But NASCAR racers have been doing that for years now! You’ve seen some of them in our previous article about the best drivers seen on the NASCAR track, and you are about to see some more of them in this very article right now. Time to feel the need for speed!
Louise Smith - "First Lady Of Racing"
When talking about legendary NASCAR racers, the name Louise Smith is always the one to be thrown around. This unbelievable female driver began her career with NASCAR as far back as 1949. A time when it was practically unheard of for women to race cars. Not only did she make that dream come true but she went on to become one of the best race car drivers of all time.
Louise Smith, the second female NASCAR driver in the world, won 38 races in her six-year career at the sport. After a reasonable hiatus, Smith returned to the game in 1971 as a sponsor for other drivers. She even mentored the legendary Ronnie Thomas at the start of his career.
Natalie Sather - Rookie of the Year
From a very young age, Natalie Sather was a star. In 2003 she came third in the Miss North Dakota Teen USA pageant. In high school, she was the captain of the cheerleading squad, and then came NASCAR. Sather got her minute of fame as a NASCAR racer when several media publications started to promote her.
A news outlet called The Heralds article read: "Evergreen Speedway driver shows you can still be feminine and succeed in a male-dominated sport." In 2007, she pretty much blew up. At the time, she was the first female to ever win the American Sprint Car Series. Natalie also won the ASCS Midwest championship and received the Knoxville Raceway Rookie of the Year award.
Hailie Deegan - A Rising Star
We have an up-and-coming champion here. Hailie Deegan is already growing up to become one of the most prominent female drivers in NASCAR. She first made history by competing and winning the NAPA Auto Parts/Idaho 208 race. In fact, Deegan was the first female driver to ever win that race. Let's not forget to mention that she also has a pretty impressive Instagram channel with over 500,000 followers.
Deegan is the daughter of Brian Deegan, the first freestyle motorcycle rider to ever manage a 360 flip. She is also the only female to have ever won a race in the K&N Pro Series, doing so in both 2018 and 2019. It's clear that Deegan was groomed from a young age to become a great NASCAR driver.
Jennifer Jo Cobb - Record-Breaking Female NASCAR Driver
Pro NASCAR driver Jennifer Jo Cobb wanted success, and boy, did she get it. She is now known as the world’s top female race driver of all time through. All achieved through years of obsession with the sport. Her first experience racing was in 1991 when her father, Joe Cobb, supported her start in the career. By 2002, she was already competing in racing competitions, leading her to become an official NASCAR driver just two years later
Jo Cobb’s life has pretty much been all about cars, which is why she holds the record for the woman with the highest points in any major NASCAR series. The veteran racing driver also owns her own successful clothing line company, Driver Boutique.
Tammy Jo Kirk - All-American Challenge Series Contender
Tammy Jo Kirk is not only a well-renowned and accomplished NASCAR driver, but she is also a major motorcycle enthusiast. She began racing her wheels at the young age of nine and fell in love with the game. Despite being very talented, Kirk suffered a great deal of sexism and wasn’t permitted to race in the male-dominated motorcycle competitions.
The frustrated race driver tried her hand at car racing and found a lot more success. Tammy Jo Kirk was immediately picked up by NASCAR, and in 1991 she joined the All-American Challenge Series. Just three years later, she was already crowned as the world’s most popular driver. The talented NASCAR competitor continued on the tracks until 2003 when she decided to hang her helmet.
Mackena Bell - Xfinity Series Contender
Mackena Bell was also a lucky graduate of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program even though she only had one official NASCAR race. She too started driving go-karts as a small child, moving up to Legend cars at age fourteen, and then officially racing vehicles by age eighteen. In 2010, she raced in six NASCAR races during their Xfinity Series but failed to finish with a proper score.
Four years later, Bell crashed her car during two races. She only had one top-ten finish in all of her career. Naturally, she didn't return to NASCAR after that and instead moved to race for Rick Ware Racing at the Phoenix International Raceway where she placed 29th. That was her last official race as of November 2014.
Milka Duno - Highest Finish at 24 Hours of Daytona
Milka Duno is proof of hard work over adversity. She was originally born in Venezuela and became an academic after arriving in the United States. She learned Marine Biology, Naval Architecture, Organizational Development, and Maritime Business, and went on to receive a master’s degree in all these!
During her time studying, Milka Duno was also a mildly successful model. This strange mix of professions her a lot of attention. At some point, for some reason, she decided to pursue race car driving and compete in NASCAR. She currently holds the record for the highest finish by a female driver in the 24 Hours of Daytona. Duno also wrote a Latin-English kid’s book titled "Go, Milka, Go!," which won the Best Young Adult Sports/Recreation Book award in 2009. Wow!
Robin McCall - Winston Cup Series
Robin McCall, like many, she was primed to become an outstanding racing driver since she was a kid. She began by competing in small races and swiftly built a reputation for herself as a top tier racer. By 1982, she was already in NASCAR and won a shot at competing in the Winston Cup Series, making her the youngest woman to ever qualify for the competition.
In 1985, Robin McCall tied the knot with a fellow racing driver, Wally Dallenbach Jr. They ended up having three children together. Ultimately, raising a family is what led led McCall to slowly, but surely leave racing. McCall has since been working as a driving instructor for auto manufacturers in driving events. The retired NASCAR driver also co-authored a book titled Portrait of NASCAR.
Shawna Robinson - Most Popular Driver
In 1988, Shawna Robinson didn’t just break the glass ceiling, she smashed down the entire house. Robinson was the first female to ever win a NASCAR Touring Series tournament. The win immediately launched her into celebrity status. The talented, award-winning motorist debuted as a NASCAR driver in 1988 and quickly showed promise with her unbelievable performance.
These victories got her awarded the 1988’s “Most Popular Driver” and “Rookie of the Year” awards. She then went up to the Busch Series. Unfortunately, there she didn't perform as well she hoped where. That proved to be indicative of her coming races as over time she lost some of her momenta. Instead, she began shifting her attention toward raising a family.
Mara Reyes - NASCAR Xfinity Series Contender
Mara Reyes is not only a female NASCAR driver, but she's also one of their first Latina racers to make it in the big leagues. After succeeding in the NASCAR Mexico Series, she joined the American NASCAR Xfinity Series for one race in 2005. Since then, she has been racing in the Super Copa Telcel with Arris Group sponsorship.
Mara's racing career started when she was just 10 and became officially the youngest competitor at 14. By 2005, Mara Reyes became the world's first Latin Woman ever to drive in the NASCAR Busch Series. Her most recent race also occurred that same year, when she placed eighth in the Mexican NASCAR Series with the TELMEX team.
Susie Wolff - Formula One Champ
This Scottish race car driver Susie Wolff has driven everything under the sun, including Formula One. As expected, she was most active as a go-kart racer in the late 90s, when she began competing in karting categories (and winning most of them.) Wolff was quite popular from a very young age and was named British Woman Kart Racing Driver of the year, twice.
She made the leap to Formula Renault racing from 2001 to 2004 and graduated to Formula Three in 2005. From there, Susie Wolff’s career kept flying, and last year she joined the Venturi Formula E Team last year, while also becoming a shareholder of the team.
Jessica Brunelli - Rookie of the Year
Jessica Brunelli is considered to have one of the more promising careers out of the sport’s many younger female drivers. She began her obsession with car racing, driving anything she could get her hands on, from quads to modified vehicles. By age seven, she was already racing in amateur competitions and continued to win two regional championships.
When Jessica Brunelli debuted in 2009 at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modified division in Roseville, California, she managed to win third place with ten top-fives and thirteen top tens. That is a noteworthy debut that even earned her the Rookie of the Year title. It looks like it's just the start of a very long and impressive NASCAR racing career.
