Top 5 Best NASCAR Drivers of All Time
In most sports there’s room for debate over who the best of all time are: Babe Ruth or Willie Mays, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, Michael Jordan or–well that one is a poor example.
But in NASCAR racing there’s a general consensus as to who the best drivers of all time are, and even if you don’t like a particular driver for one reason or another (looking at you, Jimmie Johnson), you have to admit that they’ve shown up and gotten the job done.
Here are our picks for the top five best NASCAR drivers of all time.
5. David Pearson
David Pearson is most well-known for being Richard Petty’s rival, and the only man who could give him a run for his money. Heck, the duo finished in first and second a whopping 63 times, and Pearson had more wins in those face-offs. With the 105 total victories, and 113 pole position finishes, Pearson was known not only for his ability to dominate the competition but also for his consistency and versatility. Having raced for 27 years, he finished in the top 10 every year at least once (and more often than not, several times). Had Petty not gotten in his way he may have been even higher on this list.
4. Jeff Gordon
With 93 wins under his belt, Gordon is ranked third of all-time, which is the highest total in the modern era which began in 1972. Had he raced in an earlier time when there were more annual races than there are now, he almost certainly would have finished with even more. He has the most wins on some of the sport’s most storied tracks, including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Pocono Raceway, Sonoma Raceway, and he is tied with Jimmie Johnson for the most at Kansas Speedway. Another versatile racer, Gordon has the most Cup victories on restrictor plate courses and road courses–including six in a row on the latter, another record. The first driver to hit the $100 million mark in the sport, he earned every penny.
3. Jimmie Johnson
Jimmie Johnson may be the most hated man in the sport, but he has also been the most dominant of his generation. Known for his cocky attitude as much as he is for his skill on the track, Johnson holds the record for the most consecutive playoff appearances with 14–and still going. He is the winningest active driver and holds the record for the most wins at five tracks, and is tied on a fifth with Jeff Gordon. All he does is win and for some that is unacceptable. Maybe if he can topple a few more records that will change. Just kidding, haters gonna hate this guy until he retires.
2. Dale Earnhardt Sr.
Here’s a name even non-racing fans will recognize. The first driver to truly challenge the records of number one on our list by tying his seven NASCAR Winston Cup Championships. Known as “The Intimidator” throughout his career, he earned that moniker by winning 76 Winston Cup Races. A fixture of the sport with superstar status throughout the ‘70s, ‘80, and ‘90s, his career and life were tragically cut short in 2001 when he was involved in a three-car crash while racing. Had he not perished that day, The Intimidator may have gone on to add to his career tally of 428 top ten finishes, 281 top fives, and 22 pole finishes in 676 races.
1. Richard Petty
The biggest no-brainer in sports debates is Richard Petty aka “The King.” He reigned over the sport for a whopping 35 years, crushing the competition with his 200 wins. He won the Daytona 500 seven times, and he is the only driver to win 27 races in a single season. Criticism of the records tends to focus on the fact that there were more races available for him to compete in at that time, but if anything that shows his stamina and hardiness. The first motorsports recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Richard Petty truly was–and still is–the King of NASCAR.