Follow TV Tropes


Useful Notes / NASCAR

Go To
Everything else is just a game.

"If the word 'NASCAR' is in your wedding vows ... you might be a redneck."

The American motorsport.

The most popular form of auto racing in the United States. NASCAR is an acronym for the "National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing".

The organization (and sport of stock car racing) has its roots in the American Deep South and Appalachia during the Prohibition period, when "moonshiners," as they were called, would soup up their cars so they could smuggle moonshine whiskey and outrun the police. After Prohibition ended, these moonshiners found themselves out of a job and instead of looking for more illegal activity, began racing against each other. It also has roots in Daytona Beach, Florida, where some people would race on the hard-packed sand beaches. Many speed records were in fact broken on those beaches. By the 1940s, these races with the former moonshiners became popular entertainment in the rural areas of the South. After years of having to put up with (some) unscrupulous and (more) unorganized promoters, several drivers and promoters, headed by Bill France Sr., founded the organization in Daytona Beach in 1948. It's that rare North American sports organization that has never had its predominance challenged (viz. USFL, World Hockey Association, ABA, innumerable attempts at new major leagues, etc.), which is testimony to France's business clout, vision, and force of personality.note 

The early years of NASCAR were mostly a period of growth. Most of the early tracks were short dirt tracks in the South. The first race of the "Strictly Stock" series (later to be known as the Winston Cup, NEXTEL Cup, Sprint Cup, Monster Energy Cup, and now as just the Cup Series but then accurately named as the cars were stock right down to column-shifted transmissions whose linkages could not be rushed) was held in 1949 at Charlotte Speedway in North Carolina. The first series champion was a man by the name of Red Byronnote . The only track still on the series schedule from the 1949 season is Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. The first completely paved track and the first over one mile long was Darlington Raceway, which had its first race in 1950. In 1957, the new "fuelie" Chevrolets dominated so thoroughly that NASCAR banned fuel injection (a ban that persisted until the 2012 season, almost 20 years after the last carbureted road cars disappeared from US showrooms); in retaliation, GM not only pulled out but maneuvered the Automobile Manufacturers' Association trade group into banning its members from supporting racing in any way (a ban that was worked around within a year and gone within the decade). Then, in 1959, everything changed. For years, the Daytona event had been run on the Beach-Road Course, a half-beach, half-road course that used half of the Florida State Road A1A. Because the event was attracting large crowds — and because the occasional accident where said crowds became human guard rails — there needed to be a permanent track to race on, so the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway was built, and the first running of what would be known as the Daytona 500 was run on February 22, 1959. Today, the Daytona 500 is NASCAR's Super Bowl and World Series, unique in that it's the first event on their yearly schedule (having been so since 1982), running on the Sunday of Presidents' Day weekend.

The 1960s and 70s were a time of growth for the organization and the sport of stock car racing. This is the time when the sport and organization really began to gain attention around the country and the world. Despite some races run in the Northern United States (and Canada) in the early years, stock car racing was still considered a Southern sport. However, with TV coverage, the sport began to find some popularity outside the South. The 1972 season was a Genre Turning Point for the series—NASCAR established a minimum distance of 250 miles (about 400 km) for points-paying Cup racesnote , and further established that all races would take place on a paved surface, a rule that remained in effect until 2013. This in turn led to the elimination of shorter races, some of which were as short as 50 miles, from the Cup schedule, dramatically reducing the number of races in the season. NASCAR considers that season to be the start of its "modern era". In the 1960s, the Daytona 500 was usually taped and presented in heavily edited form as part of ABC's Wide World of Sports package. However, in 1974, ABC began to broadcast the race itself live, starting with the halfway point at lap 101. The first live, flag-to-flag coverage of the race was done in 1979 by CBS, which included a memorable last-lap crash between Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough, which resulted in a fistfight between the two drivers and Donnie's brother Bobby. This race happened to coincide with a major winter storm that paralyzed much of the Northeast and parts of the Midwest, which noticeably increased the potential TV audience. The 60s and 70s were dominated by Richard Petty, who later became known as "The King", winning 7 Grand National (now Cup Series) championships and 200 races total. (Even now, more than 30 years after his retirement, no driver has even come close to that number of wins; second place goes to Petty's early days rival David Pearson, with 105).

The 1980s saw a slow, steady rise in NASCAR's popularity, in part thanks to a driver by the name of Dale Earnhardt, who won four Winston Cup championships in that decade. The dawn of cable TV also provided NASCAR with significantly more national exposure, as ESPN and other channels began broadcasting the majority of Winston Cup races live and flag-to-flag. Starting in 1981, the cars became less and less "stock" and turned into actual, purpose-built race cars; the days of buying a car and driving it to the track to race were over. The sport's slow expansion would turn into a boom in the 1990s, thanks largely to a driver by the name of Jeff Gordon, who was from — shock!Californianote  and — horrors! — clean-cut, photogenic, and a good interview. In 2001, NASCAR lost Earnhardt, its biggest star, who had won seven Cup championships by that time. He was killed in a crash in the final lap of the Daytona 500, which forced the organization to review its safety policies.

Today, NASCAR is one of the most popular sports leagues in the world, with audiences and drivers from around the world. However, this popularity has been waning in recent years. Much of it can be blamed on Brian France constantly making changes. While some changes reflect the modern reality of sports politics (such as the move from traditional tracks such as Rockingham and North Wilkesboro to newer facilities located nationwide such as Las Vegas and Kansas City), others see many of the changes as a cash-grab or a way to rig races in the favor of whatever driver the sanctioning body wants to win, usually whoever is supposedly selling the most merchandise. The decline set in when the fifth-generation car (known as the Car of Tomorrow) was introduced in 2007. The car was met negatively, as there was little, if any, difference between the four manufacturers (Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge, and Toyota), which NASCAR attempted to justify by trying to make it more about driver skill rather than manufacturer support. The car also nixed the rear spoiler in favor of a wing, making the car look more like a touring car than a stock car; this wing was re-replaced by the spoiler in 2010 after it was found that the wing made the roof flaps (which are supposed to set the car down when it spins) useless and caused several airborne crashes (two in Talladega and one at Atlanta), one of which looked eerily similar to Bobby Allison's 1987 crash at Talladega that led to the restrictor plate being mandated at Talladega and Daytona starting the following year. In addition, the Car of Tomorrow was also slow and boxy, and the racing product degraded, as a result. Despite this, the Car of Tomorrow, statistically, actually created the most competitive period in NASCAR history to date. The Car of Tomorrow was introduced to the Nationwide Series in 2010, but they were more accepted due to resembling ther street counterparts more (the Dodge Challenger in particular, was declared the best-looking car in all of NASCAR).

In 2011, the Car of Tomorrow received a slight redesign to the nose, once again allowing the grille area to resemble their street counterparts. This led to a new form of racing known as the two-car tandem, which was heavily criticized, even though it did create two first-time winners at Daytona (Trevor Bayne in the Daytona 500, and David Ragan in the Coke Zero 400) and a photo-finish at Talladega, as well as first-time winners in Regan Smith at Darlington, Paul Menard at Indianapolis, and Marcos Ambrose at Watkins Glen, plus the most competitive title fight since 1992 that ended in a tie between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards (Stewart ultimately won the tiebreaker by virtue of having five wins that season, while Edwards only had one). The cars received a new superspeedway package in 2012 that made the tandem all but impossible, though it remained prevalent in the Nationwide Series (now Xfinity Series) until a crash at the 2013 Drive4COPD 300 that saw Kyle Larson fly into the catchfence at the end of the race, ripping out the front of the car and injuring 33 fans. That same year, the Car of Tomorrow was replaced with the Gen-6 car, which is not only much faster but has more clear-cut differences between the Chevy, Ford, and Toyota models (Dodge left the sport after 2012 when Penske switched back to Ford, and no other major teams would switch, though they did design a new Charger model; Dodge cars continued running unsupported in the Nationwide/Xfinity Series until 2018, ARCA until 2019, and the Truck Series via the Ram Trucks brand until 2016; a few Dodge-engined cars are still running in the Whelen Modified Tour, many Dodges can still be found in the Whelen All-American Racing Series, and the Pinty's Series in Canada is dominated by factory-supported Dodge cars, since Fiat Automobili, S.p.A. supports it via its Canadian arm).

The 2021 season also saw significant changes to the schedule. The number of road course races jumped from three to six, and for the first time since 1970, a race was held on a dirt track. These changes came mainly at the expense of "intermediate tracks" (those in the 1.5-mile range); most notably, Chicagoland and Kentucky Speedway were removed entirely from all three national touring series (while the loss of Chicagoland was mourned, Kentucky had developed a reputation as one of the worst tracks ever run by NASCAR, and nobody was sad to see it go)note .

In 2022, the long-awaited "NextGen" (or "Gen7") car finally replaced the Gen6 car in the Cup series; it had originally been slated to debut in 2021, but the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent ban on testing sessions caused it to be delayed a year. The new car updated much of the antiquated technology still present in the old car, such as a 5-speed sequential transmission replacing the old "four-on-the-floor" H-pattern shifter and an independent rear suspension instead of a solid rear axle to massively improve handling. Additionally, for the first time in Cup series history, all NextGen chassis are built by a single manufacturer instead of by the teams themselves, with the goal of reducing disparity between bigger and smaller teams.

The 2022 season was one of the most competitive in modern times. In all, 19 drivers won a race, tying the modern-era record set in 2001. Five of these drivers collected their first Cup race win, and two other drivers won their first non-rain-shortened races. NASCAR also signaled that it would treat technical violations much more harshly than in the past, which it did at the July Pocono race. Denny Hamlin became the first driver to have had a Cup race win stripped for failing the postrace technical inspection since 1960.

In 2018, NASCAR bought longtime Alternate Company Equivalent ARCA, thus meaning NASCAR now has a extra minor league in the form of ARCA Menards Series. Further integration between NASCAR and ARCA occurred in 2020, as both K&N Series' (East and West) joined the ARCA banner and were renamed into the ARCA Menards Series East and ARCA Menards Series West starting from the 2020 season.

Currently, NASCAR has 13 series under its sanction: 3 major national series (Cup, Xfinity, Truck), 5 regional series (ARCA, ARCA East, ARCA West, Modified, and All-American), 3 international series (Pinty's, Mexico, Euro), and 2 Professional Gaming ("eNASCAR") series (PEAK Antifreeze Series for iRacing, Heat Pro League for NASCAR Heatnote ).

    open/close all folders 

    Current Officially Sanctioned NASCAR Series 

Major National Series

  • NASCAR Cup Series
    First Season: 1949
    Current Drivers Champion: Ryan Blaney
    Current Team Owners Champion: Team Penske
    Current Manufacturers Champion: Ford
    Former Names: NASCAR Strictly Stock Series (1949); NASCAR Grand National Series (1950-1970); NASCAR Winston Cup Series (1971-2003); NASCAR Nextel Cup Series (2004-2007); NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (2008-2016); Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (2017-2019)
    The highest level of NASCAR racing. In the current format, a Cup Series season consists of 36 races and is divided into two segments: The "regular season", which consists of the first 26 races, and the "Playoffs", where the top 16 drivers, seeded based on their total number of wins or playoff/points, will compete against each other in the last ten races for the championship. In the Playoffs, the first nine races are divided into three rounds, with four participants being eliminated after each round before the surviving four participants compete in the Grand Finale at Homestead where the highest finisher of the four will be declared as champion. Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, and Jimmie Johnson are tied for the most titles in the series with 7. Petty is also the most successful driver statistically with a staggering 200 race wins, a number that is practically impossible to beat today due to the fact that Petty raced in seasons where there were 50+ races in a single season, as well as having a longer career than most modern-day drivers (Petty raced from 1958 to 1992, while a typical career these days lasts, at most, 20 years). The current "modern era" (1972 onwards) record for the most race wins is 4-time champion Jeff Gordon, with 93. Joey Logano is the current champion of the series, having earned his second title with four wins in the 2022 season, including the playoff and season finale at Phoenix.

