How often are NASCAR Cup Series podium sweeps?

Memorable 1-2-3 team finishes are nothing new in NASCAR, so we take a look back at every podium clean sweep in the series' history

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It almost feels too good to be true. Hendrick Motorsports winning on the 40-year anniversary of their first ever NASCAR Cup Series victory, at Martinsvile Speedway where that first win came in 1984, in special ruby red liveries to celebrate the occasion, with roughly 1,500 team employees and their families in attendance, in a 1–2–3 finish for their drivers? One cannot write a script any better than that.

As much as conspiracy theorists might be tempted to call the Cook Out 400 rigged or manipulated by NASCAR to ensure team owner Rick Hendrick got his special moment, the team is far from unfamiliar with such a dominant performance. In fact, Hendrick Motorsport has enjoyed podium sweeps and much more.

Podium finishes are typically not tracked by NASCAR as stock car racing does not utilise them, owing to how large the grid is compared to other disciplines (NASCAR instead prefers to recognise top-five and top-10 finishes). Coupled with how costly running a multi-driver operation can be, it is exceedingly rare to see a team place three or more of their cars in the top positions. Still, it has happened before even at NASCAR‘s highest level.

A history of podium sweeps in the Cup Series

2023 Pennzoil 400

One does not have to go back far to find the last time before Martinsville where a team completed a top-three lockout. In fact, even that instance was a Hendrick effort with William Byron on top.

Hendrick entered the 2023 Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway looking for some sort of bright spot. Byron was sitting at the bottom of the points standings after a dismal start to the season while Chase Elliott had fractured his left tibia days before the race in a snowboarding crash. Josh Berry, who raced for Hendrick‘s Xfinity Series satellite JR Motorsports, was called up to replace Elliott for the race.

While Berry was busy coming to grips in his new environment, Byron, Kyle Larson, and Alex Bowman put on a clinic. Byron led 176 of 271 laps and won both stages while Larson finished second in each segment. Even the 2022 edition saw the team record at least a 1–2 courtesy of Bowman and Larson.

Although Berry finished a distant 29th due to throttle issues, he has been on the right side of a 1–2–3 finish before in the Xfinity Series, coincidentally at Las Vegas, twice in 2021 and 2022.

William Byron, driver of the #24 RaptorTough.com Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 05, 2023 | NASCAR/Getty Images
William Byron, driver of the #24 RaptorTough.com Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 05, 2023 | NASCAR/Getty Images

2021 Federated Auto Parts 400

The 2021 Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway started as a nightmare for Martin Truex Jr. when he was penalised for starting the race too soon, incidentally a controversy that also plagued the most recent Cup race at Richmond a fortnight ago. His team-mate and pole winner Denny Hamlin, the perpetrator of said restart debacle, looked like he was going to cruise to the win as he dominated the first two stages with Kyle Busch in tow; Truex, already a three-time winner at Richmond, was able to recover from his error to ride behind them.

Stage 3 proved to be another story. After Bubba Wallace, a JGR ally, crashed with fifty laps remaining, Truex took the lead from Hamlin on the ensuing restart and proceeded to pummel the field by placing everyone but the top nine cars a lap down, sparing Busch from the same fate. Hamlin and Christopher Bell followed Truex.

JGR had initially completed a 1–2–3–4 in the 2019 race, also with Truex leading, but fourth-placed Erik Jones was disqualified after failing post-race inspection.

2021 Drydene 400

As if a 1–2–3 finish was not already impressive, Hendrick Motorsports took it up a notch at Dover International Speedway when they had all four cars atop the leaderboard. Larson led 263 of 400 laps, but Bowman took the lead just after the race crossed the 300-lap mark and never looked back. After all, what was there to worry about when he had all three of his colleagues behind him?

In total, Hendrick drivers led 382 of 400 laps, or over 95 percent of the race. The victory seemed to light a fire under the team as they went on to win the next five points events as well as the All-Star Race while Larson later claimed the championship.

