Top Pole Winners in NASCAR Sprint Cup History

motorsports-dreamstime_s_25998517qualifying pole positioncup carWe hear quite a bit about who the frequent winners are in NASCAR competition, but the statistics on pole winners–the fastest of the qualifiers–is often quickly forgotten in the smokey haze of burnouts after the checkered flag. Yet winning the pole is, for some fans, one of the most interesting segments of a race weekend, since it allows a single driver to show his command of the car and the track without the pressure of close, door-to-door competition. It’s also a good indication of how well a particular car, driver, and set-up combination will show up in the race.

In any event, pole qualifying is what determines the starting line-up for a race, and it’s been a major part of race weekends from Motorsports-NASCAR-Petty1the very beginning. In this post, we take a look at the top 20 drivers in terms of poles won in their career and, similar to the statistics on race wins, you see “King” Richard Petty at the top of the chart.

The Top 20

Here are the top 20 pole winners in NASCAR Cup-level history*:

  1. Richard Petty (123 poles, 61 wins from the pole position)
  2. David Pearson (113, 37)
  3. Jeff Gordon (81, 20)
  4. Cale Yarborough (69,16)
  5. Darrell Waltrip (59, 24)
  6. Bobby Allison (58, 20)
  7. Mark Martin (56, 8)
  8. Bill Elliott (55, 17)
  9. Ryan Newman (51, 5)**
  10. Bobby Isaac (49, 21)
  11. Junior Johnson (46, 12)
  12. Buck Baker (45, 13)
  13. Herb Thomas (39 19)
  14. Buddy Baker (38, 4)
  15. Geoff Bodine (37, 3)
  16. Tim Flock (37, 17)
  17. Rusty Wallace (36, 9)
  18. Rex White (36, 7)
  19. Ned Jarrett (35, 11)
  20. Jimmie Johnson (35, 15)**

(*) these statistics are current as of the July 24, 2016 race at Indianapolis
(**) These drivers are still active, and can possibly move further up this list during the remainder of their careers. The still-active drivers with the next highest total poles are Kasey Kahne (27, 5), Bobby Labonte (26, 4), and Denny Hamlin (23, 3).

And if you’re a real history buff, here are a few interesting notes about pole winners:

  • Harry Gant, at 54 years, 7 months, 15 days is in the record books as the oldest pole winner.
  • Joey Logano, at 19 years, 9 months, 23 days, is the youngest pole winner on record.
  • Ken Schrader holds the mark for the most poles without a win from the pole position (23)
  • Marcos Ambrose, Casey Mears, and Billy Wade are the only drivers to win their first and second poles back-to-back
  • There have been 223 separate pole winners in NASCAR history
  • Bill Elliott holds 8 of the 10 fastest pole speeds recorded in NASCAR history (5 at Talladega, 3 at Daytona)


(Credit for for the details associated with these statistics go to our friend, Jayski’s NASCAR Silly Season site.)


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