  • NASCAR Xfinity Series
    First Season: 1982
    Current Drivers Champion: Cole Custer
    Current Team Owners Champion: Stewart-Hass racing
    Current Manufacturers Champion: Ford
    Former Names: Budweiser Late Model Sportsman Series (1982-1983); NASCAR Busch Grand National Series (1984-2002); NASCAR Busch Series (2003-2007); NASCAR Nationwide Series (2008-2014)
    The second-highest level of NASCAR racing and usually seen as the last step for a driver before making their way to Cup. The Xfinity races are frequently held as support races on the day prior to a Cup Series event scheduled for that weekend. In the current format, a season consists of 33 races and similar to Cup, it is also divided into two segments: The "regular season", which consists of the first 26 races, and the "Playoffs", where the top 12 drivers, also seeded based on their total number of wins, will compete against each other in the last seven races for the championship. Because the Xfinity Playoffs only have 7 races, only two elimination rounds are held, but otherwise the rest of the Playoff system remains the same: Four participants are eliminated after each round, and the surviving four will compete at Homestead for the title. Xfinity became infamous for its tendency to have drivers do "Buschwhacking", in which drivers who are regulars in the Cup Series also compete on a regular basis here, forcing NASCAR to institute a rule where the drivers had to lock their eligibility to one national series only in 2011 before ultimately limiting how many races a Cup driver can participate in both Xfinity and Truck starting from 2017. 2009 champion (and a regular Buschwhacker) Kyle Busch is the most successful driver here with 95 wins. Austin Cindric is the champion here, having previously put on an average performance with Penske for the previous 2 years, only managing 2 wins and 21 top 5s in both combined. However, he achieved 5 wins and 19 top 5s in his hard fought battle for the championship in 2020. Nine separate drivers – Sam Ard, Jack Ingram, Larry Pearson, Randy LaJoie, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Reddick – won the most titles in the series with two. The Xfinity Series is notable for having the first occasion in the national series where a driver was crowned champion despite not scoring any wins during the season (Austin Dillon, 2013) as well as the only occasion in the national series (so far) where a non-American driver has won the championship title (Mexican Daniel Suárez in 2016).

  • NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series
    First Season: 1995
    Current Drivers Champion: Ben Rhodes
    Current Team Owners Champion: Thor Sport racing
    Current Manufacturers Champion: Ford
    Former Names: NASCAR Super Truck Series (1995), NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (1996-2008, 2023–present), NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (2009-2018, 2021-2022); NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series (2019-2020)
    The third-highest level of NASCAR racing and usually seen as either the second-to-last step for a driver on their way to Cup or as the series where former Cup drivers continued to race before retiring. As the name implies, the Truck Series features racing silhouette versions of pickup trucks. The Truck races are also frequently held as support races to a Cup Series event scheduled for that weekend, usually the first one held should all three national series be hosted on the same weekend. In the current format, a season consists of 23 races, and it is also divided into two segments: The "regular season", which consists of the first 16 races, and the "Playoffs", where the top 8 drivers that were seeded based on their total number of wins will compete against each other in the last seven races for the championship. Similar to the Xfinity Playoffs, the Truck Playoffs has only two rounds, but unlike Cup and Xfinity, only two participants are eliminated after both rounds before the surviving four drivers compete in the season finale at Homestead for the title. While the "Buschwhacking" tendencies do appear here, generally they gained much less heat here as full-time Cup drivers for the most part never tried to compete for a full season in Trucks and when they do appear, its mostly for owner-driver duties like Kyle Busch. Ron Hornaday Jr. is the most successful driver in terms of titles with 4 (and 51 wins), while Kyle Busch is the most successful driver in terms of wins with 56. Toyota made their national series debut here in 2004. GMS Racing driver Sheldon Creed took the 2020 title by storm, only having achieved his first win that year; he achieved 4 more as well. The Truck Series is notable for having the first non-American owner to win a NASCAR national series title: Shigeaki Hattori, the Japanese who owned Hattori Racing Enterprises (the 2018 champions with Brett Moffitt).

Regional National Series

  • ARCA Menards Series
    First Season: 1953 (2018 under NASCAR sanctioning)
    Current Drivers Champion: Jessie Love
    Current Team Owners Champion: Venturini Motorsports
    Current Manufacturers Champion: Toyota
    Former Names: ARCA Racing Series (1953-1985; 1992); ARCA Permatex SuperCar Series (1986-1991); ARCA Hooters SuperCar Series (1993-1995); ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series (1996-2000); ARCA RE/MAX Series (2001-2009); ARCA Racing Series presented by Re/MAX and Menards (2010); ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards (2011-February 2019)
    The former Alternate Company Equivalent for NASCAR, the ARCA Menards Series officially became a NASCAR-sanctioned series after NASCAR bought ARCA in 2018 and following the integration of both K&N Series' to ARCA in 2020, the ARCA Menards Series now stands as the sole main fourth-division category in the NASCAR ladder. ARCA in its old guise is considered a minor but professional league of stock car racing, often used as a feeder series into the three national touring series of NASCAR like K&N, and hosts events at a variety of track types from superspeedways, road courses, and dirt tracks. It became infamous for the "ARCA Brakes" terminology where drivers, due to their inexperience, will not use their brakes to avoid or mitigate the effects of a crash. Before the Gen-6 car was introduced in 2015, ARCA was a dumping ground for older Cup Series cars, and older models of cars were common (Pontiacs ran in the series as late as 2007); as of 2020, such bodies are illegal in ARCA competition. Frank Kimmel is the most successful driver in the series with 10 titles and 80 wins. Owner-driver Bret Holmes is the current champion, having won a closely-contested title battle with Michael Self despite not initially planning to compete the full season at first.

  • ARCA Menards Series East
    First Season: 1987
    Current Drivers Champion: William Sawalich
    Current Teams Champion: Joe Gibbs Racing
    Current Manufacturers Champion: Toyota
    Former Names: NASCAR Busch North Series (1987-2005); NASCAR Busch East Series (2006-2007); NASCAR Camping World East Series (2008-2009); NASCAR K&N Pro Series East (2010-2019)
    The former main fourth-division category of NASCAR, ARCA East in recent history is often used as the series for young drivers to gain experience before moving to the national series. Generally the series races in short oval tracks ranging from 0.33 to 1 mile in length and as the name implies, the tracks used in the series are located in the Eastern half of the United States. Notable for having the first occurrence in NASCAR where a driver won the championship title with no wins (Dale Shaw, 1994). Andy Santerre has the most titles with 4, while 1995 champion Kelly Moore has the most wins with 27. GMS Racing driver NASCAR's youngest-ever champion Sam Mayer is the current champion, having successfully defended the K&N East title that he won in 2019.

  • ARCA Menards Series West
    First Season: 1954
    Current Drivers Champion: Sean Hingorani
    Current Teams Champion: Ventruini Motorsports
    Current Manufacturers Champion: Toyota
    Former Names: Pacific Coast Late Model Division (1954-1970); NASCAR Grand National West (1970); NASCAR Winston West Series (1971-2003); NASCAR West Series (2004-2005, 2007); NASCAR AutoZone West Series (2006); NASCAR Camping World West Series (2008-2009); NASCAR K&N Pro Series West (2010-2019)
    The other former main fourth-division category of NASCAR, ARCA West is generally similar to its East counterpart with the only notable difference being that, as the name implies, the tracks raced in ARCA West are located in the Western half of the United States. The series is also known for having the first NASCAR race to be held outside of the United States (an exhibition race at Australia's Calder Park in 1988) as well as the only NASCAR series so far to have hosted a championship race in Asia (Motegi in 1999). Jack McCoy has the most race wins here with 54, but Ray Elder has the most titles with 6. Jesse Love is the current champion.

  • NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour
    First Season: 1985
    Current Drivers Champion: Ron Silk
    Current Teams Champion: Tyler Hadt Racing
    Current Manufacturers Champion: Chevrolet
    Former Names: NASCAR Modified Division (1948-1950s); NASCAR National Modified Championship (1950s-1984); NASCAR Winston Modified Series (1985-1993); NASCAR Featherlite Modified Series (1994-2004)
    The Modified category is actually NASCAR's oldest category, as the first Modified races were held in 1948 (one year before the first Cup race was held), although the modern Whelen Modified Tour wasn't held until 1985. The only open-wheeled division in NASCAR (though the open-wheel design was only formalized in 1985; before then, the Modified Series was absolutely bonkers, as there weren't really any rules and anyone could race whatever they wanted; there were still 1930s Ford Coupes racing as late as the 1970s), the series primarily races on short paved oval tracks, although the Modified Tour has also made appearances at larger ovals and road courses. Modified cars can be best described as open-wheel stock cars. Whelen Modified Tour is the only series across all of NASCAR that has a retired number: Richie Evans' No. 61. Evans is the most accomplished driver in Modified's history with 9 titles, 8 of them were won consecutively between 1978-1985 using a car that was later adopted as the standard design for the entire series. His number, 61, was retired after he was killed during practice at the season finale race in Martinsville after he clinched the inaugural Modified Tour title the week before at Thompson. Mike Stefanik is the most successful driver in the NWMT era of the Modifieds with 7 titles, and has become a bit of an internet meme for giving what is often considered the greatest interview in NASCAR history. Justin Bonsignore is the current champion after reclaiming the title that he lost to six-time champion Doug Coby in the previous year.

  • NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series
    First Season: 1982
    Current Drivers Champion: Connor Hall
    Current Manufacturers Champion: Toyota
    Former Names: NASCAR Winston Racing Series (1982-2000s); NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series (early 2000s-2006), NASCAR Whelen All-American Racing Series (2006-June 2020)
    Many local race tracks across the United States and Canada run races under the Advance Auto Parts Weekly series Series banner, where the local drivers who compete in the series then race against each other in a formula where the best local track champion of the nation wins the s National Championship.

International Series

  • NASCAR Pinty's Series
    First Season: 2007
    Current Drivers Champion: Treyten Lapcevich
    Current Teams Champion: Scott Steckly
    Current Manufacturers Champion: Chevrolet
    Former Names: NASCAR Canadian Tire Series (2007-2015), NASCAR Pinty's FanCave Challenge (2020)
    Inaugurated in 2007 after NASCAR bought out CASCAR, the Pinty's Series is the highest level of stock car racing in Canada. After the so-called "Zombie" Dodge Challenger was retired from the Xfinity Series at the end of the 2018 season, Pinty's is currently the only series where Dodges compete in NASCAR (in fact, there's more Dodges in the series than Chevys and Fords combined), and is also currently the only series where Toyota doesn't run; it was also the last holdout for Pontiac prior to its shutdown during the Great Recession. Currently has a 13-race calendar with a balanced amount of oval and road course races, as well as a race in the United States (New Hampshire) – the only International Series to host a race in the United States currently. Scott Steckly has the most titles with 4, while three-time champion Andrew Ranger has the most wins with 28. Jason Hathaway is the defending champion of the series, having won his first and only title in the shortened 2020 season as he's set to become the team manager for the team that he won the title with.

  • NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series
    First Season: 2004 (2007 under NASCAR sanctioning)
    Current Drivers Champion: Salvador De Alba Jr
    Current Teams Champion: AGA Racing
    Current Manufacturers Champion: Ford
    Former Names: Desafio Corona (2004-2006), NASCAR Corona Mexico Series (2007-2011), NASCAR Toyota Series (2012-2014); NASCAR Mexico Series (2015)
    Inaugurated as an official NASCAR series on the same year as the Pinty's Series, the PEAK Mexico Series is the highest level of stock car racing in Mexico. Having been held for every year bar 2016 (supposedly due to the organizers wanting to support the then-returning Mexican Grand Prix), the Mexico Series generally features a balanced amount of oval and road course races, although the current schedule currently has more oval races compared to road course races (9 to 3). Mazda participates in this series. Germán Quiroga and Rubén García, Jr. has the most titles with 3, while Rogelio López has the most wins with 25. Series veteran Rubén Rovelo is the current champion, having won his first title in 2020.

  • NASCAR Whelen Euro Series
    First Season: 2009 (2012 under NASCAR sanctioning)
    Current Drivers Champion: Gianmarco Ercoli (PRO), Paul Jouffreau(EN2)
    Current Teams Champion: RDV Competition
    Former Names: Racecar Euro Series (2009-2012); Euro-Racecar NASCAR Touring Series (2012-June 2013)
    The first official NASCAR series to be held outside of the American continent, the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series is unique in many ways: Not only it is held in Europe and the schedule primarily consists of road courses, it also have two separate classes with their own separate championship and field of drivers. The races are also generally held as double-header races with one race for both classes in Saturday and Sunday, although some rounds (such as Venray in 2019 and Vallelunga in 2020) had different formats. The season currently consists of 12 races held on 6 tracks across Europe. The main championship, the EuroNASCAR PRO class, is open to everyone (mainly the pro drivers) while the EuroNASCAR 2 (EN2) class is generally restricted to either young or amateur drivers. Another unique aspect to the series is that despite having two classes competing at once, it is mandatory for teams that field drivers in both classes to have their drivers to share the same car. While it is an leftover from the series' initial roots as a supporting event for multi-class sports car racing series, it has been kept to this day to cut costs, spice up the competition, and gave an importance to the team aspect as one driver's mistake can prove costly for the other driver of the team. It is the only non-national series to have a Playoff system, although unlike the Playoff system that Cup/Xfinity/Truck used, Euro's Playoffs are double points-paying races and it is open to everyone participating. Israeli driver Alon Day is the series' most successful driver, having won 3 titles (tied with Spaniard Ander Vilariño) and 29 races so far. Dutch driver Loris Hezemans is the current champion in the PRO class on his second title reign while Czech driver Martin Doubek is the current champion in the EN2 class. Both drivers drove for Hendriks Motorsport (no relation to Cup's Hendrick Motorsports), who are the defending Teams Champion having won the title for three consecutive years. Euro Series is also notable for having the first NASCAR champion with a disability (2018 EuroNASCAR 2 champion Ulysse Delsaux had high-functioning autism). Former Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve was a competitor in the PRO class for three seasons, winning two races on the last round he participated to date.
  • NASCAR Brasil Sprint Series
    First Season 2012 (2023 under NASCAR Sanctioning)
    Current Drivers Champion Raphael Texiera
    Current Manufacturers Champion Ford
    Former Names GT Sprint Leauge (2012-2022)
    The GT Sprint Leauge was founded by former Driver Thiago Marques in 2012. in 2022 Thiago signed a deal with NASCAR.

