Commentary

Top 10 NASCAR seasons

ESPN.com's Mark Ashenfelter lists the top 10 seasons in NASCAR history.

Updated: January 9, 2008, 1:32 PM ET
By Mark Ashenfelter | ESPN.com

Dominance comes in all shapes and sizes, but it's pretty easy to define in the ranks of NASCAR. Wins and top-five finishes speak volumes, but that doesn't mean arguments can't be made among drivers.

One season, though, can't be argued with, as Richard Petty's 1967 campaign has withstood the test of time. Petty won a staggering 27 of his 48 starts that year and was in the top five on 38 occasions. Sure, his equipment might have been superior, but it still had to hold up, and he had to have the luck to avoid wrecks, as well.

Beyond that, you can make an argument one way or the other for where the seasons turned in by Darrell Waltrip in 1981, Dale Earnhardt in '87 and Cale Yarborough in '78 should rank. And that's half the fun of the offseason, while waiting to see whether someone will unfurl a season this year that will alter this list in the future.

Top 10 seasons in NASCAR history
Driver Year Starts Wins Top 5s Top 10s Poles
1. Richard Petty 1967 48 27 38 40 18
2. Jeff Gordon 1998 33 13 26 28 7
3. David Pearson 1976 22 10 16 18 8
4. Darrell Waltrip 1981 31 12 21 25 11
5. Dale Earnhardt 1987 29 11 21 24 1
6. Cale Yarborough 1978 30 10 23 24 8
7. Jimmie Johnson 2007 36 10 20 24 4
8. Tim Flock 1955 39 18 32 33 18
9. Bill Elliott 1985 28 11 16 18 11
10. Bobby Isaac 1969 50 17 29 33 19

1. Richard Petty, 1967
Seasons like 1967, in which he won 10 consecutive starts, are why Petty became known as "The King." This season started a five-season stretch in which he earned 92 of his career-record 200 wins.

2. Jeff Gordon, 1998
A run of three Cup championships in four years culminated in '98, when Gordon made a mockery of the competition. Starting with his first title in '95, Gordon claimed 47 of his 81 wins in a five-year span.

3. David Pearson, 1976
There were years when Pearson won more races, but he dominated the circuit (despite running a limited schedule with the Wood Brothers) in '76. Focusing on the superspeedways, Pearson's year started with a memorable crash-and-win with Petty in the Daytona 500 and went from there.

4. Darrell Waltrip, 1981
Waltrip won 12 races in both '81 and '82, claiming the championship both seasons. He led more laps in '82, but he posted more top-5s and top-10s in '81. In eight seasons, starting in 1977, Waltrip earned 61 of his 84 wins.

5. Dale Earnhardt, 1987
He might have seven championships, but many of them came via consistent greatness, not all-out domination. In '87, though, The Intimidator turned Dominator as he led 3,358 of the 9,043 laps he completed.

6. Cale Yarborough, 1978
It would have been easy to go with 1976 or '77, since Yarborough won nine races each of those seasons as he became the only driver to win three consecutive championships. But his 10 wins to clinch his third title made '78 his best year.

7. Jimmie Johnson, 2007
The numbers posted this past year mirror those of his 2004 campaign, but Johnson won just eight times that year and finished second in the debut of NASCAR's Chase for the Cup format. Four consecutive wins in the Chase to clinch a second straight title made '07 special.

8. Tim Flock, 1955
Flock won the 1955 title, although he ran just 39 of 45 races, by dominating when he did run. Finishing in the top five in all but seven of his starts, he led a staggering 3,495 of the 6,208 laps he completed.

9. Bill Elliott, 1985
Two crashes early in the year and a broken transmission late left Elliott 101 points behind Darrell Waltrip for the championship. But Elliott served notice with a dominant season. Consistency won him a title in '88, but fans will long remember his '85 campaign.

10. Bobby Isaac, 1969
The K&K Insurance Dodge was but a blur much of the season as Isaac led 5,072 of the 12,308 laps he completed. Such a pace took a toll, though; Isaac completed only 31 of the 50 races he entered.

• Ashenfelter is an Event News Editor at ESPN.
• Worked at NASCAR Scene for eight years.
• Has covered NASCAR since 1999.

ALSO SEE