, being a triple threat is really the only way to eclipse Petty’s 200 wins. Kyle Busch has over 200 wins in NASCAR’s top three series. Impressive, yes, but not near as impressive as 200 in a single series.
Not to mention, some of the drivers who are triple threats are far from the elite status we classify drivers as, no matter what the qualifications for elite are. Drivers like David Reutimann, Jamie McMurray, Steve Park and Ricky Craven have all achieved the triple threat status, but all of them are in the single-digit career win column for all three series, with Reutimann being the triple threat with the least wins across all three series combined with four (two Cup, one apiece in both Xfinity and Truck).
Likewise, several drivers who are triple threats only have one win in just one singular series as well. Of the 41 drivers who have achieved the triple threat, 20 of them only captured a single win in at least one of the three series. Can we really count a triple threat driver as elite if they just barely accomplished the feat?
There are a few drivers who are elite who have only gotten one win in a particular series (Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski, for example, both only have one singular Truck Series win, but they are both Xfinity and Cup champions, so there’s an argument for them to be elite regardless), but for a lot of the 20, how could we consider them to be elite? Especially over Cup champions who have never even attempted a race in one or both lower series?
This is not to say that achieving the triple threat isn’t impressive. It very much is — to go out and win in three different series proves that you, at least at one point, had the ability to win in anything with a motor and four wheels. I also am of the belief that the triple threat should be talked about more because of how unique it is.
However, as impressive as it is, when it comes to identifying great NASCAR drivers and building future NASCAR Hall of Fame classes, the mark of the triple threat is not something that should be heavily considered.
About the author
Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. He co-authors Only Yesterday (Wednesdays) and Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the site's primary Truck Series reporter and writer, and contributes to SRX coverage, too. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is currently pursuing his master of journalism at Temple University. He is a theatre actor and fight choreographer-in-training outside of Frontstretch. 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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