Professional Gaming Series

  • eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series
    First Season: 2010
    Current Drivers Champion: Zack Novak
    Former Names: eNASCAR iRacing World Championship (2010-2013), eNASCAR iRacing PEAK Antifreeze iRacing Series (2014-2019)
    The first official eSports championship that is sanctioned by NASCAR, and the first official sim racing eSports championship that was held by any major racing series across the world. As the name implies, the drivers compete on simulated versions of the actual real-world tracks and cars on iRacing. Starting from the 2019 season, the series now features sim racing teams that are run by real teams (such as Joe Gibbs Racing, Wood Brothers, and Williams), as well as professional eSports organizations such as Renegades. Ray Alfalla is a 4-time champion in this series(the most), and 17-year-old Zack Novak is the defending champion. Dale Earnhardt Jr. notably won the very first race of the series in 2010.

  • eNASCAR Heat Pro League
    First Season: 2019
    The newest officially sanctioned NASCAR series, Heat Pro League is the first NASCAR eSports league to be held on consoles using 704Games' NASCAR Heat as the game of choice. Like the PEAK Antifreeze Series, the drivers compete on simulated versions of the actual real-world tracks and cars. Currently there are 28 drivers on 14 teams, with each of the participating teams fielding two drivers, one competing on Xbox One and the other on PlayStation 4.

