Best NASCAR Drivers of All Time | Top-15 Ranking

Best NASCAR Drivers of All Time Ranking
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Who is the best NASCAR driver ever?

The NASCAR Cup Series is an action car racing sport. Swarms of cars pack on the racing track in an intense struggle to reach the finishing line. Through this racing, struggle fatality occurs in the form of car crash and wreckage, thereby dashing the hopes of many fans to see their favorite race drivers achieve victory. 

As entertaining and eventful as these races are, it is suspenseful and sometimes unnerving to watch. However, from the perspective of NASCAR race drivers, they are under tremendous pressure as the centerpiece of the game. They feel an extra tin of anxiety and tension, yet they are required to deliver. 

SportyTell ranks the 15 best NASCAR drivers in history, based on performance and achievements. A NASCAR race driver who pushes through the daunting odds to victories consistently is more than average but the best.

RELATED: 10 Best Female NASCAR Drivers Ever Ranked

The best NASCAR drivers of all time

15. Ned Jarrett

Ned Jarrett – American race car driver
Photo credit: Ted Van Pelt

American retired racer and two-time NASCAR winning champion, Ned Jarrett, is an established figure in NASCAR. He enjoyed a fruitful 13 years career and put in quite a great effort on the racing track. In a total of 352 races he competed in throughout his career, he won 50. He is known for his calm nature, and thus the nickname “Gentleman Ned Jarrett” was coined. However, he isn’t mild on the racing track. With countless wins, awards, and victories, Jarett is among the greatest NASCAR racers of all time.

14. Kyle Busch

Younger brother to the 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series champion Kurt Bush, Kyle is another force to reckon with on the racing track. Since his debut race in 2001, he has set numerous records in NASCAR competition, including his famous 2010 feat; the most race won in a single season across the top three NASCAR series with 24 wins.

Kyle Busch also holds the record for the highest number of wins in the Truck Series with 59. He is the only driver in the history of NASCAR to record 50+ wins in NASCAR’S top 3 series. In 553 races competition in 18 years, he won 56 and 32 poles along with multiple awards.

13. Rusty Wallace

Fondly called Rusty by his racing peers, he’s competed in 706 races and won 55. He was the 1984 NASCAR Cup Rookie of the Year. His phenomenal impact in the NASCAR racing sphere saw him inducted to NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2013, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2013, and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2014.

12. Tony Stewart

American semi-retired racing driver Stewart is one iconic driver in NASCAR. He is loved and idolized by many, and the reason isn’t so farfetched from his phenomenal displays in racing competition. To his name, he has three NASCAR Cup Series titles. In 618 races he competed in the 18 years of his career, he recorded 49 wins and 15 poles.

A season doesn’t pass by without Stewart recording a victory on the race track. He happens to be the only race driver to achieved championship victories in Indycar and NASCAR. 

11. Junior Johnson

Johnson was one of the great names in NASCAR in the 1950s-1960s. He debuted his full season in NASCAR competition in 1955, winning five races and ranking sixth in that year’s NASCAR Grand National points standings. By 1959, Johnson’s racing profile had improved and made him a significant contender in short-track races.

He receives the credit for inventing the draft at speedway techniques, which has become a traditional skill in modern NASCAR racing. By 1966, he retired as a driver, having competed in over 313 races over 14 years, winning 50 and 49 poles. Sadly, he passed away in December 2019 at the age of 88.

10. Bill Elliott

Bill Elliott - American race car driver
Photo credit: Darryl Moran

A visit to Georgia bears witness to Elliot’s magnificent achievement in the NASCAR sphere. Various roads named after him, even a day declared in his name. He won countless races and championship titles in his over 800 races in his 37 years career. His wins sum to a total of 44. He is the highest winner of the prestigious Most Popular Driver award, which he won sixteen times. Bill Elliott is a name never to be forgotten in the sport of NASCAR. 

9. Lee Petty

Father to the legend race driver Richard Petty, Lee didn’t start racing until the age of 35. He was the first race driver to win the Daytona 500 and the first to clinch three NASCAR championships. His first eleven seasons in NASCAR, he finished in the top five in season points. Until his son emerged on the racing science, Lee was the dominating race driver in the sport. He competed in over 427 races, winning 54.

