Ray Fox Castles 1969
Neil Castles (right) drove two races for car owner Ray Fox during the 1969 NASCAR Cup Series season, the Rebel 400 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and the World 600 at the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. (NASCAR photo)

NASCAR Legends Who Never Won

Throughout NASCAR’s 75th anniversary season, there will be considerable discussion about ordinary men who did extraordinary things en route to gaining fame and fortune as the sanctioning body’s top winners and champions.

But there’s also another group of legendary NASCAR drivers, those who never tasted victory at the sport’s highest level, and yet their efforts were just as important to the survival of stock car racing. They entered race after race, year after year with the same desire and passion as those who enjoyed the spotlight.

Here is a glimpse at a few of those drivers:

Buddy Arrington raced in 563 Cup Series events from 1964 through 1988. The native of Martinsville, Va., was known as a staunch campaigner of Mopar machinery throughout his 24-year career. His first start came in Jacksonville, Fla., on Dec. 1, 1963, where he finished eighth in the 22-car field.

Darlington Throwback 3
Richard Childress during the mid-1970s. (NASCAR photo)

“You have to have racers out here like me,” Arrington told the Birmingham Post-Herald in July 1980. “If for no other reason than to give (Richard) Petty somebody to pass.”

Arrington died on Aug. 8, 2022.

Neil Castles gained fame as a Cup Series driver as well as a stunt driver in movies. Known as “Soapy” because of his childhood success in soapbox derby racing, Castles began his Cup Series career in 1951 as a mechanic for NASCAR driver Buddy Shuman. In June 1957, Castles made his Cup Series debut at South Carolina’s Columbia Speedway. He entered 498 races with 51 top-five finishes through 1976 and finished among the top five in points in 1969 and ’70.

Castles worked in racing movies such as “Speedway” with Elvis Presley in 1968, “Greased Lightning” with Richard Pryor in 1977 and “Six Pack” with Kenny Rogers in 1982. He passed away on Aug. 5, 2022.

Richard Childress found great success as a championship team owner but did not win a race as a Cup Series driver.

The Winston Salem, N.C., native made his first start on NASCAR’s elite stage on Sept. 14, 1969, as part of the infamous Professional Drivers Ass’n boycott at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. While driving a Camaro built to Grand-American specs in the Talladega 500, Childress finished 23rd in the 36-car field.

He went on to log six top-five finishes and 76 top-10 results in 285 starts. After 26 races in 1981, he turned his Pontiacs over to 1980 Cup Series champion Dale Earnhardt for 10 events. The pair joined forces again in 1984 and won six Cup Series titles together.

“Had we had a little more luck come our way, I believe I could have won some races,” Childress said. “We had great sponsors all those years and we had some great cars but just didn’t get to victory lane. I’m proud of what I accomplished as a driver but I could see things were changing and costs of racing were going up in the early 1980s.

“I felt it was time to make the move to car owner and I could put Dale in my car. So it all worked out. We had some great championship years (six) together and the rest is history as they say. But I did enjoy my years as a driver.”

Cecil Gordon, a longtime driver from Horseshoe, N.C., began his Cup Series career at Greenville-Pickens (S.C.) Speedway on June 22, 1968. He finished 19th in the 22-car field while driving for team owner Henley Gray, another longtime competitor with 374 starts of his own as a driver.

Gordon made 449 starts, logging 29 top-five finishes and 111 top-10 efforts.

Upon his retirement from driving, Gordon served as a crew chief in 73 Cup Series races for J.D. McDuffie, Lennie Pond, Greg Sacks and Jimmy Spencer. Gordon died on Sept. 19, 2012.

Alabama native Jimmy Means made his first Cup Series start in the 1976 Daytona 500. He finished 40th in the 42-car field. Over the next 19 seasons, he fielded his own Pontiacs and Chevrolets for the majority of his 455 starts.