     Notable NASCAR Drivers Past and Present 
  • The Allison Family consists of Bobby, Davey, Clifford and Donnie.
    • Bobby Allison (1936–) is one of the original members of the famed "Alabama Gang"note . He began his career in 1961, and picked up his first win in 1966. He could seen as NASCAR's greatest journeyman, he won for an impressive 14 teams, representing an equally impressive 8 manufactures during his career, including his own team on multiple occasions. He also helped NASCAR become more a mainstream sport, as he was involved in the infamous 1979 Daytona 500 scuffle, as he prevented Cale Yarborough from picking on his brother Donnie after Donnie and Cale wrecked each other on the last lap. He won 85 races, including 3 Daytona 500s (although one isn't officially counted by NASCAR, as it called his Grand American car an illegal entrant in a 1971 race). He was forced to retire after suffering life-threatening injuries in a crash at Pocono in 1988. His sons, Clifford and Davey, also continued the family tradition. He was inducted into NASCAR's HOF in 2011.
    • Clifford Allison (1964–1992) was a journeyman driver in the Busch Series from 1990-1992. He was fired from his ride in 1990 after only 7 races due to poor performances. In 1991,he ran a limited schedule, picking the best finish of his brief career with a 6th place at Bristol. In 1992, he was attempting to run a more complete schedule, but his life ended after hitting the wall during a practice session at Michigan.
    • Davey Allison (1961–1993) was a driver most known for his time in the Havoline sponsored #28 Ford. He began racing in the ARCA series in 1980 and racing in the Cup Series by 1985. He picked up his first in the 1987 season, and would win a total of 19 races in his career, including the 1992 Daytona 500. His life was tragically ended in 1993 after crashing his helicopter at Talladega. He was posthumously inducted into NASCAR's HOF in 2019, alongside Alan Kulwicki (below), who also died in an aviation incident in 1993.
    • Donnie Allison (1939–) was a successful driver from 1976-1980. He won 10 races, but his career highlight was getting involved in a last lap scuffle with Cale Yarborough during the 1979 Daytona 500. His brother, Bobby, got involved and stopped Cale Yarborough from beating Donnie up.
  • The Bodine family
    • Geoff Bodine (1949-) is the eldest of the Bodine brothers in NASCAR. Geoff - whose father and grandfather built the Chemung Speedrome in Chemung, New York when Geoff was one year old - was so driven to race that he disguised himself as a girl to enter a powderpuff race at the age of 15. Bodine's official career began in NASCAR's Modified series in the Northeast; racing against the likes of Jimmy Spencer and Ron Bouchard and being entered into Guinness World Records with 55 victories in 84 events in 1978. Bodine made his Winston Cup debut in 1979 and moved to the Cup Series full-time in 1982; winning NASCAR's Rookie of the Year honors (beating out Mark Martin, mentioned below). In 1984; Bodine would join the brand-new All-Star Racing (eventually Hendrick Motorsports) and got his (and Rick Hendrick's) first career victory in the spring race in Martinsville. Bodine's biggest victory came in 1986 when he won the season-opening Daytona 500note ; leading to a late-1980s rivalry with Dale Earnhardtnote . Bodine left Hendrick in 1990 for Junior Johnson's team; spending 2 years (the first of which saw Bodine reach his peak in the points at 3rd) there before another year and a half with Bud Moore Engineering (where he gave that team its final victory) before leaving in the latter part of 1993 to become an owner-driver after acquiring the assets of what had been Alan Kulwicki's team after the defending 1992 Cup Series champion was killed in a plane crash that April. Bodine would remain an owner-driver until 1997; getting the last of his career victories in Watkins Glen in 1996. Bodine remained as a driver with the team even after selling his team in 1998 until 2000; then bounced around various teams (including stints driving for middle brother Brett in 2001 and 2003) before retiring in 2012. Among Bodine's other highlights in his career included winning 18 total races in the Cup Series; 6 in the second-tier Xfinity Series; being named as one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers for the sport's 50th anniversary in 1998; introducing full-faced helmets and power steering to NASCAR and - at the 1994 fall race in North Wilkesboro - being the last driver to lap the field. Additionally; Bodine - driving in the 2000 Daytona 250 in NASCAR's Craftsman Truck Series - survived a frightening crash severe enough that many fans, broadcastersnote  and crew members feared he had been killed; though he survived - though injured enough to miss 10 races that season. Outside of NASCAR; Bodine - inspired by watching the U.S. team struggling with foreign-made bobsleds during the 1992 Winter Olympics - started the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project to build bobsleds for the American bobsled team that were made in America; with the bobsleds delivering Team USA its first bobsledding gold medal since 1948 in the 2010 Winter Olympics (the sleds are currently manufactured in the shop of current Cup Series driver Joey Logano).
    • Brett Bodine (1959-), the middle of the Bodine brothers, had more success in modified racing; where he was named as one of the 50 greatest NASCAR Modified Series drivers of all time; but did have some success in NASCAR's main series, racing in the Busch (now Xfinity) Series from 1985 to 1999 with 5 victoriesnote  and winning that series' Most Popular Driver Award for 1986 along with racing in the Cup Series from 1986 to 2003. In 1988; Bodine began racing in the Cup Series full-time for Bud Moore Engineering after the departure of Ricky Rudd; but despite some promising results (including finishing in the Top 5 in both of the races held at Charlotte Motor Speedway) his first season was marred by mechanical troubles (including 7 DNF's or "did not finish" results). Bodine managed to get 6 Top 10 finishes for 1989 but left after that season due to disputes with Moore over the chassis and sponsorship uncertaintynote ; eventually arriving at Kenny Bernstein's King Racing driving the #26 Quaker State Buick Regal (incidentally; replacing Ricky Rudd - who he replaced with Bud Moore) for 1990. That season saw Brett finish a career-best 12th place in the points standings while collecting what turned out to be his only career victorynote , where he was credited with the win in the spring race at North Wilkesboro despite allegations that NASCAR erred and that Darrell Waltrip should have wonnote , only for Bodine - hampered by crew chief Larry McReynolds leaving for Robert Yates Racing during the 1991 season - to fall back to 19th in points as reliability problems surfaced. Brett would remain with King Racing (which switched from Buick to Ford in 1992) until the 1994 season before moving to Junior Johnson & Associates (which older brother Geoff had driven for in 1990 and 1991), driving one season for that team before Johnson retired and sold the team to Brett, resulting in Brett joining Geoff as a NASCAR owner-driver starting in 1996; but after Lowe's (which sponsored the #11 car dating to the final season under Junior Johnson's ownership) left; poor performances and sponsorship issues left Brett struggling, as by 2001 he was the lone owner-driver in the Winston Cup Series; with Bodine's career - further hampered by a bitter divorce in which he alleged his ex-wife hit him and threatened to financially ruin him - limping to a close in 2003, after which Brett was hired by NASCAR as cost director of NASCAR's research & development center (including the opportunity of driving the prototype for the Car of Tomorrow) and currently chairs the Driver Approval Committee. Also, like Geoff; Brett contributed to NASCAR's efforts to improve safety, as the first driver who began using the HANS (head and neck safety) device well before a series of fatal basilar skull fracturesnote  in auto racing (the most prominent being Dale Earnhardt) led to NASCAR mandating the device in late 2001.
    • Todd Bodine (1964-) is the youngest of the Bodine brothers and like Brett had most of his success in the lower divisions of NASCAR. Todd began his career in what was then the Busch Series in 1986; and over the course of his long career there (racing until 2017); he would collect 15 victories, with his best points series in that circuit being 2nd in 1997. Bodine - after driving in the 1992 race at Watkins Glen - moved up to the Cup Series full-time beginning in 1994; but after 2 seasons with Butch Mock's team, Todd would be spotted as a substitute, filling in for injured drivers such as brother Geoff; Hendrick driver Ricky Craven and Jeff Burton during the 1996 and 1997 seasons. While Todd would race in the Cup Series until 2011; his Cup Series run is perhaps best known for the odd events in 1998 when he joined ISM Racing's Team Tabasco team; for which Tabasco had gone all in on promoting the team and Bodine; releasing a series of merchandise that included a cookbook. Despite Tabasco and ISM's faith; the 1998 season was a disaster, with Todd - while managing a 10th place finish at the spring race in Atlanta - only managing to qualify for 5 of the first 13 races of the season before being fired after the Pepsi 400 in Daytona (originally scheduled for July 4) was moved to October following wildfires in the Daytona Beach areanote . Bodine's further stops in the Cup Series saw him struggle to stay with a team for long (including his time with Haas-Carter Motorsports ending when sponsor Kmart ran into financial trouble in late 2001). Bodine's most success has come in NASCAR's Truck Series; where he began racing when the series began in 1995 but hit his peak there in the mid-late 2000s; including winning the 2006 and 2010 Craftsman Truck Series championships; making him the only one of the Bodines to win a championship in the three major NASCAR series; leaving full-time competition in 2017 before running a handful of races during the 2022 season. Bodine's bald head has also gotten him notice with the nickname "Onionhead".
  • Neil Bonnett (1946–1994) was a member of the Hueytown-based "Alabama Gang" and a protege of the group's leader, Bobby Allison. After working on Bobby's cars; Neil made his debut as a driver in 1974. Bonnett bounced around several teams until landing with the K&K Insurance team driving the #71 Dodge Charger (which was bought out during the season by J.D. Stacy), collecting his first two victories later in the season at Richmond and the Ontario Speedway in Los Angelesnote ; only for 1978 to become a disappointing year with the Dodge Magnum which replaced the 1974-era Dodge Charger proving underwhelmingnote  and Stacy's penchant for not paying his people (resulting in crew chief Harry Hyde suing Stacy) led to his departure. After bouncing around with various teams during the balance of 1978 and early 1979 including Rod Osterlund's team and a one-off return to J.D. Stacy, Bonnett then landed with the Wood Brothers team after longtime driver David Pearson abruptly left following the spring race at Darlington, going to collect a career-high 3 wins (including the Firecracker 400 Independence Day race at Daytona) that season. Bonnett would drive primarily with the Wood Brothers through 1982 (including tying his career-high with 3 wins in 1981, among them the Southern 500 at Darlington and also winning the 1982 Worldnote  600 race on Memorial Day weekend in Charlotte) before joining the RahMoc Enterprisesnote  for 1983 in a one-off deal, winning twice, including his second consecutive World 600 win while finishing 6th in points; the best in his career up to then. By 1984, he moved to Junior Johnson's team; and after a winless campaign that year rebounded to win twice while finishing a career-best 4th in points while teammate Darrell Waltrip won his 3rd and final championship, adding one more victory in 1986 before both Bonnett and Waltrip left Junior Johnson (Bonnett returning to RahMoc Enterprises, while Waltrip moved to emerging power Hendrick Motorsports). Injuries would impact Bonnett's later career; as he would miss the last three races of 1987 following a crash at the fall race in Charlotte. 1988 would see Bonnett collect what turned out to be the final victories of his career, winning at Richmondnote  and Rockingham along with becoming the first winner of a race held outside of North America in an exhibition race at the Goodyear NASCAR 500note  Thunderdome in Melbourne, Australia. Bonnett would rejoin the Wood Brothers for 1989 but had his career abruptly ended when he was nearly killed after being caught up in a 14-car crash at the 1990 TranSouth 500 race in Darlingtonnote ; leaving Bonnett with amnesia and forcing him to retire. Bonnett would then move to the broadcast booth, working races for CBS; TBS and TNN while hosting a show called "Winners" on the latter network and dabbling in acting. Bonnett was cleared to resume driving in 1992 and began testing cars for Richard Childress Racing and Bonnett's close friend and hunting partner Dale Earnhardt; making his return to racing at the 1993 DieHard 500note ; only to crash out during the race (upon being cleared at the infield care center; Bonnett returned to the CBS booth and joked that he wanted to make sure no one gave away his job) and the season-ending Hooters 500 at Atlanta; running only three laps in what was said to be a blown engine but may have been one of the first "start and park" attempts in NASCARnote . For 1994; Bonnett had signed a deal to return as a part-time driver for the #51 Country Time-sponsored Chevrolet Lumina for James Finch's Phoenix Racing. Sadly; Bonnett would lose his life on February 11, 1994 during the first Daytona 500 practice session when Bonnett crashed head-on into the wall on Turn 4. Bonnett was 47 years old and would be one of two fatalities in the practice session for Speedweeks, as defending Goody's Dashnote  champion Rodney Orr would lose his life 4 days later.note . Bonnett would be posthumously named as one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers for the 50th anniversary season in 1998 and be inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.
  • The Busch family:
    • Kyle Busch (1985–) drives the #8 Cheddar's Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, joining that team in 2023 after 15 years with Joe Gibbs Racing in the #18 M&M's Toyota. He's one of the winningest—and most hated—drivers in the sport. After growing up around his father and older brother's racing operations in Las Vegas, he quickly proved to be a can't miss prospect by posting a top-10 finish during his first race in the Truck Series at the age of 16. He was chosen to drive the #5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports full-time in 2005, and that year became the youngest driver to win a Cup race at the age of 20, winning two races that year (since surpassed by Joey Logano, see below). After moving to Gibbs in 2008, he had his breakout season and has continually set records ever since, becoming the winningest driver in all three combined national series with 229, the all-time wins leader in both the Grand National/Busch/Nationwide/Xfinity and Truck Series, a two-time Cup champion in 2015 and 2019, the first driver to win all three top series races in one weekend, and the driver with Cup race wins in the most consecutive seasons (19),note  just to name a few. At the same time, he was almost more well known for an infamous temper and frequent Freak Outs that were frequently compared by his detractors to childish tantrums. After wrecking the beloved Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the win at Richmond in 2008, he quickly became the most hated driver in the sport, and it's never let up from there, with every single one of his wins or temper-driven incidents like wrecking Ron Hornaday under caution in 2011 bringing out more and more detractors. To his credit, he's embraced his role as NASCAR's biggest heel of the 21st century, as it seems like he enjoys doing things that piss the fans off just as much as they enjoy booing him. With a surefire Hall of Fame career in the books, it's caused even many of his detractors to have a grudging respect for him, as despite the many things he's done to rankle them over the years, he is nothing if not entertaining. Mars, the maker of M&Ms, announcing it was leaving NASCAR after 2022 led to Busch eventually being signed to Richard Childress Racing beginning in the 2023 season. Ironically, his move to RCR has led to him, just like his older brother, actually gaining fan respect to the point that he was cheered after winning the last race at Fontana's 2-mile layout: mainly due to his signing bringing the long-suffering Childress team back to prominence, but also due to sympathy over the way that Gibbs had handled his departureExplanation .
