winless, yet proven drivers in Xfinity
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J.J. Yeley practices at Daytona International Speedway in 2005.
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
Back during the days when NASCAR's second top national division was known as the Busch Series, there use to be a term known as “Buschwacking”.
It was a term used to describe drivers such as Mark Martin and Kevin Harvick, who would enter the Busch Series races to either help learn some new tricks for the races on Sunday or simply go out and make some more money for them and their teams.
Even today, Sprint Cup veterans like Austin Dillon and Kyle Busch, we see drivers who may not need to race in the Xfinity Series, but still do for a variety of reasons.
Because of that, some talented young drivers with less money and resources find themselves searching for opportunities. For some of them, it may include splitting time with more established drivers to help get their name out there. For others, it may mean that the only opportunities that they have are ones with back marker teams, potentially throwing away any future the driver may have had.
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There's a ton of solid talent that have yet to grab a win in the Xfinity Series despite their best efforts. Brian Scott is definitely a driver that we should see in victory lane at some point.
At 27-years-old, Scott has already participated in 190 races to date in the Xfinity Series with no trips to victory lane. He has led the most laps in an Xfinity Series event three times, with the most recent time last Saturday in Daytona.
For a driver to compete in such quality equipment, including rides with both Joe Gibbs Racing and, currently, Richard Childress Racing, you would expect a few W's beside Scott's name by now. But his lack of wins doesn't come without his fair share of great finishes.
In fact, Scott has already finished in the top-ten in ten of the first 15 races so far this season, and if it wasn't for a late race wreck at Daytona, he could have easily secured his first ever win.
Last season, his second with crew chief Phil Gould and RCR, Scott saw himself finish in the top-ten 23 times, trailing just Chase Elliott, Regan Smith, Kyle Busch, Ty Dillon and Elliott Sadler in that category.
Scott may not have what it takes to become a long term Sprint Cup driver, but with funding not appearing to be an issue, there really is no reason to believe that he won’t be competitive for at least a long time in the Xfinity Series. Perhaps his most frustrating result came at the 2013 race at Indianapolis, where a late race pass by Kyle Busch resulted in a win slipping away at the last second.
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Brian Scott leads a pack of cars at Richmond International Raceway in September 2013. Scott led the opening 239 laps of the race, only to finish second to Brad Keselowski.
Still, his second place finish at the famed race track was good enough for his best finish of his career up to that point, which, of course, hasn't been beaten just yet. A return to Kentucky could do Scott wonders in 2015, as RCR proved to be lightning quick last year, with all three drivers finishing in the top three (Scott came second). It's only a matter of time until he cracks into the established list of drivers to win a race, and once he finally does that, look for Scott to earn multiple victories in the future.
Like Scott, J.J. Yeley is also an active Xfinity Series driver, having raced in 200 races to date. Yeley's career began with Joe Gibbs Racing following an incredible dirt series career in USAC.
After a 17 race stint with JGR in the #18 Vigoro / Home Depot Chevrolet, which saw him post four top-10 finishes in his transition to stock cars, Yeley made his first full season effort the following year to go along with a limited Sprint Cup schedule. In 35 races that year, Yeley would put up four top-five and 12 top-ten finishes, finishing in 11th place in points in a very competitive year for the series.
The season after, Yeley recorded nine top-five’s and 22 top-ten’s, good enough to finish fifth in points, the highest finishing spot in driver standings his entire NASCAR career.
After many split seasons between both the Cup and Xfinity Series, Yeley decided to solely focus on the latter for points in 2014 while running full-time for JGL Racing. A very underfunded team using much older Dodge's, Yeley finished with a top-five and two top-ten’s for a team that really struggled in the speed department.
Yeley's campaign was very impressive given the fact that the team was in very poor equipment, leading Gregg Mixon's team to bring him back in their new Toyota's in 2015. It's unlikely that Yeley will be able to pull off a win for them in the near future, but with three road course races to go, a style of racing that Yeley has thrived at at times, Yeley will continue to do his best and prove that he's a solid driver just stuck in a poor situation.
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J.J. Yeley's Xfinity Series car at Iowa in August 2014.
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Colin Braun signs autographs at Gateway International Raceway in 2010.
Perhaps known more for his Sportscar exploits than his NASCAR Xfinity Series career, Colin Braun was a perfect example of a talented driver overcome by a bad economy in the sport.
The youngest driver to stand on the podium during the 2006 24 Hours of Le Mans, Braun signed a driver development contract with Roush Fenway Racing in 2007 with the expectation that he would race in both ARCA and in the Craftsman Truck Series. He wouldn't run full-time in the Truck Series until 2008, when he earned three top-five's and eight top-ten finishes.