Caitlin Shaw - NASCAR Spokesperson
The second woman to ever compete in the NASCAR's top three series. Caitlin Shaw breaks another record for being the only female driver to come from New Mexico. In 2008, Shaw gained widespread recognition when she was invited to her first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Test. So far, the young driver had participated in two major NASCAR games, the 2009 and 2010 Camping World Truck Series, where she placed 24th and 30th respectively.
Caitlin Shaw has quite an interesting career in her field of racing and even became the inaugural United States Spokeswoman for the International Online Magazine GirlRacer.co.uk. As a committed feminist, she heavily advocates for women's rights and equality, especially for their involvement in sports.
Patty Moise - Busch Series Contender
Like in every sport, you get a rare few who just are just miles ahead of the rest. Athletes such as Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and Tom Brady, stand out in their respective fields. In the NASCAR female racing gang, the clear champ is Patty Moise. She began racing at age 16 and made her official debut at age 26 in the Busch Series.
Moise won the top four a whopping number of ten times throughout her 133 races, making her the top female NASCAR driver of all time. Moise is married to former fellow NASCAR driver, Elton Sawyer. Sawyer is currently Vice president of a division in NASCAR. Back in her glory days, Moise was one of the most in-demand race drivers in NASCAR.
Danica Patrick - IndyCar Series’ Rookie of the Year
Not many success stories quite compare to that of NASCAR legend, Danica Patrick. She is the most triumphant woman in the history of American open-wheel racing and is the only woman to ever win an IndyCar Series race. Patrick was born in 1982 in Beloit, Wisconsin to a working-class family, and displayed curiosity about the unique sport since age ten.
In 1998, she made a remarkably brave move and left high school to pursue a NASCAR career. By 2005, she was named the IndyCar Series’ “Rookie of the Year.” Just five years later, Danica Patrick already began racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. While she officially retired last year, she has left behind her a legacy that will inspire many women for years to come.
Claire Decker - Drive for Diversity Champ
Once again, the Decker family. An interesting thing about them, they are a family of snowmobile racers. However, the champion, like her sister, headed straight into the prestigious NASCAR sport through its Drive for Diversity program. The program's purpose is to draw females and other minorities to compete as drivers, owners, sponsors, and crew members in NASCAR, an organization that is largely dominated today by men.
Decker has participated in two significant NASCAR events throughout her career. These include the Xfinity Series and the Camping World Truck Series. In 2016 she finished in the 105th position during her only year in the sport. She soon stopped attending after her achievements, feeling that she wasn't where she wanted to be.
Sara Christian - First Female NASCAR Driver
Think about being a professional NASCAR driver at a time where women were expected to just be stay at home moms. For Sara Christian, this was not an option. She spent ages working hard to become the world’s first female NASCAR driver. In 1949, she was the first female NASCAR driver who competed for six out of eight events during her first and only full year.
Christian received the United States Drivers Association Woman Driver of the Year award. By 1949, she drove her Ford at the Charlotte Speedway and finished at 13th place. She raced for a total of two years, starting in 1949 and ending her racing career in 1950. Later in 2004, Sara Christian was inducted into the Georgia Automobile Racing Hall of Fame.
Erin Crocker - Best Newcomer
Erin Crocker was on the race tracks at just 7 years old and was already winning Mini Sports competitions by the time she hit her teens. When Crocker transitioned into professional racing, her first race was the World of Outlaws. She was soon noticed after winning five races. These victories earned a National Sprint Car Hall of Fame Outstanding Newcomer Award.
In 2006, she began racing full-time for NASCAR. Crocker's record includes over 39 races in both stock car and truck races. Crocker is currently married to former auto racing crew chief Ray Evernham, who was her ex-boss and team owner. She has since retired from racing and became a broadcaster for SPEED in 2008.
Paige Decker - Rookie of The Year
Sister of Claire Decker, Paige, also joined NASCAR at about the same time. Decker was named as a NASCAR Drive for Diversity driver in 2014. Previously she became the first woman and rookie to win the TUNDRA Super Late Model Tour at the Golden Sands Speedway event. Although she did a bit better than her sister at the whole NASCAR experience, her time in the sport was also brief and ended in the same year as well.
The two sisters were joined by their cousin, Natalie Decker, who also succeeded to get into the NASCAR races through their Drive for Diversity program. unfortunately for Paige, Natalie was the strongest one of the three family members and is racing to this day.
Tia Norfleet - Drag Race Queen
Shauntia Latrice "Tia" Norfleet is one of America's leading African-American race car drivers. As the daughter of former NASCAR driver Bobby Norfleet, she had already revealed an interest in the racing profession from the age of seven. Tia has said that she began competing in kart racing events at age 14. Naturally, by 24 she was already racing in entry-level Bandolero competitions.
After that, Norfleet became the world's first African-American driver to obtain a NASCAR racing license. With all that said, there have been some questionable things throughout her career. According to a 2013 article in the New York Times, Norfleet has several discrepancies in her claims. First, Tia never actually raced in NASCAR.
Shannon McIntosh - 2011 USF2000 National Championship
Despite being only 30, Shannon McIntosh debuted just a few years ago. McIntosh has already managed to acquire herself a few notable victories. Her two best finishes were both in the eighth place: one in the 2011 USF2000 National Championship and another one in the same series. She recently joined the popular Shark Tank billionaire, Mark Cuban, to help him with his new app, Cyber Dust.
Outside of racing, McIntosh regularly writes for eBay Motors Blog and was lately been named “Someone to Watch” and a racing Up and Comer by the Tampa Bay Business Journal. We’re surely looking to see more of what this gifted and dedicated driver does with her career, both in terms of racing and in her business endeavors.
Diane Teel - NASCAR pioneer
Diane Teel began her career as a school bus driver before moving into the NASCAR racing scene. In 1977, after being the courier for another race car driver she decided to take the driver's seat. In her career, she raced eleven times in the series with two top-ten finishes. Teel is known as a female NASCAR pioneer and has helped make women feel a lot more accepted in the racing arena.
Diane Teel’s granddaughter, Macy Causey, is also an amateur female racing today. Teel's legacy is impressive, and in 2015 her racing equipment was put on display at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina. Teel retired in 1986 after racing in the Hampton 200.
Tina Gordon - NASCAR All-Prof Series Contender
It seems to be a reoccurring theme with female racing drivers leaving high-paying, respectable jobs in-order to become ferocious race car drivers. Tina Gordon (who is not related to legendary NASCAR drivers Jeff Gordon and Robby Gordon), left her successful position as an insurance agency owner to pursue racing. She sold the business, made a lot of money and the rest is history.
Despite her past success, this was a completely different arena for the new racing driver, as she had to build her way up from scratch. Just one year after joining NASCAR, she managed to finish in 20th place in the NASCAR All-Prof Series. The racer has made 16 starts so far and even finished in the top ten once.
Julia Landauer - NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Female Champion
At just 28 years old, Julia Landauer is already both a successful race car driver and a motivational speaker. She has raced in the popular NASCAR K&N Pro Series West competition and was the highest finishing female ever in 2016. Outside of driving, Landauer used her outdoorsy abilities to compete in the 26th season of the popular CBS reality show, Survivor.
Like many of her female NASCAR peers, Landauer had shown a talent for racing from a very young age. At just 10 years old little Julia used to compete in go-kart competitions and would bring home the victory after victory. In 2017, the accomplished racer was named in Forbes magazine's 30 Under 30 list under the category of sports.
