Face it. We could do driver rankings every week or so just like everyone else but where’s the fun in that? Instead, let’s occasionally take a look at another side of motorsports.
What to do for a debut then? Since the Advance Auto Parts Clash is scheduled for Sunday at Daytona International Speedway (3 p.m. ET, FS1) and it’s a non-points race …
Best Non-Points NASCAR Races
7 – Daytona 500 Consolation Race: From 1959 through 1962, the race was a 10-lap, last-chance qualifier for drivers to earn a spot in the starting field for the Daytona 500. When it returned for 1981-85, it was a 30-lap race for drivers who wouldn’t be appearing in the 500. No points, just glory.
6 – Suzuka Thunder Special/Montegi: A three-year exhibition stint at Suzuka Circuitland, a 1.394-mile road course in Suzuka City, Japan (1996-97) and Twin Ring Montegi (’98), a 1.5-mile venue in Motegi City, Japan. The racing wasn’t tremendously memorable but give NASCAR and the teams an A for effort. And expense. It wasn’t the first time the series had ventured outside the U.S., but to date it’s been the last. Perhaps for a reason.
5 – Duel at Daytona: OK, sadly this one is no longer eligible since the top 10 finishers in the two qualifying races now receive points. Of course, there was a time when wins in the qualifying races counted toward a driver’s career total, too. Thankfully, that practice ended in 1972. But there were times when the race to snatch up one of the final spots for the Daytona 500 was more exciting than the actual race for the win. With only four positions up for grabs now, and teams not wanting to risk tearing up their cars before the 500, the wow factor isn’t what it used to be for this event.
4 – Clash at Daytona: Hardly a better way to kick off the season than with a short, fast-paced race featuring many of the same drivers that will be vying for a Daytona 500 win the following week. Now back as part of a Sunday show that includes Daytona 500 qualifying and no longer run under the lights, the Clash should provide a little better glimpse of what the 500 might actually look like.
3 – All-Star Race: There have probably been more complaints lodged against this one event than any other non-points race on the NASCAR schedule. Mainly that it’s held at the same venue, Charlotte Motor Speedway, every year. And that the drivers are the same that fans get to see every single week during the season. Both are true. But the venue did move once before – a disastrous effort at Atlanta in ’86 – and since the drivers will ALWAYS be the same competing every week, officials have tried to juice up the format instead. Sometimes it has worked, sometimes it hasn’t. There have been several memorable All-Star races through the years, but few of late.
2 – Goodyear NASCAR 500: It wasn’t out of this world but it was out of this country. In 1988, NASCAR teams packed up and headed to Melbourne, Australia to compete at the Calder Park Thunderdome – after the NASCAR season had already begun. It was the first NASCAR race on a superspeedway outside the U.S. Neil Bonnett, winner at Richmond the previous weekend, scored his second consecutive victory, outdueling Bobby Allison for the exhibition win. A trip to Australia for a non-points NASCAR race has a major cool factor surrounding it even today.
1 – International Race of Champions: OK, I’m going to pull a fast one here right out of the box. The IROC series, which ran from 1974 through 2006 (with one brief interruption) technically wasn’t a NASCAR Series. The annual four-race platform featured many of auto racing’s most talented drivers from various disciplines. Where else could you see Bobby Unser and A.J. Foyt and David Pearson and Emerson Fittipaldi go head-to-head? Yeah it got a little NASCAR top-heavy toward the end of its run, and by then the races were all held on ovals. But the idea and the effort and the action ranks tops. For a non-points event, it didn’t get much better than this.
(Bear in mind this is far from a “complete” list of non-points races. There have been many, many other consolation races, hooligan races, etc. These are simply a few that stood out to me. Thanks for stopping by.)