written by AJ Appeal
The pre-season fanfare for American baseball includes reports on the best and worst prospects heading into Spring Training each year. We are told by tenured sports writers why they feel players will lead the league in strikeouts or home runs, and quite often they are correct in their predictions. Imagine that..in a sport with so many probabilities such as baseball, we almost instantly know who the next rising star is and what they're going to be capable of before their career even begins.
It isn't uncommon for predictions of a similar nature to occur in the world of stock car racing. One of the most memorable came in the 2000's when NASCAR legend Mark Martin told the world about young Joey Logano. So much has been made about Logano's earned nickname, 'Sliced Bread', which he was called as a teenager. We watched as Joey made his way through the ranks and it turned out that Martin was correct. Logano demanded the media's attention and won race after race in the then NASCAR Nationwide (Xfinity) Series driving the Gamestop Toyota. His rookie season in Cup he won and became the youngest ever winner in NASCAR's premiere series. As exciting as it was to watch Joey in that era, we all felt like we knew what to expect because of Mark Martin and the media telling us he was the next best thing.
The 1990s and 2000s are referred to as NASCAR's Golden Era for several reasons. One of them being an increase in driver personality and average talent which made on-track competition more fierce than ever. As the turn of the century happened we were introduced to dozens of young or previously successful racers who were preparing for their Cup Series careers. Jamie McMurray and Kasey Kahne, Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer. Countless other men and women strived for greatness.
One of the most interesting things that happened was a wave of men named David who felt they had what it took to dethrone the reigning champion. Champions in this era were true juggernauts such as the Labontes, Dale Jarrett, Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart...you could call them Goliaths. Every one of those champs became future hall of fame recipients.
Many of the Davids that entered the top echelon had a storied career in their past, it only seemed right that they could grow from bench warmer to starting all-star. Some of them earned wonderous accolades while others struggled more than they had hoped. Here are the interesting stories of the same-name underdogs.
Photo Source: ISC Archives/NASCAR
You probably heard of the Alabama Gang if you're reading content on Racing Refresh. It's possible, perhaps, that you are less familiar with the 'Owensboro Boys'.
Most popular from the Owensboro region were the Waltrip brothers Darrell and Michael, but another set of brothers who shared a name with the 'Go!' flag were also born there.
The oldest of the Green brothers was David, born in 1958. His brothers Jeff and Mark Green both had their own racing careers that followed in his path. David's Busch Grand National career started in 1989 at Hickory Speedway. He became a mainstay in the series and won his first national stock car event in 1991 at Lanier. In 1994 he won the Busch Grand National championship at the age of 36. His 404 races ran from 1989-2013 placed him at 9th all-time in the middle-tiered championship. He only won 9 times, one to match each day that Ferris Bueller called in sick. Despite not having more checkered flags and trophies, he earned a Top 10 finish 47% of the time! Add 22 poles to that, and his legacy is etched pretty well into the record books.
In 1997, Green was given the opportunity to drive most of the season and compete in his Cup Series debut. His first start in the Winston Cup (Premiere) Series was at the Goodwrench Service 400 at Rockingham. He started 14th and finished 38th that day. In total, he raced 78 times between 1997 and 2004. His final Cup appearance was at the 2004 Chevy Rock and Roll 400 at Richmond. He earned only one Top 15 finish in his cup career, a 12th place at Phoenix in 1999. With an average finish of 30.0, his Cup career never compared to his competitive results below. After the 2004 season he focused on Busch Series racing and added a handful of NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races to his calendar.
His final Top 5 and Top 10 were sudden. It came in a truck event at Kentucky in 2007. He would never break the top ten again in any national racing series.
He retired from driving professionally in 2013 and has mostly been out of the spotlight ever since. In the 2010s he began work officially for NASCAR as an official. He currently holds the title of safety manager and can be seen at the track working during inspections or other events through the weekend.
One of the words previously mentioned for David Green was 'mainstay.' NASCAR racer David Starr has earned a similar title for sure. While he is certainly experienced in all three of the top national touring divisions, his time in NASCAR Xfinity and Truck racing has given him a nearly ageless persona.
Starr is mostly remembered for being a tough competitor in NASCAR's Craftsman Truck Series in the early 2000's. From the years of 1998 to 2013 he earned 4 wins and 48 top 5's, most of which behind the wheel of the #75 Spears Manufacturing Chevrolet Silverado.
With a diverse success at different types of tracks he was a pre-season contender for the annual truck championship most years from 2002 to 2006. He slowly graduated himself to the Nationwide Series (Xfinity), but continued to race in both for many years.