Kim Crosby - Racing Principal
In 2004, Kim Crosby made perhaps one of the most impressive and amazing career changes, going from a full-time Louisiana school principal to a full-time NASCAR racer. She originally started out as a drag racer but found herself wanting more. She then moved to monster trucks for Monster Jam. By age 55, she's been in ten races over the past three years, and her best finish was 72nd in a 2004 race.
Kim Crosby is quite an extraordinary woman and who has a lot of hobbies such as hunting, fishing, hiking, kayaking, and camping. She's undoubtedly the coolest school principal of all time if there ever was one. Crosby is currently semi-retired, but continues to race occasionally and plans to return to NASCAR.
Nicole Behar - A Fifth-Generation Racer
Nicole Behar, beyond being a great NASCAR driver, is also a successful Instagram influencer who posts impressive things about her NASCAR career. She drives a custom made Toyota Camry and has her own team called the "Nicole Behar Racing" team. She's quite an accomplished NASCAR driver and finished 10th in 2016, as well as 3rd at the Evergreen Speedway race the following year.
She's a fifth-generation racer and was racing full-bodied cars at age fourteen. While Behar has been racing since 2014, in 2017, she gave birth to her first child. Since then, her focus has gone primarily to one of her business enterprises, the Fueled Coffee Company, a coffeehouse in Spokane Valley, Washington.
Natalie Decker - Rookie of the Year
Thanks to their Drive for Diversity program, in 2015, Natalie Decker joined NASCAR. She began at age 9 as an avid go-kart racer, and by age 11 she had already won 4 championships. Decker began racing 4-cylinder modified stock cars as early 12 years, already on a winning streak. In 2013, she took home the Rookie of the Year award by finishing third in the competition.
At the young age of 22, she is already shaping up to be a promising and award-winning racer and even has a much better record than her two cousins. Since then, Decker has participated in three ARCA races for Venturini Motorsports (Elko, Toledo, and Pocono), and finished eleventh on the lead lap.
Chrissy Wallace - Hickory Motor Speedway Contender
Chrissy Wallace's racing background begins with her family. As the daughter to Mike Wallace, the successful NASCAR driver, and also the family member of Rusty, Kenny, and Steve Wallace, Chrissy has been strongly rooted in the racing culture right from birth. In 2007, she became the first female driver to get a victory at the Hickory Motor Speedway race in North Carolina.
Her NASCAR debut occurred in 2008 when she competed in their Craftsman Truck Series and finished in the 18th place. Since then, Wallace has managed to achieve other victories and record braking accomplishments, such as being the first woman to win an American Speed Association Late Model track championship at the Lebanon I-44 Speedway.
Natacha Gachnang -Formula One Family
Natacha Gachnang is as talented as she is beautiful. Since 2009 she has been in 16 races. Her best one yet was when she finished at 23rd place in 2009, making her an extremely accomplished female racer. Gachnang is also the cousin of former Formula One driver, Sébastien Buemi. Perhaps car racing is in the genes.
At age 22, Gachnang found herself the victim of a traumatic car accident when attempting to qualify for the inaugural FIA GT1 World Championship race at Abu Dhabi. Fortunately, she didn't need any surgery and recovered quite fast. That same year, she became a member of the world's first all-female crew, and raced at the Le Mans 24 hours in 1991 and again in 2013.
Ethel Mobley - Legendary Flock Family
One of the first female NASCAR drivers in the world, Ethel Mobley competed in over 100 NASCAR events throughout her long and successful career. She showed great promise from the very beginning, and would often end in the top ten. One of her best-known achievements was coming 8th at the Daytona Beach Road Course.
Ethel was part of a legendary Flock racing family, with three of her brothers: Tim, Fonty, and Bob Flock making her one of the pioneers in NASCAR. According to Tim Flock, one of Mobley's NASCAR racing brothers, Ethel was actually named after the gasoline her father used for his car. In 1949, she became the first female racing driver to ever compete against male drivers in the state of Georgia.
Erika Monforte - Abarth 500 Italia Contender
Erika Monforte was born in 1989 in Zoppola, a commune in the Province of Pordenone, Italy. She displayed great promise as a racing driver from a rather young age and made her first attempt to compete in the amateur tracks more than 1o years ago Her father, Maurizio Monforte, was also a professional racing driver and retired back in 1998.
The Italian race car driver got herself into a few serious races over the years, including the Abarth 500 Italia as well as the Mugello Circuit and the Superstars GT Sprint Championship with a Porsche 997. In mid-2014, Erika Monforte made her NASCAR debut and placed 9th, winning the female category. She’s also the proud mother of two daughters, Sofia and Matilde.
Erica Thiering - Alberta Star
Erica Thiering is a seven-time NASCAR Whelen All American Series Champion and started her racing career when she was just a teen. She began in the Edmonton International Raceways four-cylinder class. Her last stint was in the Canadian Tire Series in 2015. Thiering dedicates many of her races to her sister, Erica, who had passed away in 2016.
The Canadian race car driver comes from Sherwood Park, Alberta. While she is passionate about raising, her real dream is to one day become an astronaut. It’s not every day that an unknown racer from Alberta makes it to NASCAR, which just goes to show that with enough talent, hard work, and dedication — anything is possible.
Kelly Sutton - Old Dominion Speedway Contender
Kelly Sutton began racing when she was just ten years old. Obviously back then she wasn't driving real cars, but as far as kids in racing karts go, she was outstanding. Ever since she was little, Sutton knew that she was going to be a great racing driver when she got older. This dream was delayed when the ambitious driver was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 16.
A potentially crippling disease of the brain and spinal cord which causes a person's immune system to attack his own body. Through much commitment, optimism, and hard work, the athlete ultimately reached her goals. Sutton was able to begin officially racing in NASCAR a few years later when she competed in the Old Dominion Speedway race.
Cyndie Allemann - Swiss Champion
Cyndie Allemann is one of Switzerland's most popular female race car drivers. She competed in many racing events since her debut in 1997, including the Renault Speed Trophy F2000, Formula 3 Euro Series, Firestone Indy Lights, and most recently, the ADAC GT Masters. The veteran racer has driven some of the best cars you'll ever see, including a Ford GT, an Audi R8 LMS, and various other awesome supercars.
Cyndie’s career has quieted down in recent years, but she's still very much alive on social media, with a successful Instagram with over 65,000 followers. Her last race was in Dubai, where she rode one mean looking formula car. Now she's a proud mother to her son, Liam, who was born just last year.
Kristin Bumbera - The Brand
Kristin Bumbera took her NASCAR career and transformed it into her own thriving racing brand. She signed endorsement deals, made appearances at numerous attractions and events, and even posted her racing programs on her website. These days, Bumbera is mostly retired from her once-impressive professional racing career and has racked up some incredible stats, which include 16 wins, 53 top 5's, and 97 top 10's, at least according to her website.
Throughout her NASCAR career, Bumbera received two Rookies of the Year titles, and was accredited as NASCAR's Drive for Diversity “Participant of the Year.” Today she is not very active on social media and the racing scene but according to the few posts she has published, she is busy with her two young sons.
Johanna Long - The Snowball Derby Winner
Like many female races in NASCAR, Johanna Long is the daughter of a racing mentor who vigorously trained his daughter to become a lean, mean racing machine. Long began in racing karts at the young age of five. She made her NASCAR debut in 2009. Since then, she has raced in a variety of races and often succeeds to beat her much older and more popular opponents.
Long has participated in 38 events in 2009 alone. Out of these 38 events, she accomplished 27 top-ten finishes, 17 top-five finishes, and 5 wins. Since that, Long only improved and later passed a major milestone in her NASCAR career when she won the Snowball Derby winner in 2010.