    • Kurt Busch (1978–) most recently drove the #45 Monster Energy Toyota for 23XI Racing, but retired from full-time racing after the 2022 season due to post-concussion effects. (He admitted that the 2023 season would have been his last anyway.) He's been one of NASCAR's most respected veterans, but it didn't start out that way for him—when he made his full-time Cup Series debut in 2001, his young age and give-no-flips attitude and driving style quickly rubbed veteran drivers and long-time fans the wrong way. This was emphasized with his ongoing feud with veteran Jimmy Spencer in 2002, where they continued to intentionally wreck each other for several weeks until the sanctioning body finally brought the hammer down after Spencer punched Busch in the face hard enough to knock a couple teeth out. While he became the first champion of the Chase for the Cup era in 2004, he was also known for a Hair-Trigger Temper and a penchant for off-the-track controversy and inability to get along with his bosses and teammates, which along with a DUI in 2005 led to him leaving Roush Racing, joining Penske, then getting fired from them as well in 2011 after Flipping the Bird to ESPN cameras and verbally berating an interviewer. He reached a nadir in 2012, being relegated to driving for backmarker Phoenix Racing, getting put on probation for wrecking Ryan Newman and a post-race confrontation, then getting suspended for swearing at a reporter. He began to turn it around after making Furniture Row Racing a household name in 2013, continuing that trend with Stewart-Haas Racing (ironically, run by long-time rival Tony Stewart) from 2014-18, then driving for Chip Ganassi between 2019-21 before moving to his current ride. Having consistently outperformed his equipment and toned down his temper during the latter years of his career, the fan animosity he used to have has mostly dissipated and he's pretty well-respected today. When he announced his unplanned retirement thanks to multiple concussions at the end of 2022, there was an outpouring of grief and support from the fans—something that would have been impossible to imagine twenty or even ten years earlier. Fun fact 1: He was the last driver Dale Earnhardt Sr. ever flipped off (during the 2001 Daytona 500 that took his life). Fun fact 2: He was the last active Cup driver to have raced against Earnhardt.note 
  • Ross Chastain (1992-) grew up the son of a watermelon farmer in Florida, with Chastain's father racing for fun before the racing bug got Ross; who managed to collect 50 victories on local short-tracks as well as the World Series of Asphalt Limited Late Model Series championship for 2011. Chastain first entered NASCAR driving in the Truck Series; finishing 10th in his first race. 2012 saw Chastain make his full-time Truck Series debut run (fittingly, sponsored by the National Watermelon Association); losing out on Rookie of the Year honors to Ty Dillon but collecting his first Top 5 finish. 2013 saw Chastain move to Brad Keselowski's team, finishing 2nd twice along with a pole before moving to Ricky Benton Racing; only for comments made before and after and actions at the Martinsville race to lead to the team firing him. Chastain would then run in the K&N Pro Series East regional series while making his Xfinity Series debut in Charlotte in May 2014, later finishing 12th at Michigan after replacing Johnny Sauter at Hattori Racing Enterprises. 2015 saw Chastain's up-to-then journeyman career take him to JD Motorsports; where he replaced Jeffrey Earnhardt (Dale Earnhardt's eldest grandson; Jeffrey's father is Dale's eldest son Kerry). After finally sticking with a team for more than one season; Chastain began showing promise in 2017; getting a Top 5, 2 Top 10's and a career-best 13th in points (just outside the Xfinity playoffs) - though not before getting into fights later in the season with Jeremy Clements and Brendan Gaughan. 2018 would be his best season to date; collecting his first win that season in Las Vegas (which he would celebrate by smashing a watermelon on the track). That drew the attention of Chip Ganassi, who eventually made a deal to sign Chastain for 2019 to drive for his Xfinity team with sponsorship by renewable energy firm DC Solarnote . However, Chastain would have to scramble for a ride in 2019 after DC Solar was shut down following an FBI raid that revealed it as a Ponzi scheme, resulting in Ganassi shutting down his Xfinity team. Returning to JD Motorsports and the Truck Series; Chastain managed to pick up his first Truck victory at Kansas Speedway, winning 3 races (though he was disqualified from another win in the Truck race in Iowa after his truck failed post-race inspection) in the Truck Series along with an Xfinity win and doing occasional Cup Series races. 2020 saw Chastain shift back to Xfinity full-time; though Chastain would also race as a substitute driver in the Cup Series for Roush Fenway Racing's #6 Ford while Ryan Newman recovered from injuries sustained at the end of the 2020 Daytona 500, running three races in the #6 before the season was paused following the COVID-19 pandemic, later moving to Spire Motorsports once the season resumed and Newman recovered. 2021 would see Chastain make his debut as a full-time Cup Series driver, driving for the team who had planned to sign him for the Xfinity Series two years earlier, Chip Ganassi Racing. This would be short-lived, however, as by mid-season Trackhouse Racing bought the Ganassi team effective for 2022. That season marked a breakout year for Chastain, who overcame poor showings at the Daytona 500 and the race at Fontana with a 3rd place finish at Las Vegas and consecutive 2nd place runs at Phoenix and Atlanta before taking his first Cup win at Circuit of the Americasnote ; followed by a win at Talladega en route to finishing 2nd in the points to Joey Logano and also gaining social media notice following his "wall rider" move in Martinsville's October race that saw Chastain climb from 10th to 5th and clinching a spot in NASCAR's Championship 4 (NASCAR would ban the manuever for the 2023 season). Ross' younger brother, Chad, is a part-time driver in both the Xfinity and Truck Series.
  • Derrike Cope (1958–) was a journeyman driver best known for being one of NASCAR's biggest dark horse winners. A native of Spanaway, Washington; Cope began his racing career after a knee injury ended his original plans to play baseball, starting in short tracks in the Northwestern United States and made his Cup Series debut at Riverside in 1982, eventually winning the Winston Westnote  regional series Rookie of the Year honor for 1984. After several false starts (including an abandoned bid for the Winston Cup Rookie of the Year for 1987), Cope was signed early in the 1989 season by Bob Whitcomb for his Purolator-sponsored Whitcomb Racing teamnote  and showed promise with 4 Top 10's. Cope's most famous moment came in the 1990 Daytona 500, where after a strong run he was in contention in the final lap, getting the upset victory when Dale Earnhardt cut a tirenote . Cope would get his second (and only other) victory in Dover in a race that saw Earnhardt (entering with a narrow points lead) break a camshaft in his engine, get it rebuilt only to have his engine blow up, finishing 18th in points. 1991 and 1992 saw Cope regress significantly, picking up only one Top 10 finish in 1991 and 2 Top 10's in 1992. The Whitcomb team went out of business after 1992 and Cope landed at Cale Yarborough's team, where after driving an unsponsored #66 at Daytona, the car number changed to #98 to reflect new sponsor Bojangles' 98-cent value meal. This lasted until mid-1994; when Cope was replaced in favor of Jeremy Mayfield, with Cope eventually landing at Bobby Allison's team. 1995 was a Hope Spot for Cope, finishing a career-best 15th in points off the strength of 8 Top 10's and narrowly losing the Phoenix race to Ricky Rudd. Unfortunately, Allison's team closed down after 1996, after which Cope reverted to being a journeyman driver with stops at MB2 Motorsports, Bahari Racing (getting his only career pole position), Larry Hedrick's team, a couple of stints with Rick Ware Racing, an attempt (where he failed to qualify for the Brickyard 400) and upstart Front Row Motorsports while also running for a time as an owner-driver. Cope would retire in 2021 after making a one-off return to Rick Ware Racing for the 2021 Daytona 500; making him the most recent - and likely last - driver to appear in a race in five different decades. Cope also ran in the Xfinity Series, picking up his only win in that series in New Hampshire in 1994 and focusing more on that series in his later career while also running part-time in the Truck Series. Cope's cousin, Ernie, was a former NASCAR crew chief in the Truck Series and since 2016 has been the competition director for JTG Daugherty Racing; while two of his nieces have also driven in the lower series in NASCAR.
  • The Earnhardt family:
    • Dale Earnhardt (1951–2001) was, as mentioned above, one of the most dominant drivers throughout the 80's and 90's, tying Richard Petty for most Cup championships and finding success at just about every type of track. He was nicknamed "The Intimidator" due to his very aggressive, take-no-prisoners driving style, often to the point where other drivers would accuse him of deliberately wrecking them, and fans tended to either love or hate him for exactly that reason. Tragically killed in a crash on Turn 4 in the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. Part of the inaugural class of the NASCAR HOF in 2010.
    • Dale Earnhardt Jr. (1974–) —often known as "Dale Jr." or simply "Junior" to distinguish him from his father—worked his way up through the ranks in the mid-90's, eventually making his Winston Cup debut driving for his father's team in 1999. He scored his first Cup victory in just his 12th career start in 2000. In contrast to his often-polarizing father, Dale Jr. is generally well-liked and often seen as an ambassador for the sport. In 2008, he infamously left his own family's team (which was being horribly mismanaged by Teresa Earnhardt, Dale Sr.'s widow and Jr.'s stepmom) to drive for Hendrick Motorsports. He retired from full-time racing after 2017, but continues to make occasional appearances in lower-tier series and provides color commentary for NBC's NASCAR broadcasts. Dale Jr. joined his father in the NASCAR HOF in 2022 (he was announced as an inductee in 2020, but COVID-19 scuttled a 2021 induction).
  • Carl Edwards (1979–) got into racing while studying engineering at the University of Missouri before deciding to drop out of college to pursue racing full-time, working as a substitute teacher before getting his first opportunity by racing for MB Motorsports in 2002 in the Truck Series; which led to his being hired by Jack Roush for his first full-time season in the Truck Series, winning 3 races and the 2003 Truck Series Rookie of the Year honors while appearing in a Busch Series race, adding another 3 wins in the Truck Series for 2004 while making his Cup Seriesnote  after Jeff Burton left the team in the #99 Ford Taurus. Edwards would make his full-time debut in both the Nextel Cup (in the #60 Ford once driven in the Busch Series by fellow championship bridesmaid Mark Martin below) and Busch Series in 2005 (during the height of what became known as "Buschwhacking" due to drivers such as Kyle Busch above {who the gambit was named after} and Mark Martin below often racing in both of NASCAR's top 2 series. NASCAR would change the rules in 2011 to strongly discourage this gambit by forcing drivers to declare which of the three top series they would compete for points in, with later rule changes limiting Cup Series regulars to a maximum of 7 races in what's now the Xfinity Series and 5 in the Truck Series while barring Cup drivers from racing in the playoffs, regular-season finale or bonus money races); winning his first Busch and Nextel series wins in the same weekend in Atlanta (the first time that happened at that particular track) en route to winning 4 Cup Series and 5 Busch wins along with the Busch Series Rookie of the Year awardnote . After a sophomore slump in 2006 where he failed to win a race, he rebounded in 2007 with 3 wins in the Cup Seriesnote  while adding 4 Busch Series wins and the 2007 Busch Series championship. 2008 would see Edwards win a career-high 9 races (including another win at Bristol where Edwards bumped Kyle Busch out of the way late, resulting in Busch driving into the side of Edwards' car and Edwards retaliating by spinning Kyle out) including the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway; only to lose the Sprint (which bought out Nextel) Cup Series title to Jimmie Johnson by 69 pointsnote . 2009 saw Edwards have a mixed season, failing to register a win in the Cup Series while winning 5 Busch Series races and finishing 2nd in points in that series to Kyle Busch. Edwards was also involved in a scary crash at the spring race in Talladega that also involved Brad Keselowski and Ryan Newman that resulted in 8 fans being injured (Edwards, upon exiting the car, ran to the start-finish line in a move inspired by a scene in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby). That crash sparked an apparent rivalry with Keselowski, as in the 2010 spring Cup race in Atlanta Edwards - following being tapped by Keselowski that led to Edwards crashing into Joey Logano - retaliated later in the race by spinning Keselowski, causing him to go airborne and NASCAR to park Edwards and slap a three-race probation on him; part of a 2010 that saw Edwards win the last two Cup races (after entering the second half of the season in danger of missing the Chase altogether) and 3 Nationwide (which replaced Busch as title sponsor in the second-tier series in 2008) races (the second of which, at Gateway in Madison, IL, saw Edwards turn Keselowski on the final lap). 2011 would be Edwards' last running both Cup and Nationwide full-time due to the aforementioned rule changes above; winning 8 Nationwide races and allowing Jack Roush to win the owners' championship while running neck-and-neck with Tony Stewart in points in the Cup Series; losing the Sprint Cup title by way of a tiebreaker after ending the season tied in points (Stewart having won 5 races to Edwards' 1). Following a disappointing season in 2012; in 2013 Edwards would collect two victories, though controversy clouded the latter victory, the Federated Auto Parts 400 in Richmond, after it was discovered Edwards jumped past leader Paul Menard on a restart to take the lead late in the race, an action that NASCAR had penalized drivers for in the pastnote . After winning 2 races in 2014; Edwards left Roush for Joe Gibbs Racing to drive their new #19 entry, and in 2015 he picked up 2 more wins, both of which were his only Crown Jewel winsnote  at the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte and the Southern 500 in Darlington. 2016 would see Edwards winning twice only to be hooked in the championship race by Joey Logano with 10 laps to go, resulting in Jimmie Johnson winning his record-tying 7th championship. After this, Edwards surprised many by announcing his retirement, finishing with 28 Cup Series victories along with 38 Xfinity wins and the 2007 championship and 6 Truck Series wins. Edwards was noted for doing celebratory backflips following his victoriesnote  and following his retirement was the subject of speculation of a possible political careernote . Edwards has a couple of notable relatives, as his first cousin once removed is former NASCAR driver Ken Schrader; while his great-great-great grandfather was former President Rutherford B. Hayes.
  • The Elliott Family:
    • Bill Elliott (1955–) began racing in the early 80's, completing his first full-time season (and earning his first win) in 1983. Throughout the 80's, he was known for his absolute dominance of superspeedway races; in 1985 at Talladega, an unscheduled pit stop for a mechanical problem put him a full two laps down—and Bill charged back through the field and still won the race without the aid of a caution or a lucky dog! He also holds the all-time speed record for a NASCAR driver, recording an average speed of 212.809MPH for his qualifying lap at Talladega in 1987—a record which will likely never be broken, as NASCAR began mandating the use of restrictor plates at Daytona and Talladega the next year. His humble, soft-spoken nature made him a fan favorite, having been voted NASCAR's "Most Popular Driver" every year from 1991-2000 and again in 2002.note  He was inducted into NASCAR's HOF in 2015.
