From the high level of excitement, some of the fastest speeds in motorsport, signature oval tracks, and engineering art to the cutting-edge cars, it’s no surprise that NASCAR is among the most viewed and attended sports in the United States. Yet, all won’t be complete without the legendary fleet of drivers who makes the competition even more thrilling with their impressive and memorable victories. So, let’s take a look at the real superstars! Here are the most successful NASCAR drivers of all time!
1. Richard Petty
While there are still arguments in other sports about who’s the best, NASCAR is at peace as there can only be one person fitting for the designation – Richard Petty. Dubbed “The King,” Petty was the winningest in the sport, securing 200 Cup Series Wins in his three-and-a-half-decade career lasting from 1958 to 1992. In 1967, he even achieved an unparalleled feat, having 27 victories, the most wins in a single season.
If that isn’t enough, he also holds the record for the most starts at 1,184 aces and claimed the greatest number of pole positions at 123. No other NASCAR driver has come close to shattering his records. In 2010, Petty was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, further solidifying his supremacy. Indeed, you can’t say NASCAR without mentioning Richard Petty.
2. David Pearson
Regarded as “The Fox” due to his disciplined, calculated, and one-of-a-kind driving style, David Pearson emerged to be one of the most dependable and successful NASCAR drivers from the ‘60 to the ‘70s. At a time when Richard Petty was dominating the sport, Pearson took some of his own and proved to be “The King’s” greatest adversary.
A self-made driver who was only running part-time throughout the majority of his career, some even deemed Pearson could have toppled Petty’s record should he have run full-time. In 574 races, “The Fox” earned 105 Cup Series wins, the second-most of all time, and notched an amazing 133 pole positions. In 2011, Pearson became a NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee, treasuring his achievements in his career that spanned 27 years.
3. Dale Earnhardt
A legend from the ‘80s and ‘90s, Dale Earnhardt, is a seven-time Cup Series champion and a Hall of Fame inductee, with 76 Cup Series wins and 22 Cup Series Poles under his belt.
He was renowned for this distinct aggressive driving and overtaking style, earning him the nickname “The Intimidator.” Sadly, he died behind the wheels on the final lap of the Daytona 500 in 2001, leaving it a mystery what more could he have reached should he have continued in the sport. His early demise changed the landscape of NASCAR and enticed a massive focus on improvements in driver safety, including the HANS device.
4. Jeff Gordon
Jeff Gordon first entered the motorsport scene in 1992. In 1995, he won his first NASCAR championship and secured three more in 1997, 1998, and 2001. Nicknamed “Rainbow Warrior,” he earned such sobriquet from his signature colorful No. 24, Chevrolet. In his 805 races, Gordon yielded an incredible 93 victories, 81 Cup Series poles, and 325 top-five finishes. Apart from that, he was also the first NASCAR driver to breach the $100-million earnings mark.
Blessed with magazine and movie-star appeal, Gordon was also instrumental in bringing the sport to new audiences. His influence didn’t stay on the tracks alone, as he also appeared in TV shows, advertising campaigns, video games, and Hollywood flicks. In 2019, Gordon was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
5. Jimmie Johnson
Jimmie Johnson is a modern motorsport superstar with 84 wins. He’s also a seven-time Cup Series Champion, a five-time Driver of the Year, and the 2009 Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year, cementing his place as one of the most successful drivers in the sport.
At the age of four, he had already started racing motorcycles. After finishing high school, Johnson joined SODA and MTEG off-road series before shifting to driving stock cars. From there, he was noticed by fellow icon Jeff Gordon who got him to join the Cup Series team.
He earned his first Cup Series victory in 2006 and continued to secure more wins until he retired from NASCAR in 2020. Today, Johnson is exploring new avenues in the IMSA and IndyCar series.
6. Bobby Allison
Inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011, Bobby Allison boasts a lot of achievements under his name. He raced throughout the ’60, ’70, and the ‘80s, winning 84 victories, 59 pole positions, and six Grand National East Series. A true icon in motorsports, he also joined regional short track racing and competed in IndyCar, Can-Am, and Trans-Am series, while maintaining a race shop. In 1979, Allison engaged in a fistfight with close rival Cale Yarborough. The infamous incident was shown on television but was highly credited for increasing NASCAR’s popularity and reach during that time.
7. Kevin Harvick
Known for the nicknames “Happy Harvick” and “The Closer,” Kevin Harvick has been racing since 2001 under Richard Childress Racing. After 13 years, he moved to SHR, and on this team, he won his first Cup Series Championship. That’s only the first of many, as he went on to bag a total of 58 wins at NASCAR’s top level. He has also won the Brickyard 400, Southern 500, Coca-Cola 600, and Daytona 500. His other accolades include two NASCAR Xfinity Series Champions and 14 career victories in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
8. Kyle Busch
Another NASCAR driver for his aggressive driving style, Kyle generated his own legion of fans, as well as haters who deemed his manner of racing was far too dangerous. A hot incident happened in the 2011 season when he shifted trajectory abruptly, causing a collision with Kevin Harvick’s car. Luckily, Harvick only spun and didn’t crash into the protective walls.
Still, Busch’s career is more highlighted by his number of achievements, including 60 Cup Series wins, 102 Xfinity Series victories, and 62 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, totaling a combined 224 wins, the most race victories for any NASCAR driver.
9. Darrell Waltrip
Considered one of the most successful NASCAR drivers of all time, Darrell Waltrip’s array of achievements include 84 Cup Series wins, five Coca-Cola 600 victories, and three Winston Cup victories. Complementing these accolades, he was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. As a young NASCAR driver, Waltrip often called out and poked fun at icons like David Pearson and Richard Petty. Thus, he was often remembered for his very brash and cocky attitude.
10. Rusty Wallace
Completing this is Rusty Wallace, who may have had a slow start, but soon picked up and became one of the most victorious names in the world of NASCAR racing. He has 55 Cup Series wins, and in 16 straight seasons, he won at least one race, making it the third-longest streak in the competition’s history.
That’s the rundown of the most successful NASCAR drivers, who, despite the tough competition, emerged victorious numerous times and etched their names as one of the greats in the big world of the car racing industry.