Janet Guthrie - Smithsonian Legend
Janet Guthrie has a very compelling life story that involved a massive career shift eventually leading her to her passion. Starting out as a successful aerospace engineer, which is one of America’s best-paying jobs, Guthrie abandoned it all for racing. In 1972, she joined NASCAR as a professional racer, which was quite a feat considering that there had been no female NASCAR drivers in over a decade.
Perhaps it was her deep knowledge of physics that helped her, perhaps it was her overwhelming need for speed. What is clear is that Janet Guthrie was an exceptional driver. She finished 15th on the 1976 World 600 tournament, her first-ever race, and went on to qualify and compete in the challenging Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500 races.
Angela and Amber Cope
Female drivers are already quite rare in the NASCAR world. But what’s even more unusual, is two identical female driver twins who compete against each other in NASCAR events. Angela and Amber Cope, also known as the Twin Turbos, made history in 2010 when they both raced in three top NASCAR events together. It's said, however, that Angela is a slightly better racer than her sister, Amber. Awkard.
The two have created an incredible career, but it took them several years to do so. They overcame many obstacles like even sharing a racing car at an early point in their career. The beautiful and blonde twin sisters are also pretty popular with men, clearly, and can be seen modeling often.
The Canadian Isabelle Tremblay was born in 1972 in St. Hippolyte, Quebec, and became a female racing driver at the mature age of 35. This makes her very unique in the racing world, as most drivers, especially the female ones, end up retiring at around this age. Before transitioning into racing, she worked as a real estate agent, but couldn’t help herself from dipping her feet into the racing driver world.
At the end of 2008, Isabelle Tremblay made her debut in a 200-lap endurance race alongside another 97 drivers. While she competed mostly for the fun of it, the expert and the seemingly gifted driver actually ended up winning the race.
Francesca Linossi The Speedy Italian
At age 27, Francesca Linossi is one of the more promising female NASCAR drivers and has amassed four wins from her 120 races recorded. She's arguably the most famous Italian female NASCAR driver in the world right now and lives quite an extraordinary life. This beautiful Italian racer was the youngest race driver in Italian history to drive four rounds of the Citroen C1 Cup and currently focuses mostly on GT racing.
After racing with a Lamborghini Huracan for a while she got her signature track car, a tweaked out Mercedes AMG GT3, one of the most intimidating pair of wheels currently used in NASCAR. Linossi also loves hiking and often enjoys traveling anywhere from deserts to beaches. Francesca Linossi is a keen dirt bike rider.
Jim Paschal- 430 Races
Another North Carolina native and in our opinion the most underrated stock car racer on this list, Jim Paschal had a career that spanned for 23 years. During this time, he took home 25 wins and in 1977 received the title “Stock Car Racing Hall of Fame.” He also had twelve poles over his career.
In 1964 and 1967, he won the World 600 and in 1967 he held a race record for 335 laps led. This record wouldn’t be broken for another 49 years until 2016 when Martin Truex Jr. would lead with 392 laps. Paschal was strong in the short tracks, which could possibly be a reason for why he retired. After he retired, he worked as a farmer and owned a trucking company.
Kyle Busch- 51 Wins And Counting
Kyle Busch or “Rowdy” is far from retired, so you might be wondering how he can be featured on a list of the greatest NASCAR drivers of all time. Well, by the end of the 2018 season, this all-star already had 51 career wins so it was only natural for him to be part of this list. The Las Vegas-born racer and younger brother to Kurt Busch started his career in 2003.
He quickly let the world know that he wasn’t going to be known only for being Kurt Busch’s younger brother. In 2015, Busch achieved his first big win when he won a Cup championship. He is now one of only five drivers to win a championship in the Spring Cup Series and the Xfinity Series.
Fred Lorenzen- 158 Races
To say that Fred Lorenzen back in the day had many nicknames would be the understatement of the century. Amongst them were The Golden Boy, Fast Freddie, The Elmhurst Express, and Fearless Freddy. His career started in 1956 when he made his NASCAR debut at Langhorne Speedway and finished 26th in his first race. He walked away with a whole $25.
Although Lorenzen had a short-lived career during which he competed for 12 years, that didn’t stop him from taking home a lot of wins. During 1962-1967 alone he won 22 races. Here is a picture of him rejoicing in his win at the Daytona 500 Qualifier.
Kevin “The Closer” Harvick- Sprint & Xfinity Champion
In 1980, Kevin Harvick a little five-year-old received a kindergarten graduation gift. The present was what most kids would kill to have; a go-cart. At a young age, Kevin started to receive attention and wins on the go-kart racing circuit. This young boy grew up to be one of the best race car drivers around.
He officially started his NASCAR career in 1995. He has had 45 wins at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and 47 at the NASCAR Xfinity Series. He is only the third of five drivers to have won a championship in the Spring Cup series and the Xfinity Series.
Rex White- 223 Races
88-year-old Rex White is a retired stock car racer who began his career in 1956. He became one of the first drivers to compete for the first Ford racing team. For the majority of his NASCAR career, he drove General Motors brand cars. By the time he won the title as the NASCAR Cup Series champion in 1960, he’d already won six races and had 35 top-ten finishes out of 41 starts in that year.
When he won the championship, he received a check for $13,000. He was a big name in the sport until he retired in 1964. He retired from the sport with 73 career wins. In 2015, he was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Bobby Labonte- 932 Races
Bobby Labonte got his start in racing like many other big-time NASCAR guys, by racing quarter midgets when he was just five years old. Since then, he has competed in an impressive 932 races. If his last name sounds familiar, that’s because he’s the brother of Terry Labonte. These two brothers are one of the only pairs of brothers along with the Buschs to both win the Cup championship.
Bobby is the first driver to win both the Winston Cup Championship in 2000 and the Busch Series Championship in 1991. He’s also the first driver to complete the NASCAR Triple Threat, meaning he won three of NASCAR’s top races at the same track at Martinsville. Nowadays, Bobby can be found on FOX Sports working as an analyst for NASCAR RaceDay.
Dale Jarrett- Three-Time Daytona 500 Champion
As we’ve already seen, race car driving runs deep in the family blood. Well, the Jarretts seem to know all about this. Dale Jarrett has followed close behind his father’s footsteps, winning the Daytona 500 NASCAR Winston Cup a total of three times. He first won in 1993, 1996, and 2000. Those weren’t Jarrett’s only big wins.
In 1999, he won a NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship. Nowadays, Jarrett prefers to work behind the tracks as the lead racing analyst for ESPN. In 2014, he was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, joining his father who was inducted three years before.
Herb Thomas- 228 Races
During the 1950s there was a North Carolina-born native who took the auto racing world by storm. The former farmer developed an interest in auto racing in the late forties and in 1949 he partook in NASCAR’s Strictly Stock race. His first win came at Martinsville Speedway in a privateer Plymouth.
This picture was snapped in 1955 and it shows Thomas posing with his Fish Carburetor 1939 Plymouth Modified that he came in fifth place with at a NASCAR event. Thomas drove Plymouth but after a fellow driver suggested that he switch to a Hudson Hornet, Thomas made the switch and quickly proceeded to win six races. Over Thomas’ 13-year career, he won 48 races, which ranks him 14th.
Joe Weatherly- 153 Top-Tens
Joe Weatherly was known for his sometimes crazy antics, like once showing up in a peter pan costume to do practice laps. His racing career started in 1950 and over the course of his 12-year career, he raced in 230 races. In 1950, he won more than half of the races that he competed in. Two years after that, he won the NASCAR Modified National Crown.
By the second half of the ’50s, he began competing in the NASCAR Grand Nationals, where he drove a Ford for Pete DePaolo Engineering. Tragically, Weatherly died in 1964 during a racing accident in 1964 after his head was hit by a retaining wall at the Riverside International Raceway.
