Who is the best NASCAR driver? Ranking the 15 best NASCAR drivers of all time

Who is the best NASCAR driver? Ranking the 15 best NASCAR drivers of all time

Lenah Ann
updated at April 12, 2023 at 8:14 PM

Fast forward to the beginning of 2022, there has been a plethora of races, tragic races, memorable ones, dramatic ones, and even more, some have been exciting. Despite the sport's high lows, heartaches, and exuberance, the racing sport NASCAR has experienced its fair share of some of the best drivers of all time.

who is the best NASCAR driver
Bubba Wallace drives down pit row prior to the start of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff South Point 400 on 16 October 2022 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas. Photo: Christopher Trim
Source: Getty Images

In motorsports and relatable activities, NASCAR drivers are the most popular athletes, especially on the North American continent. Although the sport is highly followed in the United States of America, people around the globe have begun to develop a niche in the sport. This article reveals some of the best NASCAR drivers in history.

The top 15 best NASCAR drivers of all time

Selecting the top players in any given sport, be it soccer, basketball, football, or even NASCAR, is no mean task. Needless to say, there are often different combinations of top players who seem to fit in any relatable ranking list.

15. Ned Jarrett - 50 wins

the best NASCAR driver of all time
Hall of Fame Member Ned Jarrett poses for a photo during the 2019 Induction Ceremony at the Charlotte Convention Center on 1 February 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photo: Brian Lawdermilk
Source: Getty Images

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The NASCAR Hall of Fame describes Ned Jarrett as one of its greatest ambassadors. Famously dubbed Gentleman Ned, he is a two-time Cup champion, 1961 and 1965. More like a generic sport in the family, his son Dale is renowned for winning the 1999 NASCAR Sprint Cup title. To date, the Jarrets are still recognised for being the second father-son combo to win Cup titles together.

Aside from the legend winning 50 races, he is also known for his easy-going informative style as one of the first television commentators of the sport.

14. Junior Johnson - 50 wins

the best NASCAR drivers as of 2022
Junior Johnson attends the Special sport Screening of Disney Pixar's CARS 3 on 23 May 2017 in Kannapolis, North Carolina. Photo: Bob Leverone
Source: Getty Images

Even though Junior barely makes it to the top ten, the sport's Hall of Fame notes that he is unique in NASCAR history with overflowing success, both as a driver and a car owner. Even though he never won a Cup title as a driver, he was a six-time Cup Series owner's champion alongside his colleagues like Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip.

13. Lee Petty - 54 wins

the best NASCAR drivers as of 2022
A portrait of Lee Petty of Randleman, NC in 1964. Photo: ISC Images
Source: Getty Images

Lee was active in the 1950s, competing in 373 events over ten years. He won 47 races, including the inaugural Daytona 500 and series-best three championships in the decade, while scoring the most top-tens and fives in the era. Coming in at a stellar tally of 54 wins, he is dubbed the sport's Hall of Famer. He is the Petty racing family patriarch, and his son Richard has never ceased to embrace that legacy.

12. Rusty Wallace - 55 wins

There is seemingly nothing rusty about this legendary driver in any given race except for his name. According to his self-titled website, Wallace was the 1989 Cup Series champion, 1984 Rookie of the year, and 55-time Cup series winner. Hands down, he is considered among the greatest NASCAR drivers of all time.

11. Kevin Harvick - 60 wins

the best NASCAR drivers as of 2022
Kevin Harvick walks onstage during driver intros prior to the Cup Series South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on 16 October 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: Sean Gardner
Source: Getty Images

Harvick is among the few players in this list that are still active in these races. The 2014 Cup champion turns 49 at the end of 2022, but he is still on those wheels like never before. He notably rose to fame following his nine consecutive wins in 2020.

Kevin tied with his colleague, Kyle Busch, who also has won 60 races at the time of writing. Despite the 71-day halt due to the global pandemic, he still managed to win the Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway.

10. Kyle Busch- 60 wins

Busch is more like a throwback personality that has rubbed fans, sponsors, and even car owners the wrong way at various points in his illustrious career. But even though that is the case, his talent is undeniable.

In 2005, the phenom from Las Vegas became NASCAR's youngest Cup Series pole winner at 19. With a stellar tally of 60 wins, he is still strong and cruising those steering wheels like never before.

9. Dale Earnhardt - 76 wins

the best NASCAR drivers as of 2022
Dale Earnhardt spends time with his daughter Nicole on the grid prior to the Xfinity Series Call 811 on 8 April 2022 in Martinsville, Virginia. Photo: Meg Oliphant
Source: Getty Images

Now getting into the single digits, Dale ranks among the best of any current NASCAR driver on this list. As iconic as any figure in sports, the legendary driver won a cup record-tying seven championships in 1980, '86, '87, '90, '91, '93, and '94 before tragically dying at the age of 49 in a crash on the last lap of the 2002 Daytona 500.