In 2011, at the age of 43, Starr made his NASCAR Cup Series debut at Texas Motor Speedway. He matched the previous David, and finished 38th place in his premiere. Between 2011 and 2021 Starr raced a total of 17 times for several different teams and was not fortunate enough to earn a lead lap finish, pole, or top 10.
With lackluster results at the top, he continued to focus on Xfinity Racing. Some of his fans missed him being a more common threat below in the trucks, but his final full-time campaign was in 2011. While his energy was aimed at the Xfinity Series, only 3 Top 10 finishes were earned in 248 career starts.
What's to blame for David Starr's onset fame and success in trucks in the early 2000s turned into meme and lapped traffic in the 2020s? He has stayed healthy as he reached his mid 50's and maintained a full time career behind the wheel when other drivers fail to get a job with teams big or small. Perhaps he simply enjoys the adrenaline that comes with driving a car 200mph, but his best days statistically are certainly behind.
Photo: NASCAR Media / Getty
Second generation racer David Ragan entered the sport of NASCAR with big shoes to fill. His father, Ken Ragan out of Unadilla, Georgia was never considered one of the most successful on the track, but he was a driver that was respected in the south.
Ken made 50 career starts from 1983 to 1990. David, like so many other drivers dreamt of earning more statistically than his father was able to achieve.
Ragan raced in various resume-building series, he first earned the attention of NASCAR Hall of Fame car owner Jack Roush as a participant of the prestigious 'Gong Show' and in 2004 he was competing in the Arca Re/Max, NASCAR Craftsman Truck, and NASCAR Busch Grand National Series'...at the age of 18 years old!
Like so many others who were awarded contracts with Roush, he stood in line for the right opportunity. It was Mark Martin's retirement tour in 2005. He and Rusty Wallace celebrated their careers together. At each race the tracks or media would give the two legends gifts such as rocking chairs or enormous trophies. Poppycock celebrations would sometimes distract from the fact that these men were intending fully on truly competing for their final championship season's title.
David Ragan was selected to replace Mark Martin. In 2006, however, sponsor AAA and Roush convinced Martin to stay on board for one more full season. At the end of the year, headlines surfaced that Martin was continuing to race yet again, this time part-time with new teams. Ragan finally had his chance to compete regularly.
It is nearly impossible for a person to replace a legend of their industry. Ragan strapped his racing shoes on with the pressure of his father's reputation, being charged with the replacement of legend Mark Martin, and let's not forget the pressure of driving for Jack Roush in his best years.
While Roush Racing was known for their speed on the 1.5-mile ovals far more than other tracks in that time, Ragan raced with legends like Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon and competed strong at the restrictor plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega. In 2009 he won a race at Bristol in the Nationwide Series, but a more expected feat happened that same year when he claimed the Nationwide Talladega victory.
He led laps and finished high at plate tracks often, but he had to wait until 2011 to finally earn victory in NASCAR's Cup Series. That year, still driving for Jack Roush, David won the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International. It wasn't enough to continue on further with the team. He signed a deal to race with Bob Jenkins' Front Row Motorsports in 2012. In 2013, he and teammate David Gilliland (yes...he will be mentioned soon) finished 1-2 at Talladega. Ragan had won for the second time in NASCAR Cup Series.
The years went by and he got the opportunity to race for both Michael Waltrip Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing, but their fast Toyota racing packages didn't earn him another trip to victory lane.
Ragan left full-time driving at the end of the 2019 season and has worked in television as an on-air personality ever since. Like many others, he still races on a part-time basis, you guessed it...primarily at Talladega and Daytona where he has proven he still has the speed needed to win.
Ragan's career storylines were oftentimes shadowed by Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch dominance, but he has nothing to look back at with a slouch. Many have competed longer and earned less. Unfortunately for the Georgian racer, championship dreams never came true.
It's 7:00am on a weekday morning in 2004. Fan favourite SPEED tv is airing one of few television shows not considered to be local news or 'paid programming'. NBS 24/7. The show was the first recurring program to show behind the scenes footage of NASCAR racers in a lower series. NBS of course being, the NASCAR Busch Series.
David Stremme drove for Akins Motorsports at the time, he was the reigning Busch Grand National Series Rookie of The Year. The show highlighted his team, along with many of the other famed non-cup regulars. His sponsor Trim-Spa and the US Navy in subsequent years earned lots of media attention.
In addition to his background in racing in both dirt and asphalt in the ASA, he was considered to be the leading candidate to earn a spot at Chip Ganassi Racing when the time was right.
