Top 10 NASCAR Icons



Top 10 NASCAR Icons

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Aaron Cameron
Script written by Aaron Cameron

From short tracks, to road courses and superspeedways, these were the drivers to watch. From Ned Jarrett, to Kyle Busch, to Cale Yarborough, these superstars are on everyone's radar. WatchMojo counts down the Top 10 NASCAR Icons.

Special thanks to our user Trevor Strickland for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at WatchMojo.comsuggest/top+ten+nascar+icons.
Script written by Aaron Cameron

Top 10 NASCAR Icons

From short tracks, to road courses and superspeedways, these were the drivers to watch. Welcome to and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 NASCAR Icons.

For this list, we're looking at the finest drivers NASCAR ever produced, based on a mix of championship wins, on-track success, and their general magnetism with the fans.

#10: Ned Jarrett

The father of fellow champion Dale Jarrett, “Gentleman Ned” Jarrett initially raced under his brother-in-law's name to keep his father in the dark, however his on-track victories meant the ruse didn't last too long. Starting in 1953, Jarrett would eventually claim 50 wins over a 13-year career. In 1961, Jarrett became a champion, despite only winning one race that season. In 1965 he won the Southern 500 by 14 laps – a record that still holds – and ended the year champion for the second time. Ned would retire the following year at age 34, triggered by Ford's reduced role in the sport.

#9: Kyle Busch

Brother to Kurt, Kyle “Rowdy” Busch is unquestionably skilled on the track, as proved by his 2015 Cup Championship, back-to-back rookie of the year titles, and being the first driver to win in NASCAR's top three circuits in the same weekend. But Rowdy is just as well known for infamous lapses of judgment. He lost a shot at the title and temporarily lost his sponsor in 2011 after he forced Ron Hornaday, Jr into a wall under caution during a truck race, and in 2009 smashed a $25,000 trophy Les Paul guitar in full view of the artist who had painted it.

#8: Cale Yarborough

The first of two drivers to win three consecutive Cups, Yarborough was a force to be reckoned with during his 1970's hay-day. Debuting in 1957, Cale wouldn't take a full time ride until 1973. He won four times that year, including his win at Bristol wherein he led every single lap. With 83 career wins, Yarborough won nearly 15% of the races he entered. Winning championship titles from 1976 through to '78, the four-time Daytona 500 winner lost the 1980 title to then up-and-comer Dale Earnhardt by a close margin, after which he took a part-time schedule until retiring in 1988.

#7: Tony Stewart

Stewart came to what was then the Winston Cup series as an Indy Car champion. however, unlike many open-wheel racers before him, Stewart not only took to NASCAR; he excelled. Winning three races in his debut season, Stewart naturally earned the Rookie of the Year title, and impressed many by going head to head with Dale Earnhardt during that season's Gatorade Twin 125s. Through the years, Smoke would collect 49 wins and 3 championship titles. His 2011 Cup made him the first owner/driver champion since Alan Kulwicki in 1992.

#6: David Pearson

1960's Rookie of the Year, David Pearson has an impressive set of stats, from his three Cup titles in 1966, '68, and '69, to his 105 wins and 366 top 10s. In 1969, the Silver Fox cracked the 190 mph mark in qualifying, but where Pearson really made his name was as the only real rival to the King, Richard Petty. It was a rivalry fuelled by mutual respect and admiration, with both deeming each other to be the best, and one that resulted in the two finishing first and second on 63 different occasions.

#5: Jeff Gordon

Initially setting out to race Indy, and declining the chance to test for Jackie Stewart, a young Jeff Gordon made his Winston Cup debut in the 1992 Hooters 500 – Richard Petty's final race, and the day Alan Kulwicki won the championship. Though fitting, it would take time for Gordon to truly prove it. Early seasons were marred by a checkers or wreckers approach, but by 1995 Wonder Boy found a rhythm in consistency and claimed the first of his four championship titles. By the end of his 23 full seasons, Gordon would claim 93 victories – including 3 Daytona 500s and 5 Brickyard 400's.

#4: Bobby Allison

Father of fellow NASCAR star, the late Davey Allison, Bobby Allison was one of the key members of the so-called Alabama Gang... despite being born in Miami, F-L-A. Awarded the title of Most Popular Driver seven times, Bobby retired with 84 wins and 466 top 10s, and at 50 had the distinction of being the oldest driver to win the Daytona 500. Allison is also remembered for an infamous fist-fight following the 1979 Daytona 500, wherein he and his brother Donnie tag-teamed Cale Yarborough, and a severe crash in Pocono which resulted in him being prematurely declared dead and left him with memory loss.

#3: Jimmie Johnson

Racing in some form or another since the age of four, Jimmie Johnson was seemingly destined for greatness. In 2002, he began his first full time season by taking the pole at Daytona, and by 2006 claimed wins at Daytona, Talladega, Indianapolis, and Martinsville in route to the first of his five consecutive, and seven total championships. After being dethroned by Tony Stewart, Johnson reclaimed his champion title in 2013 after duking it out with Matt Kenseth, while 2016 saw him not only tie Dale Earnhardt in wins, but also tie the Intimidator – and Richard Petty – in championship titles.

#2: Richard Petty

They didn't call him the King for nothing. 1959's Rookie of the Year, NASCAR's first seven time Winston Cup champion, and a seven time Daytona 500 winner, Petty retired with a still untouched 200 wins, along with 712 top 10s in a 35 year career. Petty's earliest glory years are firmly linked with Plymouth, and the champ even sat out multiple races during 1965 when NASCAR banned the manufacture's legendary Hemi engine – although he would later drive various other brands, most notably Pontiac. Frenemy to David Pearson, Petty was always the man to beat – even long after he hung up his helmet.

Before we unveil our top pick here are a few honorable mentions.

Darrell Waltrip

Alan Kulwicki

Lee Petty

Tim Richmond

Junior Johnson

#1: Dale Earnhardt

Stats alone will never do Big E justice. Known as the Count of Monte Carlo, the Man in Black, and The Intimidator, Dale Earnhardt was a legend in his own time. Much of that legend is linked with the Daytona 500 – the race that took him 20 years to conquer, and the race that ultimately took his life. A seven time Winston Cup champion with 76 career wins, Earnhardt had been a Daytona contender many times, but lost the big one throughout the years to an empty gas tank, a cut tire, and – unbelievably – a seagull, before finally winning the event in 1998.