Alex Bowman, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, celebrates his win during the NASCAR Cup Series Drydene 400 at Dover International Speedway on May 16, 2021 | NASCAR/Getty Images

2019 Ford EcoBoost 400

The Cup Series‘ final race under Monster Energy title sponsorship, Busch scrapped with Hamlin, Truex, and Kevin Harvick for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Harvick, the only non-JGR driver of the four, seemed to be the early favourite until the Gibbs Toyotas came to life: Truex lapped all but the top thirteen cars en route to the Stage 1 win, then Busch held off Harvick to win Stage 2.

A poor restart by Harvick to begin the pivotal final stage forced him to play catch-up the rest of the day and left the JGR drivers to battle it out amongst themselves. Hamlin was then taken out by overheating issues, making it a two-man duel. As Busch drove off to his second Cup title ahead of Truex, Jones joined them in the top three.

2019 AAA Texas 500

As celebratory as Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer were when they drafted their way to a Stewart-Haas Racing top two at the 2018 Talladega fall race, their team-mates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch were probably peeved about running out of fuel on the last lap. This ruined an otherwise smashing day for SHR, who occupied the top four for much of the race.

A year later, Harvick got his revenge at Texas Motor Speedway. After starting on the pole, he won the opening stage after passing Bowyer on the final lap, then Almirola did his part by claiming Stage 2. Despite receiving a tyre penalty during green-flag stops early in the final leg, he easily placed himself back in position to strike during final stops with twenty laps remaining. Almirola and Daniel Suarez followed to complete the podium sweep.

2019 Daytona 500

Much like how they ended the 2019 season, JGR also began the year with a top-three sweep.

The 2019 Daytona 500 was a bittersweet moment for Joe Gibbs. His son J.D., who served as JGR’s Chairman, passed away a week before the race after a long battle with a degenerative neurological disease. Hamlin, a close friend of the younger Gibbs, made sure to honour him in the best way possible by surviving a chaotic ten-lap sprint and overtime to earn his second of three Daytona 500 wins and his first Cup triumph since 2017.

Although the late dash to the finish eliminated Truex, Busch and Jones escaped the fracas and tried to close in on Hamlin but came up short.

“I think J.D. had the best view of everything,” Joe Gibbs said about the moment.

2008 Camping World RV 400

While Stewart-Haas was the likeliest suspect from the Ford camp to sweep the podium in the 2010s, Jack Roush‘s team (now known as RFK Racing) carried the Blue Oval during the aughts.

The 2008 playoff race at Dover International Speedway seemed to be a toss-up early on, only for Roush to turn it up a notch in the final 100 laps as points leader Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth duked it out. Greg Biffle, who only led a single lap during the first 300 laps, entered the picture before passing Kenseth with nine laps to go.

2008 Food City 500

The first podium sweep of the Car of Tomorrow era came courtesy of the only other Chevrolet team not named Hendrick.

JGR was the top team at the 2008 Food City 500 a Bristol Motor Speedway, but Bowyer and Harvick hoped to ruin the party with Richard Childress Racing. Harvick perhaps took it a step too far when he got loose and accidentally sent JGR‘s Tony Stewart into the wall wn the penultimate lap. With the race extended under a green–white–checker finish (predecessor to the current overtime rule), RCR‘s Jeff Burton instead came out on top with Harvick and Bowyer following.

The two-lap GWC were the only laps Burton led that day.

2005 Ford 400

Under today’s playoff format, an outing like what Roush had in the 2005 season finale at Homestead would have easily earned Greg Biffle the championship. Unfortunately for Biffle, under the Chase system of the time, he was too far back in points that even a dominant showing in Miami was ultimately not enough.

Biffle and Edwards entered Homestead trailing Tony Stewart by 102 and 87 points, respectively. While Edwards was the top driver as he led 94 laps, the race win came down to a duel between Biffle and team-mate Mark Martin and culminated in a dramatic photo finish as Biffle edged out Martin by .017 of a second. Kenseth and Edwards followed to complete the Roush 1–2–3–4. Had reigning champion Kurt Busch not been released by the team before the penultimate race, a 1–2–3–4–5 was very well in the realm of possibility.

Stewart finished 15th, but still clinched the championship with 35 points on the tied Biffle and Edwards.

2005 Banquet 400

Much like Stewart raining on Roush‘s parade in Homestead, he also ruined a chance for them to have another 1–2–3–4 finish just six races prior at Kansas Speedway.