He raced primarily in the Busch Series in his late 20's; an older driver, he didn't make his NBS debut until the age of 26. Despite having limited on-track success, he had a growing fan base and was popular with the media. In 2006 he took over as pilot of the #40 Coors Light Dodge, which had been driven to championship contention and race victories by veteran Sterling Marlin in recent years.
In his first two seasons with the team, he earned 3 top-10 finishes, the only top-10's he would ever earn. In total, Stremme raced exactly 200 Cup-level events, finishing a career high of 7th place at Talladega in 2007. He did race back into the lower series and had limited success with about a dozen top-5's in those races. Unfortunately, Stremme did not win a national event in any NASCAR series. He's since taken his career into being a business owner where he makes dirt cars. Both he and his wife are still popular on social media and she has competed in charity events, even winning the 'Better Half Dash' in 2013.
Don't expect this David to return behind the wheel of a nationally sanctioned event anytime soon, but fans can look back on his shortened career with smiles. He was likeable and consistent in the Busch Series. He entertained well.
The Franchise, David Reutimann comes from a family of dirt racers in the south. Billed out of Zephyrhills, Florida, his father 'Buzzie' Reutimann is one of the most successful dirt racers of all time. He still continues to race and even win big events in their local area.
Buzzie had one opportunity in NASCAR. In 1962 he drove to a 10th place finish at Golden Gate Speedway driving a 1960 Chevrolet.
For David, his national career came after various success in the regional series. While he had opportunities to attempt races in both Cup and Busch Grand National earlier in his career, he only rarely managed to qualify. In 2004, NASCAR and Toyota cross-promoted the addition of the Japanese automaker to stock car racing. Their first few seasons would include entries in only the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Toyota signed a partnership with Darrell Waltrip, and Waltrip signed David Reutimann to a contract to drive his #17 truck.
Reutimann was fast, he often won practices and was one of the better qualifiers in the field. In 2005 at Nashville he won his first Truck race. He started 6th that day and led 41 laps of the 150 that were run. He finished 13th in standings and 3rd the following year in 2006.
Darrell Waltrip's brother Michael operated a Busch Grand National team and part time Cup team around that time. Reutimann was awarded the opportunity to compete part time, then in 2007 on a full-time basis with Michael Waltrip and Toyota driving the #99 Aaron's "Dream Machine". He earned another music city win, this time in Busch Series that year at Memphis.
That same year, David ran 'full-time' for MWR in the Cup Series driving his family's number, the double-zero. Unfortunately, Toyota was the freshman manufacturer in 2007 and struggled to qualify for races. That year Reutimann only managed to earn a starting spot in 26 of the 36 points paying events.
Reutimann struggled in his early years at MWR, but earned a win with crew chief Rodney Childers in the 2009 World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The event was a rainout and Reutimann had his fair share of critics. That same year he earned 2 poles and 5 top 5's.
David Reutimann celebrates winning the 2010 Lifelock 400 at Chicagoland. Photo Credit Unkown.
2010 consisted of what I'd argue was the greatest success of David Reutimann's career. He won his second career Cup race that year at Chicagoland and passed one of the greatest ever, Jeff Gordon in doing so. Not only did he 'earn' the win, (I'd say all wins are earned), but he had to defeat Gordon under a competitive and long green flag run.
Unfortunately, the current 'win and you're in' playoff structure was not yet initiated. David failed to earn a post-season berth in any of his NASCAR Cup seasons. His best finish came in 2009 overall where he finished a career best of 16th place in the standings.
He started 235 career events over a 10 year period, most of which were with MWR and Toyota, but in 2012 he was replaced and forced to find work elsewhere. He changed teams a few more times but never returned to his once competitive path. The last time he was a headline was a more infamous moment in his career when his car made an unfortunate stop on the front stretch of Martinsville during green flag racing. He received criticism from many of the fans and drivers for what he reported to be a mechanical failure.
His professional NASCAR career came to an end in 2014 at Richmond driving for Bob Jenkins' Front Row Motorsports. In 2015 there were potential rides available for Daytona and beyond but Reutimann did not renew his driving license with NASCAR. He now is a leader in the chassis and dirt modified industry in Sheryl's Ford, North Carolina where he owns Beak-Built Chassis. You can see cars from his shop all over the country. He still attends many dirt races and you'll even catch him racing on the dirt in Tampa from time to time with his father.
Photo Courtesy NASCAR: 2007 Yearbook
Fans of the west coast stock racing tours are certainly familiar with veteran retiree Butch Gilliland. He won Winston West championships and competed casually in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series from 1990 to 1999.
His son David earned stardom in the midst of an unsponsored NASCAR Busch Series career in 2006. Gilliland came from a deep background on the west coast like his dad but had earned the chance to race on a national tour.