8. Jimmie Johnson - 83 wins

the best NASCAR drivers in history
Jimmie Johnson looks on during practice for NTT Indy Car Series Gallagher Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on 29 July 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Photo: Logan Riely
Source: Getty Images

Jimmie is the only NASCAR driver to win five consecutive Cup Series Championships. He is a renowned modern motorsports hero and a contender for the greatest in the sport's history. Since his debut on the scene, he has 83 Cup Series Wins and 35 Cup Series Poles and is also a five-time diver of the year.

7. Darrell Waltrip - 84 wins

the best NASCAR drivers in history
Darrell Waltrip poses on the red carpet prior to the 2021 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on 21 January 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photo: Chris Graythen
Source: Getty Images

Before Darrell became one of the most cherished broadcasters in the sport's history as a colour commentator for FOX sports, he had won three Cup championships in 1981, 82, and 85 after finding his niche during the 1970s.

In total, the current Fox broadcaster was a 57-time during the '80s. He even managed to appear inside the top 10 best drivers winning Cup series after Cup series.

6. Bobby Allison - 84 wins

the best NASCAR drivers as of 2022
Bobby Alllison participates in pre race festivities for the Sprint Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500 on 4 September 2016 in Darlington, South Carolina. Photo: Jerry Markland
Source: Getty Images

The 1983 Cup champion took the Daytona 500 checkers three times, but his notable one was the one he took with the Cup Series winner, Cale Yarborough, in 1979. He is known for having the 4th (at a tie) number of wins in NASCAR competitions.

Additionally, Bobby is renowned for being one of NASCAR's greatest race drivers in history and one of the most popular drivers in history.

5. Cale Yarborough - 86 wins

top 15 best NASCAR drivers
Cale Yarborough participates in pre race festivities for the Sprint Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on 4 September 2016 in Darlington, South Carolina. Photo: Jerry Markland
Source: Getty Images

Cale is the first driver to three-peat as Cup champion in the years 1976, '77, and '78. Whenever there is a discussion about sports domination, it is said that Cale Yarborough should be mentioned twice.

According to the sport's Hall of Fame, his string of three consecutive premier series championships was overly unprecedented and unmatched. Since his debut in the racing arena, he has so far recorded 86 wins and counting.

4. Jeff Gordon - 93 wins

top 15 best NASCAR drivers
Jeff Gordon attends the Br*ast Cancer Research Foundation's Hot Pink Party at The Glasshouse on 10 May 2022 in New York City. Photo: Dia Dipasupil
Source: Getty Images

After earning the nickname Rainbow Warrior following his multi-coloured wheel of signature, Gordon has become a cornerstone of the sport moving from television announcer to co-owner and vice chairman of Hendrick Motorsports.

The Rainbow Warrior made his Cup Series debut in the now-legendary 1992 H*oters 500 at Atlanta, which also happened to be Richard Petty's final run. He has since become a four-time Cup Series champion and recorded 93 wins. In 2019, he was made the sport's Hall of Fame Inductee.

2. David Pearson - 105 wins

the best NASCAR drivers as of 2022
David Pearson scored 105 victories in his career, second only to Richard Petty's 200. Photo: ISC Archives
Source: Getty Images

The Silver Fox was a three-time Cup champion in 1966, '68, and '69, famed for his track versatility and rivalry with Lee Petty's successor, Richard Petty. Although he passed away in 2018, he is considered among the best NASCAR drivers as of 2022.

During his spell, he managed to record a stellar tally of 105 Cup Series and 113 Cup Series Poles, and also, in 2011, he became the sport's Hall of Fame Inductee. To date, David is still considered among the greatest NASCAR drivers.

1. Richard Petty - 200 wins

the best NASCAR drivers as of 2022
Richard Petty speaks with fans before the Camping World Truck Series Clean Harbors 150 at Knoxville Raceway on 18 June 2022 in Knoxville, Iowa. Photo: Kyle Rivas
Source: Getty Images

Known globally as The King, Richard Petty has done a good job succeeding his father, Lee Petty. He was a seven-time Cup champion in 1964, '67, '71, '72, '74, '75, and '79 who won the Daytona 500. Throughout his 35-year career, Richard recorded 200 Cup Series wins, which remains unbeaten, 123 Cup series Poles and 27 Cup Series Wins in a season.

Which is the best NASCAR car?

For a race to be successful, certain factors determine that. For instance, a good driver, and most of all, the type of car. Here are some of the most popular NASCAR brands successful drivers use in their races.

  • Chevrolet
  • Goodyear
  • Sunoco
  • Ford
  • Toyota

These are some of the best NASCAR drivers who started those engines and won more than 70 races throughout their career spells. Although there are some of the best know drivers who have not appeared on the list, it does not deter the fact that they are successful in their ways.

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Lenah Ann
Lenah Ann is a Kenyan-based content creator with 2 years of experience. She graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Media and Communication from Dedan Kimathi, Kenya in 2021.