    • Bill's son Chase Elliott (1995–) has followed in his father's footsteps as an eminently likable, down-to-earth guy...who just happens to be a badass race car driver, with an endearing awkwardness in front of cameras and a willingness to stand up for himself on and off the track that's quickly made him as beloved as his dad. Coming into the Cup Series, he was one of the most hyped-up prospects of the 21st century; while he struggled to perform for quite a while to begin his career, he scored his first Cup victory in 2018. Fittingly, it came on a road course (Watkins Glen), just as his father's first victory did 35 years earlier. He won his first Cup championship in 2020. He drives the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Chase would miss several races during the early part of the 2023 season after breaking his leg in a skiing accident before announcing a planned return for Martinsville. Elliott would miss the playoffs for the first time in several years after a series of poor performances and missing another race, this time being suspended for intentionally wrecking Denny Hamlin at Charlotte.
  • Jeff Gordon (1971–) is a retired NASCAR driver with four Cup championships and a modern-era record 93 Cup race victories between 1993 and 2015. Hailing from California, Gordon helped spread NASCAR's popularity beyond the South, and his rainbow-colored #24 DuPont Chevrolet was one of the most recognizable paint schemes of the 1990s. However, his performance combined with his background made him as hated among long-time Southern NASCAR fans as he was loved by new ones. He retired after the 2015 season and joined the Fox broadcasting booth beginning in 2016. He was inducted into NASCAR's HOF in 2019. He was not related to Cecil Gordon (who ironically drove the 24 car) or Robby Gordon (who raced in the same time frame as Jeff Gordon)
  • James Dennis Alan "Denny" Hamlin (1980-) is one of NASCAR's most successful drivers, possessing 51 wins, 219 top-fives, and 335 top-10s over a 19-year career, is synonymous with the Joe Gibbs Racing #11 that the fact that he hasn't been the only driver in it is a minor piece of trivianote , and co-owns the 23XI Racing team along with his duties as a driver—and also has zero Cup championships to his name, making him the statistically best driver to never win a title. Hamlin started his career racing karts in his hometown of Chesterfield, VA before moving on to success in late models and parlayed that into a few starts in the then-Craftsman Truck Series and a development contract with Gibbs. In 2005, he made his full-time debut in the Busch Series, finishing fifth and scoring 11 top-10s, while also filling in the Cup Series #11 for the final seven races of the season, scoring 3 top-10s and taking home one pole. Gibbs quickly promoted him to full-time for the next season, and he would repay their investment by becoming the Rookie of the Year, the first rookie ever to sweep two races at Pocono in a single year, the first-ever rookie to make the Chase for the Cup, and the best-finishing rookie in the series ever (third in the final standings), a record he still holds today. From that point on, he challenged for the Cup title in 2010, which he looked set to win until a bad fuel call at Phoenix and a spinout in the final race at Homestead let Jimmie Johnson snatch it away from under him. 2013 would see him miss the Chase completely after suffering an injury thanks to a hard crash with Joey Logano at Fontana, but he would rebound the next year for his first championship 4 appearance. In the final race at Homestead, Hamlin was leading when his crew chief decided not to pit him for fresh tires and fuel after a late caution. He ultimately fell down the order to seventh, losing the title. In 2015, he failed to advance to the final round after being collected in the Big One at Talladega. In 2016, he won his first Daytona 500, but that was not enough to secure his championship, as Hamlin was eliminated after an engine failure at Charlotte knocked him out of the standings. 2017 would add yet another ignominious failure to Hamlin's resume, as he qualified for the Chase despite not scoring a win and scored one at Martinsville; unfortunately, he did this by punting Chase Elliott out of the way. The next week at Phoenix, Elliott ran him into the wall in retaliation, leading to Hamlin blowing a tire with 45 to go, wrecking, and missing the Championship 4. 2018 saw him fail to win a race for the first full-time season ever. 2019 would see Hamlin start the season with his second Daytona 500 win, along with another at Texas and several consistent finishes despite suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning after a crash at Dover spewed fumes in the cockpit. At Martinsville, Hamlin would get in a fight with Joey Logano after they were involved in a crash, and things went from bad to worse after Hamlin tore his labrum being pulled to the ground by one of Logano's crew members. Despite that, he still advanced to the Championship 4 after wins at Kansas and Phoenix, but came up short at Homestead yet again. Hamlin would repeat both his Daytona 500 win and Championship 4 appearance in 2020 with 5 total wins, but yet again failed to secure the title at Homestead. 2021 saw Hamlin qualify for the playoffs yet again despite no wins in the regular season thanks to some truly mind-numbing luck, such as being spun while leading on the final lap at Indianapolis by a driver that did not know he had been black flagged. Hamlin would come alive during the playoffs, winning at Darlington and Las Vegas and making the Championship 4...but once again failing to take home the trophy at Phoenix. 2022 saw Hamlin win twice in the regular season and make the playoffs comfortably, but had his season eclipsed by several bizarre circumstances including a suspension for posting an offensive meme on social media, an escalating feud with Ross Chastain which saw several mutual wrecks, and being the first driver to have a win stripped for failing technical inspection since 1960. His season would end in a similar bizarre and unlucky manner when Chastain "rode the wall" to pass Hamlin at Martinsville and secure the final transfer spot in the round of 8. 2023 saw Hamlin officially become the winningest driver without a Cup championship with a win at Bristol—when you consider his stellar record compared to his lack of titles, it's no wonder some fans think he's cursed. Unlike other formerly disliked drivers on this page who have gained fan respect as they have gotten older, Hamlin is the opposite: his blunt and critical nature, along with the run-ins with fan-favorite drivers above, have arguably made him the most disliked driver in NASCAR todaynote , especially after Kyle Busch's move to Richard Childress Racing. Specifically, his frequent criticisms of NASCAR management have caused him to get hit with the "actions detrimental to stock car racing" penalty so often that he eventually named his podcast after it.
  • The Hamilton family:
    • Bobby Hamilton Sr. (1957–2007) was raised by his grandparents until they died when Bobby was a teenager (his grandfather worked on the cars of Country Music artist and part-time racer Marty Robbins); and after dropping out of school went on to race frequently at his home track of Nashville Speedway before entering the Busch Series in 1988. 1989 saw Hamilton run in the Busch Series full-time, finishing 11th in points and getting his own victory in that series at Richmond. Hamilton's Cup debut at the Autoworks 500 in Phoenix was perhaps the most unusual in history, as he debuted driving a Hendrick-owned "movie" car for the 1990 Tom Cruise movie Days of Thunder; driving the #51 Exxon Chevrolet Lumina (driven in the film's universe by Rowdy Burns, played by Michael Rooker) to a 5th-place starting position and leading 5 laps before blowing an engine. Hamilton tied for 11th in Busch Series points in 1990 before moving to Winston Cup full time in 1991; where - driving the TriStar Motorsports #68 Country Time-sponsored Oldsmobile - he managed to edge out Ted Musgrave for Rookie of the Year honors. Hamilton remained with the team until being released early in 1993, bouncing around in both the Cup and Busch Series. 1994 saw him take over the 2nd ride for Felix Sabates' Team SABCO for a year, followed by moving to Petty Enterprises in 1995 to drive the #43 STP Pontiac, a move that saw Hamilton post 10 Top 10's. 1996 would be Hamilton's best Cup season; finishing a career-high 9th in points and - at the track of his Winston Cup debut in Phoenix - collected not just his first career Cup victory but the first for the #43 since Richard Petty's final win at the Firecracker 400 at Daytona in 1984 and the first win for Petty Enterprises since 1983note . 1997 saw Hamilton collect a win in Rockingham while starting his own team in the Truck Series as a part-time driver in that series. 1998 saw Hamilton replace Sterling Marlin in the Kodak-sponsored Morgan-McClure #4 Chevy, collecting what turned out to be that team's final victory in Martinsville, winning from the pole. Hamilton would remain with the team until 2001, when he moved to Andy Petree Racing; taking his final Cup Series victory at the Talladega 500 in holding off Tony Stewart for the win; which saw an exhausted Hamilton require oxygen and do the Victory Lane interview seated against the driver doornote ; remaining with Andy Petree Racing until 2002, departing following a late-season shoulder injury and increasing financial trouble for the team; after which he turned his focus to racing trucks full-time. Hamilton would have his greatest success in that series, winning a total of 10 races and the 2004 Truck Series championship, making him the first owner-driver in any of NASCAR's top 3 series since Alan Kulwicki in the Cup Series in 1992. Hamilton's career ended abruptly in 2006 when he was diagnosed with head and neck cancernote , and Hamilton had tapped Ken Schrader to drive for him in 2007. Sadly, Hamilton lost his fight with cancer on January 7, 2007 at the age of 49.
    • Bobby Hamilton Jr. (1978–) got his interest in racing in the local tracks; racing a Ford Pinto his father, Bobby Sr., had given him. By 1998; he had moved to ARCA before entering the Busch Series, where like his father he had an entertainment-themed connection (one of his early sponsors: Baywatch) before making his Winston Cup debut at the Homestead race in 2000; driving for his father. 2001 saw Bobby Jr. make his debut for his father's Truck Series team while driving a handful of races in the Cup Series as a teammate with his father for Andy Petree Racing while Joe Nemechek was recovering from an elbow injury and then move to Bobby Sr's previous ride at Morgan-McClure Motorsports. 2002 saw Bobby Jr. move to Team Rensi Motorsports in the Busch Seriesnote  and collect his first win at New Hampshire; followed by winning 4 races in 2003 and finishing a career-high 4th in points, occasionally driving in the Cup Series for the team as well. However; Bobby Jr. significantly regressed from that point, failing to collect a win before leaving Rensi to return to the Cup Series, taking over the PPInote  Motorsports #32 Tide-sponsored Chevrolet after Ricky Craven was fired. Bobby Jr. performed well enough to be hired full-time in 2005 failed to finish higher than 11th and missed three races, resulting in his ouster. 2006 would see him bounce around before being tapped to replace his father in the Truck Series after Bobby Sr's cancer diagnosis; but after the elder Hamilton's death Bobby Jr. declined to take ownership of Bobby Hamilton Racing in 2007; with the team closing down a year later. The younger Hamilton then returned to Team Rensi, this time driving the McDonalds-sponsored #35 only for Mickey D's to pull their sponsorship in 2008; causing that team's demise following a solid 2007 (3 Top 10's; 6th in points) and Hamilton to move back to the #25 (with Smithfield backing). Eventually, Bobby Jr. would buy a partial interest in the team (renamed Rensi-Hamilton Racing). Hamilton would spend most of the remainder of his career in the ARCA series while going into business and the track where he began his racing career, Highland Rim Speedway, as well as the rights to operate Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway (both of those ending when Hamilton filed for bankruptcy in January 2012) and dabbling in broadcasting, replacing his father on a local NASCAR-themed radio show called "The Driver's Zone" alongside co-host Liz Allison Hackettnote  for a time in the late 2000s.
  • Kevin Harvick (1975–) was a Busch and Truck series regular whose Cup career began under rather tragic circumstances, when Richard Childress appointed him to replace Dale Earnhardt a week after the 2001 Daytona 500.note  He quickly proved he belonged, however, when he edged out Jeff Gordon by only 6 thousandths of a second to win the spring race at Atlanta that year—in just his third career Cup series start. He continued to win races here and there until joining Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, now driving the #4 Ford (Chevrolet from 2014-16), winning his first championship that same year and firmly establishing himself as one of NASCAR's elite contenders. He gained a reputation as a driver who could pull off wins seemingly out of nowhere, and also gained an even bigger reputation for an infamous temper, leading to him gaining the Ironic Nickname "Happy". Seemed to be on track for a similarly dominant year in 2020, but a late-season slump saw him knocked out of the playoffs in the next-to-last race at Martinsville. He's announced that the 2023 season will be his last as a driver, after which he will move into Fox's NASCAR broadcast booth.
  • Ernie Irvan (1959–) is a former driver who - after leaving his native California to pursue his dream of racing in NASCAR after having success in local go-kart and stock car racingnote  - took a series of odd jobs including building racecars, welding seats at Charlotte Motor Speedway and unloading the moving van of future NASCAR colleague Ken Schrader, while still managing to find time to race in the late model series, winning 9 races in a 2-year span at nearby Concord Speedway. This got the attention of race car builder Marc Reno, who gave him his first Winston Cup opportunity in late 1987, driving a Chevrolet Monte Carlo in the fall race at Richmond sponsored by Dale Earnhardt's Chevy dealership, making it only 35 laps before the engine overheated. D.K. Ulrich signed him up soon after, and in 1988 Irvan would race for Ulrich in all but 4 races that season; narrowly losing Rookie of the Year honors to Ken Bouchard by a margin of 3 votes. 1989 saw Irvan race the entire schedule, getting 4 Top 10 finishes only for sponsorship troubles to lead to Ulrich letting Irvan walk. 1990 would be a turbulent season for Irvan, as he started the season driving for longtime owner Junie Donleavey only for Donleavey's sponsor, True Cure, to fail to meet their financial commitments; leading to Irvan taking the Morgan-McClure #4 Kodak ride that opened up when Phil Parsons was let go. Irvan would collect two significant firsts at Bristol, taking his first pole in the spring race and the summer race taking his first win. However; Irvan would be the subject of controversy following the events in the spring race in Darlington when Irvan - 10 laps down - made contact with Schrader that triggered a major crash that nearly killed Neil Bonnett after Sterling Marlin bounced off the wall and hit Bonnett's car hard, resulting in Bonnett suffering amnesia as a result), with Irvan's reckless driving getting him the nickname "Swervin' Irvan". Irvan would have a career season in 1991 with 2 more victories in the Daytona 500 and at Watkins Glennote  en route to a career-best 5th in the points while also managing a Busch Series win and was able to shed his reckless reputation following a public apology to his fellow drivers at Talladega. 1992 would see him take a career-high 3 victoriesnote  along with 2 wins in the Busch Series. 1993 would see Irvan win the spring race at Talladega with Morgan-McClure before finding himself in a controversy that July when Robert Yates asked Irvan if he could take over the #28 Texaco-Havoline Ford Thunderbird after Davey Allison died from injuries sustained in a helicopter crash. A lawsuit ensued before Irvan was permitted to leave in September, going on to win twice with Robert Yates Racingnote . 1994 looked to be Irvan's best shot at a championship, winning 3 races and trailing Dale Earnhardt by 27 points entering the August race at Michigan. During a practice session on August 20, 1994; crew chief Larry McReynolds called him into the pits because he wasn't liking how the car handled. Irvan decided to run one more lap, only for blow a tire and slam into the wall at 170 miles per hour; being diagnosed with a basilar skull fracture and given a 10% chance of surviving the night. Irvan miraculously made a slow but steady recovery; eventually managing to address fans at the fall Charlotte race while receiving the True Value Hard Charger Award at NASCAR's Awards Banquetnote . 1995 saw Irvan work a handful of races for TNN before being cleared to return to racing that September, making his return at North Wilkesboro in both the new Truck Series and Winston Cup races alongside Dale Jarrett, who filled in for Irvan for 1995; racing a handful of races in the #88. 1996 saw Irvan return to his usual #28 while Jarrett moved to the #88, qualifying second in the Daytona 500 and winning two more races. Irvan's final win came in 1997 at the track that nearly claimed his life: Michigan. That season saw Irvan leave Yates after a pair of controversies involving Irvan refusing to dance with a female patron on an Easter weekend event in Charlotte that escalated in a fight and later showing up late to an event thanking Texaco for 10 years of support; being replaced by Kenny Irwin Jr. for 1998. Irvan would move to upstart MB2 Motorsports in 1998, racing for them until being injured in a Busch Series crash at Michigan on August 20, 1999; exactly five years to the day of his near-fatal crash at the same track. Irvan would eventually work on his son Jared in his racing endeavors and started a foundation called Race2Safety to raise awareness for head injuries. Additionally, Irvan was the favorite driver of longtime The Howard Stern Show contributor Ronald "Ronnie the Limo Driver" Mund.