That race, the Meijer 300 at Kentucky Motor Speedway went down as one of the largest upsets in several years. He was the only non-Cup winner to earn a victory that season up to that point. Doing so without a major sponsor was even less frequent as engineering and team money were now as important as travel and tire funding.
That race was his only ever win in the Grand National division. He was promoted to an opportunity that season in the #38 Ford driving for iconic sponsors MARS/M+M's chocolates. He earned a pole as a part-time rookie that year at Talladega. A full-time opportunity in the NASCAR Cup Series quickly followed with hall of fame car owner Robert Yates heading into the 2007 season. He started the season well in horsepower handling, earning the pole for the 2007 Daytona 500 alongside his teammate Ricky Rudd.
His career lasted 12 seasons and he earned a total of four top 5's and three poles... all at restrictor plate race tracks. He is arguably remembered best for his work as a drafting partner at those speedways. In 2011 he was one of the hard chargers in the lead pack when young Trevor Bayne earned his win in the Daytona 500. When previously mentioned David Ragan won at Talladega, it was his teammate David Gilliland who pushed him to the win. They represented the ability to compete in underdog equipment well at the high banks.
Over the last several years, David has been a car owner and an coach and advocate for his third generation racer son Todd. Todd currently competes as a rookie in the NASCAR Cup Series for David's prior team Front Row Motorsports.
Photo: Richard Childress Racing / NASCAR 2005
The Buckeye Bullet, Dave Blaney comes from a family of Ohio dirt track racers and was once one of the most feared drivers in the World of Outlaws and dirt sprint track circuits.
Amongst some of his greatest career accomplishments were winning championships in dirt, the 1984 Silver Crown in USAC and the 1995 World of Outlaws Championship.
Dave earned his way through the dirt scene and the respect of drivers all over. He was always respected on track for racing clean and winning races with speed rather than aggression behind the wheel.
He made his first career start in NASCAR's Cup Series in 1992 before ever having the opportunity to run a Busch Race. The result was a 31st place finish at Rockingham. Seven years later he ran a part time schedule in 1999 preparing for a full-time cup career in year 2000. By that time he had experience in both Cup and Busch Series, but he wasn't earning the podium finishes he once guaranteed in the dirt world.
Blaney competed for Bill Davis, Jasper Racing, and for Richard Childress Racing before returning to Davis over several seasons. It took him six seasons to record his first top five. He finished third place behind Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch that year at Darlington. At the time, it was the closest finish between 1st and 2nd place in NASCAR history. Dave's career-best finish was mostly overlooked. Looking back on that day, he actually had speed and may have had something for the other two drivers if there were more laps remaining.
Dave was not known for having partnerships with manufacturers that resulted in tremendous funding like Earnhardt or Petty, but he is remembered as one of few drivers in the modern era to have driven for every manufacturer. He spent at least one full season with Chevrolet, Ford, Pontiac, Dodge, and Toyota. He was also one of the first ever to compete for Toyota in 2007.
In his Cup career he never won, his best finish ever was third, 3 times. He did run part-time in the Busch Series in 2006 and won a big race in Charlotte, the only national victory of his entire career. Near the end of his Cup career he was leading the Daytona 500 in 2012 when fire in turn 3 melted the asphalt resulting in a red flag. Many fans look back on that event as what would have been one of the biggest upsets ever had Blaney been awarded the 'rain-out' for fire.
He isn't one to prefer attention, but Blaney is known for his wit and is now mentioned often as his son pursues annual success at the Cup level. Ryan Blaney is a several time Cup Series winner driving for Roger Penske and has said many times that someday he would like to compete against his father in the premiere events but Dave has determined his days in NASCAR are done. In 2022, they both competed in the SRX series event at their home track Sharon Speedway in Ohio, perhaps making a dream come true for both of them.
What was it about the 2000s that gave us so many talented drivers named David, but none of them became the guy to become a top-shelf bottle of booze? They're all so likeable, and have proven their talent in various ways.
What is so interesting for them is that it is indeed another David who became one of the greatest of all time. The late David Pearson earned 105 career Winston Cup victories in his career, many of which he defeated King Richard Petty on track for the top spot.
For the underdogs in this article, none of them have any reason to hang their heads. They all earned wonderful accolades in their own way, and had the opportunity to race against some of the most accomplished racers of all time such as Dale Earnhardt, Jimmie Johnson, and Tony Stewart. You'd be hard pressed to find a group of underdogs or low-funded drivers who earned as long tenured careers as these men did without having won the sport's largest events. Their careers were true legends that were overlooked by too many in the motorsports community.