Mark Martin- 882 Races
Despite never having won a Cup championship, the Arkansas-born native has nonetheless been described by ESPN as one of the best drivers. He’s not the best there ever was, but with 40 wins, 51 pole positions, and a career that spanned more than 31 years, he is definitely deserving of a spot on our list. Plus, there’s that minor fact that he managed to make an earning of over $85 million by the time he retired.
In 2017, Martin received the honor of being inducted in the NASCAR Hall of Fame along with Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, Raymond Parks, and Benny Parsons. Since retiring from racing, Martin has switched to the back end and now is the owner of several car dealerships in Arkansas.
Ricky “The Rooster” Rudd- 788 Consecutive Starts
Virginia-born Ricky Rudd got his racing start as a teenager in go-karts and motocross. He made his NASCAR debut in 1975 at North Carolina Speedway. Two years later, he became a full-time driver. His 32-year career consisted of 23 wins at the NASCAR Cup Series. He retired in 2006 and was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.
One of Ricky Rudd’s most memorable NASCAR moments was in 1988 at the Budweiser At The Glen. He was able to pass the finish line before Rusty Wallace by inching closer to him although Wallace had gained speed in the final laps.
Cale Yarborough- Three Cup Championships
Cale Yarborough was born in 1939 in South Carolina to a tobacco farmer and cotton gin operator. Before entering the world of racing, Yarborough was a football athlete. In 1957, he made his racing debut at the Southern 500. He quickly became one of the top racers, eventually winning 83 races, tying him with Jimmie Johnson.
Most notable in his career, were his three consecutive Cup championships from 1976-1978. Jimmie Johnson would eventually beat that and add two more consecutive wins. Yarborough was one of the best race car drivers of his time. He was inducted in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011. Another big honor was getting a part of South Carolina Highway 403 re-named after him to Cale Yarborough Highway.
Benny Parsons- 285 Top-Tens
Another North Carolina-born driver, Benny Parsons gained recognition after winning the 1973 NASCAR Winston Cup champion. That year, he had 21 top-ten finishes and 15 top-five finishes out of 28 races that season. After retiring in 1988, he became a top broadcaster and analyst in NASCAR for TBS, ABC, ESPN, NBC, and TNT.
In 2017, Parsons was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Parsons had his fair share of health problems during the last few years of his life. Even though he had stopped smoking back in the late '70s, it seems that it had long-lasting effects on his breathing. Sadly, he passed in 2007 from lung cancer.
Terry Labonte- Two Cup Championships
Terry Labonte was a NASCAR racer for 27 years during which he won two Cup championships and 22 races. He set the record for the most years in between two Cup championship wins. Labonte was born into a family of racers, but unlike his two brothers, Bobby and Justin, Terry became one of the most popular drivers of his time.
In 1984, Terry starred as a guest in an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard, playing a pit crew member. He also starred as himself in the Burt Reynolds movie "Stroker Ace" the year prior. He also had some appearances in commercials for Denny’s.
Bill Elliot- Winston Million Winner
Georgia-born William Clyde Elliot, AKA Bill Elliot, AKA “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville,” was one of the most popular NASCAR drivers of his time, a reputation which was solidified by him winning NASCAR’s Most Popular Driving Award 16 times. After winning a 16th time, he withdrew his name in order to give a chance to a different driver to win the honor.
All good things come to an end. But, for Bill Elliot, his legacy lives on. His popularity stretches so far that in Georgia, October 8 is Bill Elliot Day and there is a stretch of highway in his county renamed after him. During his time as a NASCAR racer, Elliot won 55 pole positions, 44 races, and one Cup championship.
Lee Petty- Three Cup Championships
Does the same sound familiar? Yep, Lee Petty brought us the best driver in history, the number one man, Richard Petty. The love of racing started with the patriarch of the Pettys in 1949 at the older age of 35. Petty subsequently became one of the first NASCAR superstars. By the time he retired from the sport, he won 54 races and had 18 pole positions.
He also won three Cup championships, becoming the first driver to achieve such a feat. As one of the original NASCAR stars, Lee Petty helped shape NASCAR into what it is today. Without his influence, NASCAR might not even be around today. Petty encouraged the development of safety innovations and advocated for features like window nets and roll bars.
Jimmie Johnson- Seven Cup Championships
The third stock car racer to win seven Cup championships, Jimmie Johnson was born in El Cajon, California in 1975 and entered the world of racing after graduating high school. He began stock car racing in 1998 along with his team, Herzog Motorsports. In 2001, Johnson signed with Hendricks Racing, and since then has seen many wins to his name.
To date, Johnson has won seven Cup championships, most impressively five of them being consecutive wins from 2006-2010, becoming the first driver to do so. In 2016, he won his seventh championship, becoming the third person to do so after Petty and Earnhardt.
David Pearson- 105 Wins
The late South Carolina-born stock car racer, David Pearson, had many wins during his nearly 40-year career. In 2011, he was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, achieving this honor just one year after Petty. He had a very notable career, competing in more than 574 races and winning 105 of them.
He holds the record behind Petty in achieving 113 pole positions. He had three Cup championships to his name, which considering that he seldom raced a full season schedule every year makes the wins even more incredible. Imagine if he had raced a full season more, he might just have made the first-place spot here.
Bobby Isaac- Grand National Champion
Another North Carolina-born racer, Bobby Isaac began racing full-time in 1956. However, it wasn’t for seven years and a lot of hard work that he made it to the Grand National division. In the ’60s, Isaac raced Dodges for Nord Krawskoph and took home three NASCAR Cup race wins in 1968.
In 1970, Isaac had his first big win, winning NASCAR’s Grand National Series. He drove the number 71 Dodge Charger Daytona which was sponsored by K&K Insurance. In his 20-year career, he won 37 races in NASCAR’s top series and started from the pole position 49 times. To this day, he still holds the record for the most poles in a single season with 20.
Dale Earnhardt- Seven Cup Championships
Another racer born into a family of racers, Dale Earnhardt is widely regarded as one of the best NASCAR racers in history. He had several nicknames during his driving career, thanks to his competitive and fierce driving style. Among them was the “Intimidator.” With seven Cup championship wins, we are sure that he did intimidate. He also won 76 Winston Cup races.
Unfortunately, tragedy struck too early on in his career, taking his life at the young age of 49. Had it not, who knows how many more wins he would have achieved. At the Dayton 500 in February 2001, the “Intimidator” was instantly killed in a three-car crash. His son, Dale Earnhardt Jr. raced as well and only learned of his father’s death after he finished the race.
Rusty Wallace- 697 Consecutive Starts
Rusty Wallace had a long career that spanned 25 years. In 1980, Rusty raced in his first NASCAR race in the Atlanta 500. Besides being known for his charismatic personality and for being a close rival to Dale Earnhardt, Wallace also experienced a number of severe crashes.
Rusty Wallace was known as one of the best road course drivers in NASCAR. He had 697 consecutive starts, falling short of Ricky Rudd’s 788. Wallace won only one Cup championship in 1989, however, he longed to win another one until finally retiring in 2005. At the end of his long career, Wallace finished in the top ten in 349 races, winning 55 of them and starting from the pole position in 36 of the races.
Carl Edwards- 75 Wins
Although Edwards is still so young, he already retired from racing in 2017 at the age of 37. But, with 75 wins to his name, maybe he felt like it was enough for him. In 2015 when he won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles’ Southern 500 at the Darlington Raceway, he celebrated by holding up the checkered flag.
Edwards was recognized for the No. 19 Toyota Camry that he drove for Joe Gibbs Racing during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He was also known for performing his famous backflip off of his car every time he won a race. In 2009, he married Katherine Downey and the couple have two children together.
