By Dominic Aragon and Jonathan Fjeld
Of the 204 winners in NASCAR Cup Series history, only a fraction of them have earned a win in their final season of competition.
Kevin Harvick could still join that list in 2023. While winless so far, he has won at each of the final two tracks – Martinsville and Phoenix.
Should he win, Harvick would become just the 19th driver in Cup Series history to win in their final year of competition. The most recent driver to do so was Kurt Busch last year.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be successful at what I do,” Harvick said in a news release. “I’ve basically lived out my childhood dream to do what I wanted to do, and now it’s time to move on.
“It’s time to do something different after we go to Phoenix and race there for the last time, and for me, that’s exciting.”
Before Busch, Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart each won in 2016.
As you’ll learn, Edwards and Stewart barely pass as the exception, not the rule, among drivers who won in their final year of competition in recent history.
Like Busch, a wreck at Pocono abruptly ended Bobby Allison’s career.
Allison survived the wreck but left him with no recollection of going 1-2 in the 1988 Daytona 500 with his son, Davey, just five months before.
Worse yet, five years later, in 1993, Davey Allison died in a plane crash.
Allison is hailed as one of the greatest drivers to never win a Cup Series championship, along with Fireball Roberts.
Roberts won the second race of the 1964 season. Six months later, a crash in the Coca-Cola 600 left him with life-threatening injuries.
Roberts died a month and a half later.
Billy Wade, who also won in 1964, was killed in a tire test at Daytona ahead of the 1965 season.
Tim Richmond won twice right away in his return to racing in 1987 – before NASCAR suspended him after eight starts.
Richmond died of complications from AIDS in August 1989.
Even among Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards, Edwards won in the rain at Texas in fall 2016 to lock into the Championship Four. In a fierce bid to defend the championship, Edwards ended up knocking down the wall in his final moment in the sport.
Stewart was more unceremonious in that race. However, he received his moment in the sun at Sonoma earlier that year after coming back from injury.
Then, in January 2017, Edwards was shockingly done, making it official a year after Stewart made it official.
For the first time in 44 years and 50 years among full-time drivers, a driver went out on their own terms as a winner.
In 2023, Kevin Harvick has kept his final season clean, albeit winless. Should he change that, he’d get to be the 19th driver to win in his final season of competition – no strings attached.
For six drivers — Marvin Burke, Mark Donohue, Dick Passwater, Jim Roper, Frankie Schneider and Chuck Stevenson — the victory was their lone career win.
Burke won in his NASCAR Cup Series debut and was the last to do so before Shane van Gisbergen did it in Chicago this year.
Roper also won the first-ever NASCAR Cup Series race.
Those six drivers also went out on their own terms, like Cotton Owens, Dick Hutcherson and Marvin Panch.
DRIVERS WHO WON IN THEIR FINAL SEASON OF COMPETITION
- Jim Roper (1949)
- Marvin Burke (1951)
- Marshall Teague (1952)
- Dick Passwater (1953)
- Chuck Stevenson (1956)
- Frankie Schneider (1958)
- Cotton Owens (1964)
- Fireball Roberts (1964)
- Billy Wade (1964)
- Dick Hutcherson (1966)
- Marvin Panch (1966)
- Mark Donohue (1973)
- Tim Richmond (1987)
- Bobby Allison (1988)
- Davey Allison (1993)
- Carl Edwards (2016)
- Tony Stewart (2016)
- Kurt Busch (2022)