Monday, November 23, 2009

The NASCAR top 10

Jimmie Johnson has done what no other NASCAR driver has done: win four Cup championships in a row. But where does that place him in the list of all-time great NASCAR drivers?
He is one of the great ones now. He probably was one before his fourth Cup championship in row. He was asked after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway how his streak stacks up among the greats.
“I think it’s up there,” Johnson said. “You know, the fact that nobody has done this, I think it puts me near the top. I certainly look at the seven championships by both Earnhardt and Petty, their race wins, their being in the sport for the number of years and all that they’ve done, those two guys are kind of at a draw at the top.”
You won’t get much debate from anyone that Richard Petty is No. 1 and Dale Earnhardt is No. 2.
From there though, it gets a little dicey. Here’s a look at how I would rank the top-10 NASCAR drivers off all-time.

1. Richard Petty
2. Dale Earnhardt
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Cale Yarborough
5. Jeff Gordon
6. Darrell Waltrip
7. Junior Johnson
8. Bobby Allison
9. Neil Bonnett
10. Harry Gant

Petty and Earnhardt’s seven championships separate them from the rest of the field. Johnson has four and is tied with Gordon for No. 2 on that list. Yarborough’s three championships in a row are incredibly impressive considering who he was racing against at the time.
Waltrip is on the list because he has become the most recognizable voice in NASCAR. His racing career has almost taken a back seat to his commentary.
Junior Johnson was pardoned by President Ronald Reagan for a moonshining conviction. If that doesn’t scream NASCAR, nothing does.
Allison is one of the founding members of the Alabama Gang. That alone puts him among the NASCAR elite.
Bonnett only won 18 races in 18 years of NASCAR racing. One of them was the Los Angeles Times 500 in 1977.
Gant was the Mark Martin of his day, known for finishing second in NASCAR championships. He does have one of the more impressive records in NASCAR though. He won four races in a row in 1991. All totaled he won six races in September of 1991, four in Cup and two in the old Busch Series.
Jimmie Johnson has a chance to move up in this list. So does Gordon. It will all come down to championships. But both Gordon and Johnson have a lot of work to do if they want to catch Petty and Earnhardt.
“Hopefully my stats and win totals and championship totals can rival theirs,” Johnson said. “But it puts us up there, it really does. And the cool thing is we’re not done yet. We’ve got a lot of racing left ahead of us. So hopefully we can improve on that."

Photo: Jimmie Johnson holds up four fingers to signify his unprecedented four consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships. (Photo Credit: Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR) 


  1. I like Most of your top 10. But I must say I am not so sure Jimmie will really score that high with the fans of NASCAR. While Jimmie might have won four championships. And he has won alot of races. He really doesn't seem to be as fan friendly as such drivers as Petty, Earnhardt, Allison and many of the others were.

    I think I would have to throw Mark Martin and Tony Stewart into the top 10. Mark has been the most fan friendly driver in the last 25 years. And Tony Stewart well, he is the most versatile driver ever.

  2. I think Tony Stewart is definitely No. 11. Although I don't think he is the most versatile driver ever. That distinction belongs to AJ Foyt.

  3. Do you know anything about NASCAR at all? Seriously no debate that Petty is #1? There is immense debate, a large portion of fans believe that Earnhardt would rank 1st and if not Earnhardt then David Pearson (who does not even appear on your list). David Pearson who won the championship every season he ran the full schedule, won 103 races (racing partial seasons), and Pearson and Petty ran 1,2 63 times with Pearson taking 1st 33 times. Pearson accomplished all of this without the major backing that Petty had. Pearson is roundly accepted as one of the best 3 drivers of all time (Pearson, Petty, & Earnhardt). I hate to see people who obviosly know nothing about the sport cover it.