Biffle, Edwards, Kenseth, and Martin combined to lead all but nine laps. Although Martin‘s championship hopes were already relatively slim at this point, he made the most of his situation by holding off his Roush allies with Biffle in tow.

Despite an alternator issue, Stewart kept Kenseth at bay to not only prevent a top four lockout but expand his points lead from four points to 75. Incidentally, frequent face on this list Denny Hamlin made his Cup début in this race, finishing 32nd.

2005 Chevy Rock & Roll 400

If one could not already tell, 2005 was a bit of a renaissance season for Roush Racing even if they failed to win the title.

In the final race of the regular season at Richmond International Raceway, Kurt Busch scored what would be his final victory as a Roush driver. Harvick had dominated but handling trouble caused him to drop to tenth in the later stages of the race.

Kenseth and Biffle followed Busch, as did his younger brother Kyle.

1997 Daytona 500

Before he was celebrating Hendrick Motorsports‘ podium sweep as Vice Chairman, Jeff Gordon was celebrating their first as one of the hottest drivers in the Cup Series.

While he was finally able to get over the hump the following year, the 1997 Daytona 500 is widely remembered as yet another chapter in Dale Earnhardt‘s heartbreaking luck in the Great American Race. With fifteen laps remaining, Earnhardt was chasing down Bill Elliott when Gordon attempted to pass him for second. The two rivals made contact, quickly sending Earnhardt airbourne with a flip.

When the race resumed with seven laps left, Gordon and his Hendrick team-mates Ricky Craven and Terry Labonte linked up together. Gordon passed Elliott the following lap and they remained in front when another wreck happened. With overtime not yet introduced, the race ended under yellow with Gordon, Labonte, and Craven finishing in formation.

1957 Wilkes County 160

To find the last time the Cup Series had a podium sweep before HMS, one would have to go as far back as when Rick Hendrick was still in grade school. In 1957, when the championship was known as the Grand National Series, Fireball Roberts led all 160 laps at North Wilkesboro Speedway and secured a 1–2–3–4 for DePaolo Engineering ahead of Paul Goldsmith, Ralph Moody, and Marvin Panch. Had Allen Adkins passed just one more car (Buck Baker), DePaolo would have held all top five positions.

As if leading flag to flag was not already impressive, Roberts managed to do so without making a single pit stop and set the then-track record for the fastest 100-mile race as he completed it in one hour, 19 minutes, 50 seconds.

DePaolo Engineering was owned by Pete DePaolo, the 1925 Indianapolis 500 winner and one of the top IndyCar drivers during the decade. The team was eventually sold to team manager John Holman and Moody, who continued the legacy with a pair of Grand National championships by David Pearson and a Daytona 500 victory courtesy of the great Mario Andretti. While Holman-Moody‘s NASCAR team no longer exists, the DePaolo bloodline persists via the company’s continued relationship with Ford.

1956 Indian River Gold Cup 100

While the Indian River Gold Cup 100 at Titusville-Cocoa Speedway took place in December 1956, it was the third round of the 1957 Grand National season.

Once again, DePaolo reigned supreme as Roberts held off Curtis Turner, Panch, and Moody. Paul Goldsmith led the first half of the race before the fan belt pulley broke off; despite attempts to stay in the race by pitting for water, the engine overheated and forced him out. Roberts, who raced more conservatively to preserve his tyres and was tailing Goldsmith by 12 seconds, inherited the lead as a result.

“It would have been interesting to see if Roberts’ strategy would have worked if Goldsmith’s engine hadn’t conked out,” wrote journalist Bob Price.

Although track co-directors W.R. Waldron Jr. and John L. Waldron showed “extreme pleasure” at how the race went, it ended up being the only time the Grand National Series visited Titusville-Cocoa Speedway. Air Base Speedway, another one-and-done Cup track during NASCAR‘s infancy, almost had a unique podium sweep of its own when brothers Bob and Tim Flock finished 1–2 while their other brother Fonty Flock narrowly missed out due to Baker finishing fourth.

Justin Nguyen
Justin Nguyen is Total-Motorsport.com's resident NASCAR aficionado and is also the off-road reporter for The Checkered Flag.
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