Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Top NASCAR drivers of the decade

In addition to selecting the top NASCAR races of the decade, the media was asked to rank the top drivers of the decade. Jimmie Johnson should win this with a unanimous vote. What he has done over the last four years is something no one in the history of NASCAR has ever seen. The only thing that would be more impressive is if a driver ever notched his 201st career win, surpassing Richard Petty’s 200.
In any event, here is how I ranked the top drivers of the decade:
1. Jimmie Johnson: Four straight Cup championships. Hands down the best driver of the decade.
2. Tony Stewart: The only driver to win a Cup championship the conventional way and in the Chase. Plus starting his own team and making the Chase in his first season doesn’t hurt his credentials either.
3. Kurt Busch: He is certainly not the most popular driver, but no one will ever be able to dispute he won the first Chase. For that he will always be a part of NASCAR history.
4. Jeff Gordon: He only won one of his four Cup championships in the decade. He was the 2001 champ and it was the fourth of his career. His best racing days might be behind him, but wouldn’t it be something to see him win a fifth Cup championship 10 years removed from his fourth.
5. Matt Kenseth: He is known as much for winning the last conventional Cup championship as he is blamed for causing NASCAR to implement the Chase. Bottom line is Kenseth doesn’t wreck race cars. He brings them home in one piece and puts them in Victory Lane from time to time. It probably would have been better for everyone if he put his car in Victory Lane more than once in 2003.

You would think with Johnson winning four straight Cup championships that he would be miles ahead of the next closest driver in race wins. That race is actually pretty tight, all things considered.
Johnson has the most wins of the decade with 47. Stewart is not all that far back in second with 34. Gordon is right behind Stewart with 33. Busch has 20 and surprisingly Kenseth has only 18 in the decade.

Photo: President Barack Obama looks under the hood of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet with three-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson at the White House. (Photo Credit: Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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