20 of the best NASCAR drivers of all time and their stories

20 of the best NASCAR drivers of all time and their stories

Like in any major sport, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) driving requires skill. The drivers often train hard and maintain a diet that can enable them to race without difficulty. NASCAR's first event occurred on 15 February 1948 in Daytona. The best NASCAR drivers of all-time pride themselves on how tremendous the sport is. They work to prove how good they are at on the wheels. The best drivers are recognized worldwide and continue to keep the sport alive by doing analysis, training rookies, and commentating after retirement.

best nascar drivers of all time
Richard Petty smiles for photographers as he walks the red carpet. Photo: Jeff Siner
Source: Getty Images

Who’s winning the NASCAR race? Ryan Blaney won the 2022 edition of the NASCAR All-Star Race. NASCAR driving may have started as a little-known sport, but it is now one of the most prominent motorsports in North America. The competition among rivers is stiff, with new talent being revealed every season.

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Best NASCAR drivers of all-time

NASCAR drivers are some of the most famous and highly-paid motorsports athletes. Over time, the sport has attracted colourful yet some of the most fierce competitors of all time. Here is a list of the best drivers.

1. Richard Petty

best nascar drivers of all time
Richard Petty waves at fans during drivers introductions. Photo: Kyle Rivas
Source: Getty Images

Who has the most NASCAR wins of all time? Richard Petty with 200 wins. The 84-year-old is known as "The King" by his fans. He is the son of former driver Lee Petty. Richard was a Nascar driver from 1958 to 1992 in the former NASCAR Grand National and Winston Cup Series. His achievements include:

  • Being a seven-time series champion
  • Having 200 Cup Series Wins
  • 123 Cup Series Poles
  • 27 Cup series wins in a season.
  • Richard was the 2010 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inaugural Inductee

2. Dale Earnhardt

best nascar drivers of all time
Dale Earnhardt Jr. stands in the garage area during practice for the Sprint Cup Series Federated Auto Parts. Photo: Matt Sullivan
Source: Getty Images

Who is the GOAT of NASCAR? Seven-time Cup Series Champion Dale Earnhardt was one of the goat NASCAR drivers. He was the third child of racing driver Ralph and was exposed to the racing world in his teen years.

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He raced from 1975 to 2001 in the former NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Dale was also known as "The Intimidator" because he was aggressive while driving. Dale Earnhardt passed on in 2001 of a basilar skull ring fracture after crashing while racing. The star has won:

  • 76 Winston cup races
  • A four-time winner of the International Race of Champions series (1990, 1995, 1999, 2000)

3. Jimmie Johnson

best nascar drivers of all time
NTT IndyCar Series driver Jimmie Johnson attends the driver introductions at the 2022 Acura Grand Prix Of Long Beach in Long Beach, California. Photo: Greg Doherty
Source: Getty Images

The best NASCAR drivers enjoy the sport even as they contend for the top spot, which is what Jimmie Johnson has been doing. The 46-year-old Jimmie is a legend, having competed in the NTT IndyCar Series. Johnson started NASCAR racing in 2001 and retired in 2020. He has achieved the following:

  • A seven-time Cup Series Champion
  • Has 83 Cup Series wins
  • 35 Cup Series Poles
  • Five-time Driver of the Year

Among his many recognitions, Jimmie was also awarded the 2009 Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year title.

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4. Jeff Gordon

best nascar drivers of all time
Jeff Gordon attends the Breast Cancer Research Foundation's Hot Pink Party at The Glasshouse in New York City. Photo: Dia Dipasupil
Source: Getty Images

Jeffery Michael Gordon is a former professional stock car racing driver and currently the vice chairman for Hendrick Motorsports. Gordon started racing in 1992 and retired in 2015. His achievements include:

  • A four-time Cup Series Champion
  • 93 Cup Series Wins
  • 5 Xfinity Series Wins
  • 81 Cup Series Poles
  • A 2012 Heisman HumanitarianAward Winner
  • 2019 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee

5. David Pearson

best nascar drivers of all time
David Pearson drove for Cotton Owens in the mid-1960s, winning his first Cup Series title in 1966. Photo: ISC Archives
Source: Getty Images

Talk of old NASCAR drivers that still have an impact, and you have David Pearson. He started racing in NASCAR's Grand National series during the 1960 season and retired in 1986. Also known as "The Fox", the 83-year-old is a legend of his time. He has won the following:

  • 1960 NASCAR Rookie of the Year award
  • Three Cup Series championships
  • 105 Cup Series Wins
  • 113 Cup Series Poles
  • 2011 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee

6. Bobby Allison

best nascar drivers of all time
Bobby Allison speaks during the No. 14 Darlington Throwback Announcement True Speed Press Conference at the Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photo: Streeter Lecka
Source: Getty Images

Many fans refer to Bobby Allison as the grandfather of American motorsports. He is the founder of the Alabama Gang, a group of drivers based in Hueytown, Alabama. Bobby started racing in the 1960s and never stopped until his retirement in 1996. Bobby won the following:

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  • The 1983 Cup Series Champion
  • 84 Cup Series wins
  • 59 Cup Series Poles
  • 6 Grand National East Series Wins
  • 2 Xfinity Series Wins
  • 2011 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee

7. Cale Yarborough

best nascar drivers of all time
Cale Yarborough at the 1978 Pocono 500 Cup Series Coca-Cola 500 at Pocono Raceway. Photo: Disney General Entertainment Content
Source: Getty Images

William Caleb 'Cale’ Yarborough raced for 31 years, starting in 1957. The 83-year-old former Winston Cup Series champion is one of only two drivers in history to win three consecutive championships, winning in 1976 and 1977, and in 1978 he also won the Daytona 500 four times, having 83 victories and having 69 poles which rank third all-time.

8. Tony Stewart

best nascar drivers of all time
Tony Stewart looks on during the Camping World Superstar Racing Experience event at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida. Photo: Jonathan Bachman
Source: Getty Images

Tony Stewart is known as 'Smoke' in the racing community. He is the co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing and current co-owner of the Superstar Racing Experience. The three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion started racing in 1996 and retired in 2013.

Stewart is the only driver in history to win a championship in IndyCar and NASCAR. In addition, Tony Stewart was a 2020 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee.

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9. Darrell Waltrip

best nascar drivers of all time
Darrell Waltrip speaks during the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway Hall Of Fame 2021 Induction Ceremony at The Fairgrounds Nashville in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo: Keith Griner
Source: Getty Images

Darrell Waltrip raced from 1972 to 2000 in the NASCAR Cup Series. He is one of the most famous NASCAR drivers in history. The 75-year-old former stock car driver is now an author, successful business owner and commentator. Darrell Waltrip won three Winston Cup titles in his racing career and is the undisputed Memorial Day major race record holder.

10. Bill Elliott

best nascar drivers of all time
Bill Elliot looks on during the Camping World Superstar Racing Experience event at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida. Photo: Jonathan Bachman
Source: Getty Images

Bill Elliott, or "Awesome Bill" as his fans call him, is a decorated stock race driver. The 66-year-old did well for himself during his racing days, breaking records, and achieving what his peers could not. Bill started his racing career in 1976. His accomplishments include:

  • Leading NASCAR Winston Cup Series in wins in 1985, 1988 (tie), and 1992 (tie)
  • Seven wins at Michigan International Speedway
  • Recorded the fastest qualifying speed in NASCAR history at 212.809 MPH for the 1987 Winston 500
  • 2015 NASCAR Hall of Famer

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11. Rusty Wallace

best nascar drivers of all time
X Games Austin athlete Rusty Wallace attends the X Games Austin Kick-Off Press Conference at the Velocity Lounge at COTA in Austin, Texas. Photo: Rick Kern
Source: Getty Images

Russell William 'Rusty' Wallace Jr. started racing in 1980. He has won the 1984 NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year and the 1989 NASCAR Winston Cup Championship. Rusty has accomplished a lot in his career, including:

  • The 1989 Winston Cup Series Champion
  • Seven wins at Martinsville Speedway
  • The 1988 Final Winner at Riverside International Raceway

Rusty Wallace retired in 2005, his main reason for retirement being the untimely passing of Dale Earnhardt Sr.

12. Buddy Baker

best nascar drivers of all time
Buddy Baker sits in his race car at the Daytona International Speedway prior to the start of the 1981 Daytona 500 in Daytona Beach, Florida. Photo: Robert Alexander
Source: Getty Images

Elzie Wylie 'Buddy' Baker, Jr. was an American professional stock car racing driver and commentator. Buddy started racing in 1958 when he was only 17. The three-time Winston 500 winner retired in 1992, having won 19 races in the NASCAR Cup Series. He passed away of cancer in 2015.

13. Lee Petty

best nascar drivers of all time
An image of Lee Petty on the jumbotron during NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Day. Photo: Rusty Jarrett
Source: Getty Images

Lee Petty was a celebrated driver who competed in the 1950s and 1960s. He was the father of renowned driver Richard Petty. Lee is credited as one of the pioneers of NASCAR and one of its first superstars. He died in the year 2000.