Buck Baker- 635 Races
Buck Baker was a bus driver before he got started as a stock car driver. He raced in his first NASCAR race in 1949 at the Charlotte Speedway. Three years later, he won his first race at the Columbia Speedway. Baker proceeded to have a long 27-year career during which he raced in over 600 races, won two championships and 46 races, and started in the pole position 45 times.
He also finished in the top ten in 372 of the races. At least three of the wins he had were at the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in 1953, 1960, and 1964. In 1976, Baker called it quits and decided to retire from the sport. But, like many other fellow drivers, he didn’t leave the sport far behind him.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.- The "Pied Piper" of Daytona
Being born to the great Dale Earnhardt Sr. leaves you little choice but to be a great racer yourself, especially when you have the same name. While he’s known for being the son of one of NASCAR’s best drivers in history, he has made his own name for himself. Dale, otherwise known as the “Pied Piper” of Daytona, won the Daytona 500 twice; in 2004 and 2014.
He also won the Most Popular Driver Award fifteen times in a row, from 2003-2017. If that doesn’t impress you, maybe his $400 million net worth will. Earnhardt has won 26 Cup Series. Despite his wins, he chose to retire in 2017. Nowadays, you can find him as an analyst for NASCAR on NBC.
Joey “Sliced Bread” Logano- 52 Wins
Joey Logano is a current full-time racer in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and a part-time racer in the Xfinity Series. You can find him driving the No. 22 Ford Mustang GT. Although he’s still shy of 30, he’s managed to win an impressive 52 races. Logano’s first big win was in the 2008 Nationwide Series during the Meijer 300 at Kentucky Speedway.
At 18 years old and 21 days, he was the youngest driver to win a Nationwide Series race. 2016 was one of Logano’s most successful seasons. He finished in the top five in 22 races and in the top ten in 28 races. Logano is the current champ of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion and he plans to defend that title for the 2019 season.
Jeff Gordon- 93 Wins
Jeff Gordon is consistently ranked as one of the best stock car drivers. Gordon started racing at the ripe age of five in quarter midgets. By age 6, he had already won 36 races, setting 5 records along the way. Known as the “Kid” at the start of his NASCAR career, he started professionally racing at age 16.
By age 20, he became the youngest person ever to win the USAC Silver Crown. Not only does he have a hunky, Tom Cruise look, but he has also brought a much-needed freshness to the sport. By the time he retired in 2015, he had 93 wins to his name, the third-most in the history of NASCAR.
Brad Keselowski- 67 Wins
Brad Keselowski may not have been racing for over twenty years like some other big racers, but he already has a Cup Series championship and an Xfinity Series championship under his belt. Brad, a Michigan native who has been racing since 2004, currently is a full-time contender in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, where he drives the number 2 Ford Mustang for Team Penske.
He is also a part-time racer in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, where he drives the No. 12 Mustang for Team Penski. Growing up in a family of racers, it was only natural that Brad would join the ranks. While he ultimately placed 12th in the Daytona 500, the racer already has much to be proud of; an impressive 67 race wins.
Darrell Waltrip- 84 Wins
Darrell Waltrip was inducted in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2012 and for good reason. The three-time NASCAR Cup series champion had 84 wins throughout his career. A Kentucky native who started his career in go-carts at age 12, not much could stop him. He’s ranked fourth by NASCAR on the all-time wins list in the Cup Series.
Despite having retired in 2000, he still holds many records. After retiring from the sport, Waltrip became an analyst for NASCAR and race commentator. In 2001, he started his career with Fox and has become known as one of the most popular NASCAR analysts. Owing to his popularity over the years is the fact that he’s considered by many to be the total package driver.
Fireball Roberts- 32 Pole Positions
Edward Glen Roberts Jr. or better known as “Fireball Roberts” was a big name in the racing world during his 15-year stunt. He started 206 races and was in the pole position in 32 of them. When he retired, he had 33 races with 93 top-five finishes under his belt. He also started 16 races in the Convertible Series.
Roberts earned his nickname Fireball while playing baseball for the American Legion. When he was pitching for the Zellwood Mud Hens, his teammates were amazed by his fastball and started calling him Fireball. The nickname stuck. He died prematurely at the age of 35 after a crash in a race left him with second and third-degree burns over 80% of his body.
Ned Jarrett- Three Cup Championships
Ned Jarrett, otherwise known as “Gentlemen Ned Jarrett,” was known for his calm personality. During his 13-year period racing in the NASCAR Cup Series, he raced in 352 races, winning 50 of them and finishing in the top ten in 239 races. He was in pole position 25 times. He at 34, and became the only driver to retire as the current NASCAR champion.
The greatest moment of Jarrett’s career and one of the craziest in NASCAR history was at Darlington Raceway in 1965. He passed other drivers by miles, literally. He was farther by the next closest racer by 14 laps which is around 19.2 miles. This is the biggest margin in NASCAR history. In 2011 he was inducted to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Tony Stewart- 49 Wins
Every sport needs bad boys for some extra drama and entertainment. Tony Stewart, AKA “smoke” was one of NASCAR’s “bad boys.” He won three Cup championships in 2002, 2005, and 2011. Noted for his fearless and sometimes reckless driving as well as attitude problems, Stewart is the only person to win both a championship in NASCAR and IndyCar.
Stewart got his start in competitive go-karting and won his first championship at the age of 8. Stewart won at least once in every season that he raced. In 2011, Stewart won the Cup as both an owner and driver from Stewart-Haas Racing. He threw in the towel in 2016, having competed in 96 races over 14 years.
Tim Flock- 37 Pole Positions
Born into a famous stock car racing family, Tim Flock made a name for himself as a NASCAR racer. His racing career spanned from 1949 to 1961, during which he won 39 races, made 187 starts and had 37 starts in the pole position. Although his winning percentage was only 21 percent, in the racing world this is actually very impressive and high.
In fact, it’s the best winning percentage ever. For this reason, and a good reason, Flock was inducted in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2014. Flock, unfortunately, didn’t live to see this honor, as he passed in 1998 from liver and throat cancer.
Bobby Allison- 84 Wins
Born in Miami, Florida, Bobby Allison got his career started at age 17 while still in high school. Although he was from Miami, he became a member of the “Alabama Gang” after the success of countless wins in Alabama along with Donnie Allison and Red Farmer. Bobby Allison went on to become the most successful driver of the gang and retired with 84 wins and one Cup championship.
He is the oldest driver to win the Daytona 500, winning the race at age 50. Owing to a successful career, Allison was inducted into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame in 2011. Nowadays, the retired Bobby is promoting rail safety for the “Keep on Living” campaign.
Matt Kenseth- 181 Top-Five Finishes
Matt Kenseth developed an interest in cars when he was just 13 years old after his father bought him a car. In 1988, 16-year-old Matt Kenseth started stock car racing at Madison International Speedway. 29 years later, the racer retired from full-time racing.
During his full-time career, he competed in 288 races for the NASCAR Xfinity Series and 665 races for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. He led over 11,756 laps and had over 300 top 10 finishes. Outside of NASCAR, Kenseth is a huge fan of the heavy metal band Metallica and is also a diehard supporter of the Green Bay Packers.
Jeff “The Mayor” Burton- 306 Races
In 1988, Jeff Burton began his racing career in the Busch series. He drove a car owned by his father, number 69. His first win happened nearly 10 years later in 1997 when he won the Interstate Batteries 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Jeff Burton has had 21 wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
His most memorable NASCAR moment was when he won at the Coca-Cola 600s in 1999 and 2000. Nowadays he seldom races, but like many other former racers, he’s never too far from the tracks. He works as a sports commentator for NBC Sports in their NASCAR coverage.
