With NASCAR about to celebrate its 70th birthday next year, we take a look at the sport’s five best drivers of all time.
There is something to be said for a sport whose season runs from February through November, with NASCAR racers who have as much adrenaline pumping through their veins as Sunoco race fuel through their cars’ fuel lines.
5. Jeff Gordon
When Jeff Gordon hit the track, he helped usher in a new modern era of NASCAR – literally speaking, as his first race was Richard Petty’s last race. His youthful, West Coast image instantly attracted a new audience to the sport, and he had immediate success winning his first of four championships in 1995, which made him the second-youngest NASCAR champ ever.
4. Cale Yarborough
Although Cale Yarborough has 83 wins and is a three-time NASCAR champion (winning them all back-to-back-to-back), he is most notable for his never-back-down driving style, which resulted in the famous fist fight at the 1979 Daytona 500 against Donnie Allison. In addition to NASCAR, Yarborough also competed in the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He missed out on his fourth championship in 1980 by just 19 points to none other than Dale Earnhardt.
3. Dale Earnhardt
One of the most popular NASCAR racers of all time, Dale Earnhardt was a combination of old-school, fender-slamming NASCAR and the smarter, more precision-oriented modern era. In 1994, he tied Richard Petty’s championship win total with his seventh title, and his legacy as the Intimidator still holds a special spot for fans of the famous No. 3.
2. Richard Petty
With 200 NASCAR wins under his belt, Richard Petty is the winningest auto race of all time, and it is highly unlikely that anyone will ever knock him from that pedestal (NHRA’s John Force is second with 148 wins). Petty’s record for most championships is in jeopardy of being broken thanks to Jimmie Johnson.
2. Jimmie Johnson
NASCAR would meet its future golden boy with Jimmie Johnson’s rookie year in 2002. In his 15-year career, Johnson has dominated the sport winning seven championships, and he is still running strong. For comparison, Petty won his seven titles over 33 years of racing, and Earnhardt 26 years. Johnson is still running strong, and should have no problem adding to his championship collection.