His performance was good enough to win the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award, becoming the sixth driver to win the award while driving for Roush in a truck.
In 2010, a year after grabbing his first ever Truck Series victory, Braun earned himself a promotion to the Nationwide Series for what was believed to be full-time.
Unfortunately, sponsorship issues kept him out of a good chunk of the races in the No. 16 car that year, finishing with five top-ten's and seven DNF's in 24 starts. At the end of the season, Roush decided to let Braun go, and after just 31 starts, Braun's promising NASCAR career had already come to a close at the age of 21.
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Colin Braun and Steven Wallace are involved in a on-track incident at Bristol Motor Speedway in March 2010. Both drivers have never won in the Xfinity Series.
Braun wouldn't go without a ride for very long, instead heading back to his sports car series roots by heading over to the American Le Mans Series. Currently a dominant force in the Protoype Challenge class in the Tudor Sportscar Series, Braun won the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2014, eventually winning the championship in the inaugural campaign.
He's off to a good start again in 2015, and while he has yet to grab a victory heading into the seventh race at Mosport, his No. 54 Core Autosport team still sits first in the PC class this year.
With the retirements of Mark Martin, Sterling Marlin, Rusty Wallace and Ricky Rudd all taking place within a few years of each other, David Stremme was one of the drivers expected to become part of the next crop of great drivers during the mid-2000s.
Stremme struggled at times to hold a firm full-time position for a good portion of his NASCAR career, whether it be at the Cup or Xfinity level. That doesn't mean he wasn't any good, though. The owner of 50 top-ten’s in 146 career Xfinity Series races, Stremme, who hasn't raced in the series since 2011, won the Rookie of the Year in 2003 despite splitting a limited schedule between two different teams.
When he did race in the No. 1 Phoenix Racing car, though, he proved he was as fast as the front runners, grabbing three top-five’s, seven top-ten’s and even went on to lead 86 laps.
A development driver with Chip Ganassi at the time, Stremme would go on to be a competitive driver in rather average equipment at both Braun Racing and FitzBradshaw Racing, still struggling to win a race.
In 2006, Stremme found himself running full time in the Cup Series with Ganassi, a deal that would see him last just two full seasons. Whether it be a lack of funding, poor results or just bad luck, Stremme never really seemed to stick around anywhere for too long, and after a Sprint Cup deal with Swan Racing went sour, Stremme has been seemingly out of the sport ever since.
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David Stremme (41) races Denny Hamlin at Darlington Raceway in May 2007.
He did prove during his Xfinity Series career that he could be quite competitive, but his chances grew far slimmer once the series started to shift in the direction where the small budget teams couldn't last.
Last but not least is Tony Raines, an experienced journeyman who currently serves as the spotter for Sam Hornish Jr. in the Sprint Cup Series. Raines was no stranger to the Xfinity Series, racing in 282 races over 14 years. Mainly used as a fill-in driver for a wide variety of teams in his later years, Raines was employed full-time from 1991-2002, finishing a career-high sixth during the 2001 season.
His 15 top-five’s and 52 top ten’s may not seem like a lot when you look at a guy who has seen more Xfinity Series action than the current crop of drivers combined, but you have to look at it as a guy who never really had a chance to race in great equipment.
Raines was the 1999 Rookie of the Year in the Xfinity Series, beating out the likes of Hank Parker Jr., Adam Petty, Bobby Hamilton Jr., Tony Roper and Andy Kirby (Petty, Roper and Kirby have all unforunately passed away).
His team in the early 2000s was BACE Motorsports, a team that no longer exists. In fact, a good portion of the teams that he competed in are no longer in operation, with his part time ride at Kevin Harvick Incorporated back in 2005 perhaps being his best chance at grabbing a victory.
In 2005, he had nine top-ten’s in a season that still saw Raines struggle to run the full course of the season, heading to the track for just 23 races. An extended effort with the team could have led him to more potential success, but with the amount of moving around Raines did, we may never actually know how good he could have been. With no wins to show, that doesn't help his case.
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Tony Raines' 2009 ride.
For a lot of drivers, the Xfinity Series is the top of the totem pole for them. All five of these drivers have gone on to race in the Sprint Cup Series at some point, but none of them have been able to find success at the elite level either. That's just how life goes. Many drivers have the skill to win, but sometimes circumstantial issues get in the way of grabbing the victories they deserve.
Do you have picks for your own top-five winless Xfinity Series drivers? Let us know below!