Junior Johnson- 50 Wins
Although Junior Johnson’s career spanned for only a little over 10 years, he had 50 wins which placed him as the tenth best driver, and ranked 9th in terms of career pole positions. Johnson retired in 1966 but didn’t leave the sport too far behind. Nowadays, Johnson is known as a NASCAR team owner. In total, his drivers have won 139 races.
The real reason that Johnson makes our list, though, is thanks to his discovery of drafting. Johnson discovered that when he moved behind a faster car, his car’s speed increased because faster cars would block its wind resistance. He was able to surpass his competitor car during the race and win despite that his car was slower than other cars.
Harry Gant- 123 Top Five Finishes
Harry Gant, AKA “Handsome Harry,” began his career in the 1970s in North Carolina. He raced for 22 years and retired from the sport in 1994 with 208 top ten finishes, 18 wins, and 17 pole starting positions. Although he never won a Cup championship, he has enough feats that he is deserving of a place on this list.
After retiring, Gant decided to return to the calm rural life on his ranch where he enjoys riding his motorcycle. He is still somewhat involved in NASCAR and In 2015, he made an appearance at the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. He also has a good hand for carpentry and roofing and enjoys doing that in his spare time.
Richard “The King” Petty- 200 Wins
Richard Petty owned the wheel since the late ’50s and competed in 1,185 races over 35 years before retiring. It’s no surprise that Petty is the most adorned NASCAR driver, as it seems that racing runs deep in the Petty family’s blood. Richard was born to the late Lee Petty, who was also a stock car racer.
Richard has an impressive 200 wins under his belt as well as 172 top-ten finishes. He also started in the pole position 123 times. In 1992, Richard threw in the towel and retired from the sport with seven Cup championship wins, and may we mention the first driver to accomplish this number of wins.
Kurt Busch- 30 Wins
Kurt Busch won the 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series and the 2017 Daytona 500. He drives the No. 1 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for Chip Ganassi Racing as a full-time racer in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Busch is one of few drivers of who have won races in the Cup Series, Xfinity Series, and the Camping World Truck Series.
As admirable as his skills and wins are on the track, off of it, Busch has been known for engaging in verbal abuse of his team members and the media. He shared in 2011 that he was working with a sports psychologist on his anger issues. Busch has also been under investigation for physical assault and was caught cheating on his first wife.
Denny Hamlin- 2006 Sprint Cup Rookie Of The Year
A lot of stock car racers get their start racing go-karts at a young age and Denny Hamlin was one of them. He started racing go-karts at only 7 years old. Hamlin first gained recognition when he won Rookie of the Year at the 2006 Spring Cup and qualified for NASCAR Playoffs.
Currently, Hamlin is a full-time racer in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and drives the No. 11 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing. Hamlin has won over 30 NASCAR Cup Series races, the biggest being the Daytona 500 in 2016 and 2019. He has been credited as one of the most consistent drivers, and he has won at least one race every year from 2006 to 2017 Cup seasons and another one in 2019.
Chase Elliot – Two Iconic Numbers
William Clyde “Chase” Elliot currently drives for Hendrick Motorsports, wowing viewers practically every time the rubber hits the road. He’s the son of 1988 Winston Cup Series champ Bill Elliot. The pair are one of three father-son champions in history – Chase won the 2014 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship.
He became both the first rookie to win a national series championship with NASCAR and the youngest champion in that particular series. He’s driven under the iconic numbers 24 and 9, and he was one of the three future stars on the July 13, 2009 cover of “Sports Illustrated.” In Phoenix in 2020 he got the biggest win of his career with his first Cup Series championship. He’s won Most Popular Driver several years in a row.
Ryan Newman – The Rocket Man
With a series of lightning-fast qualifying laps and an astounding 51 pole positions throughout his 20-plus-year career, Ryan Newman has more than earned his nickname. His number of pole positions ranks as the ninth-most in the history of the Cup Series. Not only that, but Newman also has plenty of cup wins since he started racing in 1993.
18, with some of the biggest moments on his resume being the 2008 Daytona 500 and the 2013 Brickyard 400. He’s still driving, which means that all the other drivers have to contend with his blazing speed as they try to find a victory. He has tons of other accolades, including several Rookie of the Year titles, and the 2003 Driver of the Year.
Sterling Marlin – The Repeat Winner
Making his NASCAR debut in 1976, right after high school, Sterling Marlin was destined for speedway greatness. He was actually filling in for his injured father, and while an oil pump failure ruined his chances in that race, he’d go on to make track champion at the historic Nashville Speedway USA twice between 1980 and 1982.
He won Rookie of the Year for the Winston Cup Series in 1983, and from then there was little that could stop him. He ended up winning the Daytona 500 two years in a row – 1994 and 1995 – and then the year after that he won the 1996 Winston 500. He’s been the Tennessee Professional Athlete of the Year twice, and he was also named one of NASCAR’s 75 greatest drivers.
Greg Biffle – The First of Three
There’s a lot we can say about Greg Biffle’s incredible career. Since he started in 1995, he started climbing the ladder of NASCAR and doing it with aplomb. He won 20 times in the Xfinity Series from 1996 to 2009, and he also notched 17 wins in the Craftsman Trucks Series before being moved up to the big leagues.
When he started winning in the Cup Series (to the tune of 19 victories in more than 14 years), he became the sixth of only 36 drivers to win a race in each of NASCAR’s three national series. He’s also the first of only three drivers to have won a championship in both the Busch Series and the Craftsman Truck Series.
Kyle Larson – The Dirt Track King
Kyle Larson attended his first race only a week after his birth. Thankfully, he wasn’t driving then. His first time driving was at the age of seven in outlaw karts in Northern California. In his teen years, he made a name for himself in open-wheel cars, earning him the nickname “Yung Money.”
He cashed in on his skill by joining NASCAR when he was only 20, quickly proving that he had what it takes to make it big. Since then, he’s been a big winner, with multiple Rookie of the Year awards and wins in all three NASCAR national series. Not only that, but he was the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Champ. Even more, he’s also won the ARCA Menards Series! Truly prestigious.
Randy LaJoie – The Xfinity Champ
Beginning in go-karts when he was just 11 years old, Randy LaJoie couldn’t wait to get into the big leagues. He had to wait until he was 19, and then it was go time. He was the 1981 track champion in the sportsman division at the Danbury Fair RaceArena, and by 1983 he was part of the NASCAR North Tour, winning rookie of the year there.
He made a shot at the Daytona 500 that year but couldn’t qualify. The majority of LaJoie’s accolades have come out of the NASCAR Xfinity series. He’s won two championships in the series, 1996 and 1997, and three of his 15 career wins have come from the big season opener at Daytona International Speedway.
Mike Stefanik – The Mega Modified Tour Champ
While Mike Stefanik mainly competed in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, he made appearances in a number of other tours and series. He has quite the collection of victory hardware in total, with a full seven championships coming from the Modified Tour – he was even named the second-greatest NASCAR Modified driver of all time back in 2003.
He’s also added a further two championships from the Busch North Series, and his grand total of nine victories ties him for the most, alongside Richie Evans, in NASCAR history. He also ran 26 races for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, making it in the top 10 on 10 separate occasions. He’s a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Stefanik passed away in 2019.
Kasey Kahne – A Triple Engine Threat
Engines in racing and NASCAR are a particular thing. While plenty of drivers change makes and models, most of them will stick with what they know and like. Kasey Kahne isn’t like that. Since he started racing in 2002 for NASCAR, Kahne has not only driven but WON with three separate engine manufacturers – Toyota, Chevy, and Dodge.