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Lee was NASCAR's first three-time cup champion and won Grand National Champion in 1954, 1958, and 1959. His achievements include being the 1959 Daytona 500 Winner

14. Davey Allison

best nascar drivers of all time
Davey Allison is deep in thought prior to the start of a race. . Photo: ISC Images & Archives
Source: Getty Images

David Carl Allison had his first race in 1985 and his last in 1993. His career was cut short after a helicopter crash killed him in 1993. Allison was the 1992 Daytona 500 winner, 1991 Coca-Cola 600 winner and 3-time Winston 500 winner.

Some awards he was granted include the 1987 Winston Cup Series Rookie of the Year and the 1983 ARCA Talladega Super Car Series Rookie of the Year. Davel was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2019.

15. Mark Martin

best nascar drivers of all time
Mark Martin poses on the red carpet. Photo: Chris Graythen
Source: Getty Images

The former American stock car racing driver is recognized to have the second-most wins of all-time in what is now the Xfinity Series with 49. Mark Anthony Martin started racing in 1981 and had his last race in 2013.

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His achievements include being a five-time IROC champion, 2002 Coca-Cola 600 Winner, and two-time Winston 500 Winner. Mark was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2017. He is among the top in NASCAR's all-time wins list.

16. Junior Johnson

best nascar drivers of all time
Junior Johnson talks about his driving days at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Photo: Bob Leverone
Source: Getty Images

Robert Glenn Johnson Jr. won 50 NASCAR races in his career. His first race was in 1953, and he retired in 1966. Junior was the 1960 Daytona 500 winner and six-time Winston Cup Series Owner's Champion with Cale Yarborough (1976, 1977, 1978) and Darrell Waltrip (1981, 1982, 1985). He passed on in 2019 at the age of 88.

17. Benny Parsons

best nascar drivers of all time
NASCAR driver Benny Parsons sits in his race car waiting for the start of the 1987 Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. Photo: Robert Alexander
Source: Getty Images

Benny Parsons had his first race in 1964. The 1973 Winston Cup Series champion was also:

  • The 1968 ARCA Racing Series Champion
  • 1969 ARCA Racing Series Champion
  • 1975 Daytona 500 Winner
  • 1980 World 600 Winner

After retiring in 1988, he became an announcer, racing analyst, and pit reporter. Parsons died in 2007 due to complications resulting from lung cancer.

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18. Ned Jarrett

best nascar drivers of all time
NASCAR Hall of Famer Ned Jarrett speaks with the media during a press conference prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500. Photo: Brian Lawdermilk
Source: Getty Images

The father of former racers Dale Jarrett and Glenn is a notable legend in the NASCAR family. Since starting professional racing, Jarrett has accomplished a lot and won many awards.

Outstanding achievements by the 89-year-old include two-time Grand National Series Champion, two-time Sportsman Division Champion, and 1965 Southern 500 Winner. Ned raced between 1953 and 1966.

19. Richard Lee Rudd

best nascar drivers of all time
NASCAR driver Ricky Rudd sits in his racecar prior to the start of the 1985 Daytona 500 stock car race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. Photo: Robert Alexander
Source: Getty Images

If you were following NASCAR races in the 70s, 80, 90s, and early 2000s, then you recognize Ricky Rudd, popularly known as "The Rooster". Richard is the uncle of former driver Jason Rudd.

Ricky Rudd left racing in 2007 with 23 career wins. Some of his achievements include:

  • The 1992 IROC champion
  • 1997 Brickyard 400 winner
  • 2006 Dan Wheldon Cup (Robo-Pong 200) winner

20. Bobby Labonte

best nascar drivers of all time
SRX driver Bobby Labonte waits on the grid prior to the Inaugural Superstar Racing Experience Event at Stafford Motor Speedway in Stafford Springs, Connecticut. Photo: Elsa
Source: Getty Images

Who are the top NASCAR drivers? Of course, the list couldn't miss Bobby Labonte. For 25 years, Bobby wowed fans worldwide whenever he went racing. The 58-year-old started racing in 1991 and retired in 2016. His significant achievements include:

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  • 2000 Winston Cup Series Champion
  • 2000 Winston Cup Series Champion
  • 1991 Busch Series Champion
  • 2001 IROC Champion
  • 1995 Coca-Cola 600 Winner
  • 2000 Brickyard 400 Winner, and 2000 Southern 500 Winner

NASCAR has different series; Cup Series, Xfinity Series, and NASCAR Grander RV &Outdoors Truck Series. To be good in either or all, you need to follow the stories of the best NASCAR drivers of all-time in their respective categories and enrol in rookie races. In addition, retired drivers are celebrated in the community and inspire many athletes worldwide.

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