  • Jimmie Johnson (1975–) is a driver most famous for winning seven Cup Series championships, the first five of which were won consecutively. With nothing left to prove, he left NASCAR at the end of the 2020 season and began competing part-time in the IndyCar Series. Johnson became full-time in 2022, but struggled on road and street courses, and ended up returning to NASCAR for 2023 as a new part-owner of the Legacy Motor Club (a rebranding of Richard Petty's recent NASCAR team) and a part-time Cup driver. No relation to Junior Johnson below.
  • Robert Glenn "Junior" Johnson (1931–2019), no relation to Jimmie Johnson above, was among the earliest NASCAR stars when he began his career in 1953 at the Southern 500; collecting his first victory in 1955 (his first full-time season); where he would finish with 5 wins and 6th place in the points. After missing most of 1956 due to having been convicted on running an illegal still (Johnson's family was heavily involved in moonshining); he returned and didn't seem to miss a beat, winning 6 races in 1958 and ultimately collecting 50 victories by the time he retired as a driver in 1966 (including 13 in 1965; his penultimate season); most prominently the second Daytona 500 in 1960 (it was during a practice session that Johnson introduced the concept of drafting - where two vehicles are caused to align in a close group, reducing the overall effect of drag while exploiting a leader's slipstream - to NASCAR); the most victories ever for a driver without a championship up to that time. Soon after, Johnson would turn his focus to running his Junior Johnson & Associates team. Despite often being accused of Loophole Abuse if not outright cheating at times; Johnson would build one of NASCAR's most successful teams between the mid-1970s and early 1990s; including winning 6 Winston Cup Championships as a car owner (1976-78 with Cale Yarborough; 1981-82 and 1985 with Darrell Waltrip) while also employing a number of legendary drivers for much of the team's historynote . The beginning of the end for the team came in 1992; when Elliott ended up losing the championship to Alan Kulwickinote  by 10 points and Johnson, angered in part due to a miscalculation on pit strategy late in the race, fired crew chief Tim Brewer. Johnson would only win 3 more races, 1 with Elliott and 2 with Jimmy Spencernote ; both in 1994 before selling his teams after the 1995 season and retiring. Johnson, the subject of a 1965 Esquire article by Tom Wolfe titled "The Last American Hero" that was adapted into a Very Loosely Based on a True Story film in 1973 where Johnson was played by Jeff Bridges, ended up receiving a pardon from President Ronald Reagan in 1986 and in his later years partnered with Piedmont Distillers, at the time the only legal distillery in North Carolina, to launch a line of whiskey called Midnight Moon. Johnson, named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998 and a member of the charter NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2010, suffered from Alzheimer's disease in his later years and died on December 20, 2019 at the age of 88.
  • Brad Keselowski (1984–) is the current driver of the #6 Ford Mustang for Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing, which he is also a part-owner of. The son of former ARCA and Truck Series driver Bob Keselowski, nephew of 1970s NASCAR driver Ron and younger brother of former Xfinity driver Brian; Brad began his NASCAR career at age 20 driving for the family team in the Truck Series in 2004; and after two full-time seasons in the Truck Series, Brad moved to the Busch Series full-time in 2007; finishing 20th in points after bouncing around teamsnote . 2008 would see Keselowski racing for Dale Earnhardt Jr's JR Motorsports for the newly-renamed Nationwide Series, winning his first 2 races and finishing 3rd in points (the highest for a full-time Nationwide Series driver; as the championship that year went to Clint Bowyer, running in both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series - permissible at the time but derided with the term "Buschwhacking") while making his Sprint Cup debut that year in 2 races driving for Hendrick Motorsportsnote . Keselowski continued driving full-time in the Nationwide Series for 2009, adding three wins while collecting his first Cup win as a part-time driver when he - driving for James Finch's Phoenix Racing - collected his (and the team's) first win at Talladega by leading just the final lap despite being involved in a crash earlier in the race where his car went airborne (eight fans were injured by debris, most seriously a woman who suffered a broken jaw); only for his aggressive driving to lead to a rivalry with Denny Hamlin in the Nationwide Series (who wrecked Brad in the season finale at Homestead in retaliation for Keselowski punting Hamlin in the previous race in Phoenix) and an incident at the second Talladega race where he triggered the "Big One" after bumping Kurt Busch, leading to a 15-car wreck that also collected Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin (who was also clipped by Martin Truex Jr.). Hendrick Motorsports lacked a ride for Keselowski in 2010, resulting in his being fired for his first full-time Cup Series ride by Team Penske, becoming a Buschwhacker in the process driving the #22 Dodge Charger for Penske in Nationwide and the #12 in the Cup Series, inadvertently tapping Carl Edwards in the spring Nationwide race at Atlanta that resulted in Joey Logano being collected in the collision and Edwards retaliating in the fall race by deliberately wrecking Keselowski, resulting in Edwards being booed in Victory Lane and NASCAR placing both drivers on probation, with Keselowski also involved in a rivalry with Kyle Busch. On a plus side, Keselowski won 6 races and the 2010 Nationwide championship. Kurt Busch's departure in 2011 opened up Penske's flagship #2 Miller Lite car for Keselowski; who improved from a disappointing 2010 Cup season with 3 winsnote  en route to making the Chase for the first time, finishing 11th in points. 2012 saw Keselowski start his own Truck Series team in addition to running in Cup and selected Nationwide races, and had success in winning the first Nationwide Series race at Indianapolis while winning 5 races (including becoming the first Dodge driver since Dave Marcis in 1976 to win at Talladega) en route to clinching the 2012 Cup championship (famously celebrating with a few sips of sponsor Miller Lite during an interview on SportsCenter) as well as Dodge's first championship since Richard Petty's 1975 championship. Despite the championship, Dodge left NASCAR after 2012; resulting in Team Penske returning to Ford for 2013. Keselowski would have a significant championship hangover, missing the Chase and not getting a victory until the fall race at Charlotte. 2014 saw Brad rebound with a career-high 6 victories (though he failed to make the final round of the Chase) along with his first career Truck Series win despite a pair of odd incidentsnote . 2015 would see Keselowski try his hand at broadcasting working a handful of races for what was by now the Xfinity Series for Fox while finishing with one win and of his nine Top 5's, a heartbreaking five were second place. 2016 saw Keselowski finish with 4 wins (including the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona) and advance to the Round of 8. 2017 would see Keselowski win twice, including the first win for Ford at Martinsville since 2002 and advance to the Championship 4 - his best season since 2014. 2018 would see Keselowski collecting back-to-back wins with his first Crown Jewel victory in Darlington's Southern 500 and the Brickyard 400 along with a Las Vegas win that marked the 500th total motorsports victory for team owner Roger Penske en route to advancing to the Round of 12. 2019 saw Keselowski win once and make it to the Round of 12 again; but 2020 saw a rebound as he won 4 races including his first win at the Coca-Cola 600 en route to finishing 2nd in points to Chase Elliott. Keselowski would win once in 2021 at Talladega and made it to the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Playoffs before leaving to replace Ryan Newman in the #6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, with Keselowski becoming a part-owner in the process. Keselowski would have a disappointing 2022 with his new team, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2013 and failing to win a points-paying race since his first full-time Cup season in 2010.
  • Alan Kulwicki (1954–1993) is one of NASCAR's sadder examples of What Could Have Been. When he made his Cup debut late in the 1985 season, he had one of the most unusual backgrounds of any driver in his day (or, frankly, even today). In his day, NASCAR was mainly a southern regional series; Kulwicki was born and raised in the Milwaukee area. Few drivers in his era had completed college; Kulwicki had a bachelor's in mechanical engineering. Finally, he entered the Cup Series off only six Busch Grand National (now Xfinity Series) starts. During his first full season in 1986, his team owner left NASCAR, selling the team to Kulwicki. He ran his team on a shoestring, performing much of his own maintenance between races, and throughout his career had difficulty finding and keeping crew members due to his perfectionism.note  Nonetheless, with one car, two engines, and two full-time crew members, he was the Cup Series rookie of the year. Kulwicki went on to solid but not spectacular success as a driver-owner, notably turning down an offer from Junior Johnson's powerful team in 1990 in favor of running his own team. Then came 1992, when he erased a huge deficit in the season's final weeks to hold off Davey Allison and Bill Elliott to win the Cup Series crown by a mere 10 points, the closest finish before the introduction of the playoff format in 2004. Kulwicki became the first Cup Series champion with a college degree, the first born in a northern state, and the last driver-owner to win the series title until Tony Stewart in 2011. He seemed to be on the verge of even more until his career and life ended the following April when the plane in which he was a passenger crashed in East Tennessee. This was the first of two major NASCAR tragedies that year, followed by Davey Allison's fatal helicopter crash. Kulwicki would enter the HOF in 2019. Perhaps his most notable legacy is the "Polish victory lap" (a term he himself coined), in which he circled the track clockwise instead of the standard counterclockwise. Kulwicki did this after his first Cup race win in 1988 and after winning the 1992 series title. Since his untimely passing, the Polish victory lap has occasionally been employed by other drivers, often as an explicit tribute to him.
  • Joey Logano (1990–): A two-time Cup Series champion and current driver of the #22 Ford Mustang for Team Penske, and the only driver who debuted during the otherwise new talent-devoid Buschwhacker era to rise to prominence. Another driver from an unusual state for a NASCAR star, Connecticut, Logano was a racing prodigy who gained high praise from active NASCAR drivers as a teenager. Mark Martin (below) called him "the real deal" and predicted that he would become one of NASCAR's all-time greats, and two-time Busch (now Xfinity) Series champion Randy LaJoie gave him his nickname of "Sliced Bread" (yes, it's exactly what you think). Logano got off to a flying start in NASCAR in 2008 with Joe Gibbs Racing, becoming the youngest driver ever to win an Nationwide/Xfinity race in his third start in that series. The next year saw him become the youngest-ever Cup race winner with a win in his backyard in New Hampshire. Moving to Penske in 2013, where he's stayed to this day, he broke out in 2014 with five Cup race wins and a top-5 series finish, followed by six race wins in 2015 including the Daytona 500. He had a chance to win his first season title in 2016 before a crash near the end of the season finale at Homestead took him out, missed the playoffs in 2017, and finally broke through completely with his first series title in 2018. Logano claimed his second Cup championship in 2022, and entered the 2023 season with 31 Cup wins. He's a polarizing driver on the track due to his take-no-prisoners racing style combined with a soft-spoken personality that some view as disingenuous, but his status as a future Hall of Famer is undeniable.
  • DeWayne Louis "Tiny" Lund (1929-1975) was a journeyman who experienced more success than many drivers who never raced full-time. Lund began racing in NASCAR in 1955 after serving in the U.S. Air Force during The Korean War, and after a year driving for several different teams Lund began splitting 1957 with A.L. Bumgarner (who fielded Pontiacs) and the Oldsmobile of Petty Enterprises. Lund led most of a race in Shelby, NC before his right axle broke with 14 laps to go, but a late-season race at North Wilkesboro was marred by tragedy when a wheel broke on Lund's car and entered the stands, killing a spectator. Lund would make periodic starts and would not get a major ride until 1963; when he was tapped for the Wood Brothers #21 Mercury after close friend Marvin Panch was injured testing a Ford-powered Maserati for the Daytona Continental sportscar racenote  and then managed to get his first victory in the Daytona 500 despite running out of gas on the final lap; giving a much-needed boost to Lund, as he remained in the Wood Brothers car until Panch recoverednote  after which he moved to the Holman-Moody team. By late 1964, Lund joined the team of Lyle Stelter; picking up 2 victories (in 1965 and 1966) before leaving the team in 1968 - Lund also drove briefly for Petty Enterprises in 1967. By 1968; Lund turned his focus to NASCAR's new Grand Americannote  series fielding ponycars such as the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro, a series where he had his greatest success; winning 41 of the 109 races held during that circuit's existence and championships in three of the four full seasons (1968, 1970-1971) before that division closed down early in the 1972 season. Late in 1971; Lund would get his final two victories driving a Chevy Camaronote . Once the Grand American series folded; Lund continued with the successor Grand National East Series, remaining there until that series' demise in 1973 and winning that year's championship with 5 wins. Sadly, Lund would lose his life during the 1975 Talladega 500note  when Lund and independent J.D. McDuffie collided on Lap 7, followed by Terry Link slamming across Lund's driver's side door; with the impact knocking Link unconscious and Link's car bursting into flames; ultimately dying of massive internal injuries at the infield hospital at the age of 45note . Lund would be posthumously named as one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. Lund's nickname of "Tiny" was a classic case of an Ironic Nickname; as Lund was 6-foot-5 and weighed 270 pounds.