It’s certainly rare, but what might be more rare is the success he’s raked up while doing so. He’s gained 18 career wins in the Cup Series, with three of them coming from the 600-lap Coca-Cola 600. He was the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Rookie of the Year in 2004. While Kahne has retired from racing due to health reasons, he still manages his own racing team, Kasey Kahne Racing.
Davey Allison – A Champ’s Career Tragically Cut Short
Despite only racing for about 10 years, Davey Allison still lands on this list with an astounding number of victories and accolades. He was the 1992 Daytona 500 winner, the 1991 Coca-Cola 600 winner, and a three-time winner of the Winston 500. He collected a grand total of 19 wins in the NASCAR Cup Series over nine years, with almost 100 top tens.
He got Rookie of the Year in 1987 thanks to two wins, five poles, and nine top fives, but we lost a perhaps legendary career in 1993 when the helicopter Allison was piloting, carrying fellow driver Red Farmer, crashed while landing at Talladega Superspeedway. Allison suffered a head injury and died the following day.
Buddy Baker – Still the Fastest Ever
During his 33 years of racing, Elzie Wylie “Buddy” Baker Jr., the son of NASCAR champ Buck Baker, collected 19 wins in the NASCAR Cup Series. He had the nickname “Gentle Giant,” and was known for his skill at coming out ahead on the superspeedways Daytona and Talladega – at those tracks he won a combined six races.
He parlayed his expertise on the track into a commentating career, which he continued until his death in August of 2015. One of his most enduring legacies is the average race speed he achieved in 1980 at the Daytona 500 – 177.602 miles per hour, a rate that has yet to fall despite all the attempts.
Geoff Bodine – Guinness Record Holder
Coming from a family of racing names, Geoff Bodine cut his teeth at a, frankly, frighteningly young age – he was part of the micro-midget division at the tender age of five. He loved racing so much that he disguised himself as a woman to race in the Powder Puff Derby when he was 15.
He’s one of the most well-rounded drivers in history. With almost 600 races in the NASCAR Cup Series, he has an impressive 190 top-10 finishes, 37 poles, and 18 wins. He was the 1982 Cup Rookie of the Year, and at one point held a Guinness World Record for most wins in one season, the 1978 Modified. That number was 55, and we guess “that one point” we mentioned is today.
Neil Bonnett – Cut Down During a Comeback
At almost 50 years, Neil Bonnett was making a comeback. In 1990 he suffered a severe brain injury during a crash, and while practicing in 1994, another crash cost him his life. Before this tragic event, Bonnett was the winner of the 1981 Southern 500, the 1983 World 600, and the 1979 Firecracker 400.
He also won the Goodyear NASCAR 500 in Australia, which was the first-ever NASCAR race to take place outside North America. He had 362 races over 18 years in the NASCAR Cup Series before he died. As a member of the famed Alabama Gang, which included famous racers Red Farmer and the Allison family, he was always surrounded by other racers.
Red Byron – The Original Winner
There’s a big reason why Red Byron is on this list: he won NASCAR’s very first race in 1948. As in, like the very first one. Not only that, but he ended up winning NASCAR’s first season championship in the NASCAR Modified Division. One year later, he won the very first of what was then called the NASCAR Strictly Stock Division, which you might now know as the NASCAR Cup Series.
That’s right, this guy won the first one of them all. Those are some big accomplishments, but there’s more – since Byron was wounded in World War II, he drove with a special brace attached to the clutch pedal to make it so he could drive using his injured leg. He did all that with a handicap.
Jerry Cook – Shaping the Modified Series
Born in 1943, Jerry Cook proved that he knew how to drive when he started at 13 years old at the Utica-Rome Speedway in 1969 in New York. Eventually, he made his way to the burgeoning NASCAR Modified Tour, becoming one of the best to ever drive in it.
He earned himself the champion’s cup six times: 1971 and 1972, as well as a four-year stretch from 1974 to 1977. Even though he retired in 1982 with 342 wins, he stayed on at NASCAR to help run the series that he had found so much success in. He was the Whelen Modified Series’s director when that series began in 1985, and he currently serves as NASCAR’s Competition Administrator.
Ralph Earnhardt – A NASCAR Patriarch
Ralph Earnhardt has the kind of name that you no doubt recognize if you’re a fan of NASCAR. You probably know him as the father of seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champ Dale Earnhardt, as well as the grandfather of Kerry, Kelly, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. After many years working in a cotton mill, the original Earnhardt used racing on dirt tracks as a way to get out of the poorhouse.
He was known for keeping his cars in tip-top shape. In 1972, he raced his son Dale at Metrolina Speedway. His total number of wins are counted at more than 350 races among the different series. Despite all this success, Ralph Earnhardt passed away at the age of 45 while working on a carburetor at his kitchen table.
Richie Evans – The King of the Modified Series
After leaving his family at the age of 16 to work at a local garage, Richie Evans became a street racer and drag racer (the car kind). After that, a friend suggested that he try racing at the Utica-Rome Speedway, which he did in 1962 at the age of 21. At that time the Modifieds was the premiere NASCAR division, and Evans started making waves when he joined in 1965.
He earned the nickname “The Rapid Roman,” while winning the NASCAR National Modified Championship in 1973, and then in 1978 he went on a seven-year tear. Holding a crown for so long in NASCAR is pretty much unheard of, but Evans never let up. He died in 1985 at the age of 44 while practicing for the Winn-Dixie 500.
Red Farmer – Too Many Wins to Count
The Alabama Gang was chock full of incredible racers, and the famous Red Farmer might be the most successful of them all. He was so good at racing that people aren’t exactly sure how many times he’s won. You read that right – people aren’t sure how many wins he has. However, the smallest estimation is more than 700.
At the most, we’re looking at more than 900. He was mostly content to race in the NASCAR National Late Model Sportsman Series (which is now known as the Xfinity Series), so he didn’t enter into too many Cup races. He was named as NASCAR’s most popular driver four times. He’s so good that he was able to beat current races at almost 80 years old in 2005.
LeeRoy Yarbrough – The First Triple Crown
When asked about racing, LeeRoy Yarbrough said that it was his life. He had almost 200 races, earning 14 wins, 65 finishes in the top five, and 92 finishes in the top ten. He was also the first driver to win NASCAR’s “Triple Crown” in 1969, which is when a driver wins Daytona, Charlotte, and Darlington.
Had the Talladega event, Winston 500, been established he might have won that, too, earning himself the first grand slams in NASCAR history. LeeRoy eventually had to be placed in a mental institution in 1980. He would stay in mental institutions until his death in 1984 from a fall. In 1990 he was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association’s Hall of Fame.
Glen Wood – One of the Brothers
With almost 100 years under his belt when he passed away, Glen Wood is a big part of NASCAR history. He ran 62 races over eleven years as part of the NASCAR Cup Series, netting four wins and 34 top tens. Along with his brothers Leonard and Delano Wood, he founded Wood Brothers Racing.
He was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers, he’s in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2000, became part of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2002, and made it into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2012. After a lengthy battle with several illnesses, Wood died in 2019. His favorite place to race and win was near his Virginia home, at Bowman-Gray Stadium.
Bob Welborn – The Convertible Champ
As a member of NASCAR’s fifty greatest drivers list, Bob Welborn has to have something to offer. And his driving CV is as good as they come, with 183 races in the NASCAR Cup Series, earning nine wins and more than 100 top 10 finishes. He was far more successful in the NASCAR Convertible Division, running 111 races over four years and earning 19 wins and almost 90 top-10 finishes.
He was also the Convertible Division champ in 1956, 1957, and 1958. In addition, he was the pole winner of the first annual Daytona 500. The National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame added his name to the ranks in 1982. Welborn died in 1997, at the age of 69.