8. Bobby Allison

Former professional stock car race driver, Allison was a dominating force on the racing track. He won the Winston Cup in 1983. Three times Allison registered his name as champion in the Daytona 500 racing event; in 1978, 1982, and 1988 respectively. Throughout his career, Allison accumulated 84 victories in 718 races. In recognition of his motorsports input, Bobby Allison got elected to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1993.

7. Darrell Waltrip

Waltrip’s stint in the world of NASCAR was both as a racer and a broadcaster until his retirement last year, May. Throughout his busy time racing in NASCAR, before taking on a job as a broadcaster, he raced in 809 competition and recorded 84 wins. In his 29 years on the track, he clinched three NASCAR titles. Waltrip’s presence in the racing track was nothing short of dominance. He was a sight to watch with the marvels of his intriguing speeds. 

6. Cale Yarborough

At the onset of his racing career, which began in 1957, Cale wasn’t much of a force. He was below average. However, in his beginning years, which saw his struggle in NASCAR, he developed an intuitive understanding of the sport. His commitment and consistency added with a proficient knowledge saw him clinch his first significant win in 1968 after winning a trophy for Daytona 500. That was the leaping stone to more victories in his career.

Cale Yarborough competed in 560 races and won 83 of them. He also won 69 poles and brought the total of his championship wins to three. He is no doubt one of NASCAR’s greatest drivers of all time.

5. Jeff Gordon

Gordon came into the spotlight during the final era of Richard Petty’s dominance. He attained his first NASCAR victory in the 1994 Coca-Cola 600. Jeff Gordon was a notable threat to other competitors on the racing track and made serious waves of his presence in his first few seasons. He competed in 805 NASCAR races, recording 93 victories along with four championship cups.

4. Jimmie Johnson

Jimmie Johnson is such a phenomenal force on the track; his name alone is an assurance of victory. Fellow racers dread competing with him. He is powerful, wild, outrageous with a balanced ratio of speed that equals accuracy. He has racked up an impressive 83 wins, 35 poles, and six championship victory in his ongoing career. Hopefully, Johnson will add to the numbers of wins and championship and keep up with his incredible racing form.

3. Dale Earnhardt

Dale Earnhardt - Great NASCAR Driver
Photo credit: Darryl Moran

Late Earnhardt was a living legend in the sport. Unfortunately, his untimely death in 2001 cut short his achievements. The great Earnhardt equals Petty’s seven championship-winning titles as well as bagging 76 Winston Cup races victories. His untamed, aggressive racing manner earned him the name “The Intimidator.”

Sadly, his death at the 2001 Daytona 500 was the end of his glorifying career. However, it serves as an awakening to safety precautions in the sport. He is undoubtedly among the best NASCAR drivers of all time.

2. David Pearson

The stock racer from Spartanburg is another prolific name in the NASCAR racing sphere. He displayed an awe performance of mastery, skills, and bravery on the racing track. He clinched the rookie of the year award in his debut season in the sport.  In 574 starts, he recorded 105 victories. He has three NASCAR championship titles to his name. David Pearson was one of the greatest threats that consistently gave the great Petty a hard time on the track. He was really close to rivaling Petty’s dominance. Although late, Pearson lives amongst the greatest NASCAR drivers of all time.

1. Richard Petty

Richard Petty in 1984 – Greatest NASCAR Driver
Photo Credit: Ted Van Pelt

Richard Petty is a renowned champion and force to reckon with in the NASCAR racing scene. He is prolific with an adept, urgent, wild. His calculative style of driving, never ceasing to entertain watching audience while racing. Petty dominated the track. He participated in over 1,000 races and won 200.

Petty once recorded victories in 10 consecutive races. He is the first racer to have won the Daytona 500 more than once (a record seven times), thus winning over a million dollars for the impressive feat. Petty is the first driver to achieve the seven NASCAR Cup championships, making him an undisputed champion in the NASCAR world. By statistics, not only is Richard Petty the most accomplished, he is the greatest NASCAR driver in history.

Please feel free to share your thoughts about our greatest NASCAR drivers ranking, in our comments section.

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