  • Mark Martin (1959-): Possibly NASCAR's ultimate championship bridesmaid; finishing 2nd in the Cup Series points on five occasions (1990, 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2009) without a championship. Martin began his career in 1981 and made his first full-time effort in 1982, hoping for a Rookie of the Year award despite sponsor American Stove Company pulling its sponsorship, only for a late slump to knock him out of ROTY contention. Martin then bounced between NASCAR and the regional American Speed Association, or ASA (winning a total of four championships between 1978-80 and 1986), before entering the Busch (now Xfinity) Series in 1987; finishing with 3 wins before a late slump cost him the 1987 Busch title. Martin would return to what was then the Winston Cup Series racing for Jack Roush, marking a nearly 20-year run with that team, almost immediately making a splash with 3 Top 5's, 4 Top 10's and a pole at Dover (though also ten races he failed to finish). Martin got his first career victory late in 1989 and finished 3rd in the points; later finishing 2nd in points in 1990 - a season where he lost the championship to Dale Earnhardt by 26 points after a controversial ruling following his win in the 2nd race of the season at Richmond where Martin's carbuerator spacer was deemed illegal, though the issue was it being bolted on instead of welded, resulting in Martin being docked 46 points though the win was kept. In addition to his 5 runner-up finishes; Martin also was able to claim an accomplishment of being the 6th driver in NASCAR's modern (post-1972) eranote  to win four consecutive races. Martin announced his planned retirement from full-time racing in 2005 but when Kurt Busch was fired from Roush Racing, Martin decided to stay for one more season in 2006, after which he left the Roush #6 Ford, moving to Ginn Racingnote  in 2007; where he came the closest to winning a Daytona 500, finishing a controversial 2nd to Kevin Harvick after Martin led on the final lap only for NASCAR not to immediately pull out the caution during a final lap crash. Midway through the season, Ginn Racing ran into financial difficulties due to team owner Bobby Ginn's financial wrongdoing making headlines, eventually merging with an ailing Dale Earnhardt Incorporationnote . After two seasons; Martin moved to NASCAR powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports; hitting a career resurgence which saw him become the 8th driver to win a race after turning 50, eventually finishing second once more in the points to Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson. Martin would race until 2014; finishing his career with 40 Cup Series victories along with 49 Xfinity Series winsnote  (2nd behind Kyle Busch) and 7 wins in NASCAR's Truck Series. Martin was enshrined in NASCAR's Hall of Fame in 2017.
  • Steve Park (1967-) began his racing career driving modifieds at Riverhead Raceway in the Long Island, NY area, becoming a contender in the Whelen Modified Tour during the 1980s and 1990s. Park's successes in that circuit caught the attention of Dale Earnhardt, who hired him for his newly-formed "Dale Earnhardt Inc." team in 1996 (Park initially declined, thinking some friends were playing a prank); beginning his full-time NASCAR career in the #3 AC-Delco Chevrolet in the Busch Series in 1997 while making a handful of appearances in the top-level Winston Cup Series; with Park winning 3 Busch Series races and that circuit's "Rookie of the Year" award. In 1998; Park moved to the #1 Pennzoil Cup Series Car full-time, but was injured in a hard crash during practice in Atlanta, suffering a broken leg, shoulder blade and collarbone and would not return until the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolisnote . 1999 marked what would be the first of only two complete seasons for Park, and 2000 would see him get his first Cup Series victory at Watkins Glen. Park's only other career victory in the Cup Series came in 2001; when he won the Dura Lube 400 race at Rockingham in the first race held after Park's boss, Dale Earnhardt, was killed in a crash at the end of the previous week's Daytona 500note  but later was injured again during the September 1 Busch Series race at Darlington when his steering wheel broke and he veered left, with Larry Foyt hitting him in the driver's side; causing broken ribs, slurred speech, double vision and a brain injury. Park would not return until the 5th race of 2002, but his season was marred by a series of crashes, most notably a Pocono crash that also collected DEI teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. (both were uninjured). By mid-2003; Park was let go, and in what amounted to a defacto trade joined Richard Childress Racing to drive the #30 RCR car in exchange for Jeff Green moving to the #1 but following a disappointing season elected to drop down to the Truck Series in 2004, where he won the Most Popular Driver award in that series. 2005 saw Park win his only Truck race at Fontana before being let go in October due to Dodge pulling support for many of the truck teams. Park would then move to the K&N Pro Series East (now ARCA Menards Series East); having more success there with 3 wins and a career-best 5th place finish in 2009 before retiring from racing, leaving Park with a reputation of What Could Have Been had his career not been derailed by injuries. An interesting bit of trivia is that one of Park's acquaintances in high school (through mutual friends) was singer Mariah Carey.
  • David Pearson (1934–2018) was Richard Petty's great rival; Petty himself would say, "It didn't hurt as bad to lose to Pearson as it did to some of the others, because I knew how good he was," and believed that Pearson would have at least equaled his own 200 wins had he raced full-time throughout his career. "The Fox", later "The Silver Fox", only raced full-time in three Cup seasons (1966, 1968, 1969), but won the series title in each of them, and had at least one top-10 race finish in each of his 27 Cup seasons (1960–1986). Pearson, a 2011 HOF inductee, ended his Cup career with 105 race wins, second only to Petty, and had a higher winning percentage than his rival.
  • The Petty family:
    • Lee Petty (1914–2000): Patriarch of the Petty dynasty, he won 3 Cup Series titles, 54 races, and the first Daytona 500 in 1959. He also founded Petty Enterprises (1949–2008), which was the most successful racing team of NASCAR's first 50 years, claiming 268 Cup wins, a record that lasted until Hendrick Motorsports broke it in 2021. Entered the NASCAR HOF in 2011, a year after his son Richard.
    • Richard Petty (1937–): His record speaks for itself... 200 Cup wins, 7 Cup Series titles, 7 Daytona 500s, to name just a few. Part of the inaugural NASCAR HOF class of 2010.
    • Kyle Petty (1960–) Generally regarded as one of the nicest people in racing, but sadly didn't inherit much of his father's talent. Won 8 Cup Series races, but it took him 30 years and 829 startsnote  to do it.
    • Adam Petty (1980–2000) is believed to be the first-ever 4th generation competitor in any major sporting league in the United States; tragically, he started just one Cup Series race before dying in a crash during practice a few weeks later.
  • Tim Richmond (1955–1989) grew up in a well-to-do home in Ohio, a contrast to many of his contemporaries and earlier drivers who grew up in less well-off families predominantly in the South, having developed his interest in racing when he was given a go-kart as a small child. Richmond's parents - concerned over Tim being treated poorly by classmates - enrolled him at a military school in Miami, where he exceled in a number of sportsnote  and - on returning to Ohio for summer vacation - first connected with drag racer Raymond Beadle. After working as a crew member for a family friend, Richmond got hired to drive an open-wheel car for a team co-owned by his father, only to be fired due to frequent crashes. Richomnd would soon get a second chance and won the local SuperModified championship for 1977. This was followed by a move to United States Auto Club, where he won the 1978 USAC Rookie of the Year award before moving to IndyCar; with the highlights of his career in that field including an 8th place finish at Watkins Glen and winning the 1980 Rookie of the Year award for the Indianapolis 500 after finishing 9th (running out of fuel; having finished with the unofficial practice speed for the entire month only to start 19th after crashing in an attempt to qualify on the pole), only to suffer several more crashes. This led to Richmond trying his luck in NASCAR for 1980 after being coaxed into trying NASCAR by the president of Pocono Raceway, with his NASCAR debut coming at the "tricky triangle" - finishing a respectable 12th, finishing 12th two more times along with 2 races he failed to finish. 1981 saw Richmond bounce around driving for D.K. Ulrich, Lennie Childers and Bob Rogers, picking up 6 Top 10 finishes and ending his first full-time season 16th in points. 1982 saw Richmond start the year without a ride before bouncing around again, racing for Mike Lovern and J.D. Stacy; though getting his first career victories in sweeping the two races at Riverside. 1983 saw Richmond reunite with Raymond Beadle, getting his first oval victory at the tri-oval of Pocono and finishing 10th in points, his best to date, establishing Richmond as a star on the rise. 1984 saw Richmond get his first short-track win at North Wilkesboro but dip to 16th in points. 1985 would mark Richmond's first winless season since 1981, adjusting to new crew chief Barry Dodson and his best finish would be 2nd at Bristol, though he would get his first Busch Series win in Charlotte. 1986 would see Richmond move to up-and-comer Hendrick Motorsports, teamed with veteran crew chief Harry Hyde. While the early season would see Richmond struggle to adjust, the second half of the season (beginning with a win at Pocono) would see Richmond go on a tear, winning the July 4 race at Daytona, the second Pocono race along with wins at the first visit by NASCAR to Watkins Glen since 1965; the Southern 500 at Darlington and the season-finale at Riverside, in all winning 6 races and finishing 2nd 3 times to finish 3rd in the points. However, Richmond became mysteriously ill shortly after the NASCAR Awards banquet in New York, missing the 1987 Daytona 500 with what was initially reported as "double pneumonia", though managing to recover enough to run a handful of races at mid-season, including winning the first two races of his return at the tracks that he had had the most success: Pocono and Riverside. Richmond would race until the August race at Michigan, where he finished 29th after blowing an enginenote  and subsequently left Hendrick in September. 1988 would see Richmond's health become a focus of NASCAR scrutiny when he attempted to enter the Daytona 500, only for NASCAR to ban him for testing positive for banned substances...which turned out to be over-the-counter medications Advil and Sudafed. Richmond took a second drug test and passed, but was unable to secure a ride and also had NASCAR demanding his medical records. The drug test led to Richmond suing NASCAR that April, which was settled out of court. That proved to be Richmond's last public appearance; and on August 13, 1989, Richmond died from what would - shortly afterwards - be revealed to be complications from AIDS, acquired from an unknown woman.note . Richmond's legacy would continue after his death, providing the primary inspiration for the Cole Trickle character played by Tom Cruise in Days of Thunder; being named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers and his 1986 Folgers scheme being the basis of throwback schemes for drivers such as current Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman and an ARCA Menards Series driver who happens to also be named Tim Richmond, though the younger Richmond is not related.
  • Ricky Rudd (1956–), nicknamed "The Rooster", began racing in motocross and karting in his native Hampton Roads region of Virginianote  before entering NASCAR in 1975 in 4 races for family friend Bill Champion, followed by 4 more races driving for his father Al. 1977 marked Rudd's first full-time season, finishing with ten Top 10 finishes and Rookie of the Year honors. After running part-time between 1978 and 1980 driving for his father, D.K. Ulrich (step-father of Rudd's nephew, actor Skeet Ulrich) and veteran team owner Junie Donleavy; Rudd was signed to drive the #88 DiGard Gatorade-sponsored ride recently relinquished when Darrell Waltrip left for Junior Johnson's team, picking up 3 pole positions before moving to Richard Childress Racing for 1982. 1983 would see Rudd get his first victories at Riverside and Martinsville - starting a consecutive streak of seasons with at least one victory that ran through 1998. 1984 saw Rudd swap rides with Dale Earnhardt (who had been driving for Bud Moore - both drivers would be sponsored by Wrangler Jeans), and that season began to develop his reputation as one of NASCAR's toughest drivers when - during the Busch Clash - Rudd went airborne and suffered a frightening crash that left Rudd with torn rib cartilage and a concussion, yet somehow managed to run in the Daytona 500 despite his eyes having been swollen so much that his eyes were taped overnote , adding a victory in Richmond. 1985 and 1986 saw him add 3 victories (the 1985 season finale in Riverside and a career-high 2 victories in 1986; with Rudd finishing a career-best 5th in points). After two more victories in 1987, Rudd left for Kenny Bernstein's King Racing team in 1988; and despite a win at Watkins Glen he suffered engine failures frequently and was also injured during the Winston All-Star race following a blown tirenote  to fall to 11th in points, his worst finish since 1980. 1989 saw Rudd win the inaugural race at Sonoma, also finding himself at the center of a wild ending in the fall North Wilkesboro race when he and Earnhardt spun on the final lap, leading to a Geoff Bodine win and Rusty Wallace closing in on Earnhardt in a tight points battle. 1990 saw Rudd move to Hendrick Motorsports to replace Bodine in the #5 Chevrolet. Rudd added a win at Watkins Glen but finished the year mired in a tragic scene where Rudd, racing for a pit stop in the season-finale in Atlanta, lost control of his car and ended up crushing Mike Rich, a tire changer for Bill Elliott who ended up dying as a result of his injuriesnote . For 1991, Rudd's car would switch from Levi Garrett chewing tobacco sponsorship to that of Tidenote  and despite winning only once finished a career-best 2nd in points behind Dale Earnhardt - though 1991 would see Rudd at the center of one of NASCAR's most bizarre controversies at Sonomanote . 1992 and 1993 would see Rudd win once before leaving to start his own team, taking the Tide sponsorship with him. Rudd would win the 2nd race held at Loudon, New Hampshire in 1994 but nearly had his consecutive win streak end in 1995 and 1996 before getting victories late in the season. 1997 would see Rudd win multiple races for the first time in a decade (including the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis) only to drop to 17th in points, his worst points finish as a full-time driver to date. 1998 would see him win in Martinsville despite his cooler box breaking in Lap 1; resulting in Rudd developing heat exhaustion to the degree that he had to do his post-race interview with an oxygen mask on and being attended to by paramedics with help from ESPN pit reporter Dr. Jerry Punch. That would mark the end of his consecutive season with a win streak at a record 16 seasonsnote ; as 1999 would see Rudd go winless for the first time since 1982. With Tide pulling its sponsorship, Rudd closed his team and moved to the Robert Yates Racing team in 2000. Despite not winning any races that season, his two poles led to his finishing 5th in points. 2001 marked a brief resurgence for Rudd, winning twice at Pocono and Richmond en route to a 4th place finish, his best in 10 years. 2002 would see Rudd finish 10th in points and collect his final victory at Sonoma, only to leave Yates after an argument between Rudd and team engine man Larry Lackey at Richmond that led to Lackey punching Rudd. 2003 would mark the second time Rudd and another driver swapped rides, this time moving to the Wood Brothers #21 being vacated by Elliot Sadler, who replaced Rudd at Yates; with his "Ironman" streak running until 2005, when Rudd "took a break" from racing, not running (save for a one-off run at Dover where he filled in for an injured Tony Stewart) before returning to Yates Racing for a final season in 2007. Rudd's honors include being named as one of NASCAR's 50th Greatest Drivers as well as being inducted in the Virginia (2007) and Hampton Roads (2010) Sports Hall of Fames.
  • Wendell Scott (1921–1990) was NASCAR's first—and, for many years, only—African-American driver. Like many early stock-car racers, he was a bootlegger also known for his extraordinary prowess as a mechanic. Despite facing racial discrimination and using far inferior equipment compared to other better-funded drivers, he firmly established himself as someone who didn't give up, running hundreds of races throughout the 60's and early 70's and even scoring a Cup-level victory in 1964—though true to the era, NASCAR invented a "scoring error" and initially credited second-place finisher Buck Baker with the win insteadnote ; with NASCAR finally correcting the "error" in late August 2021 and crediting Scott with that 1964 victory. Scott was a 2015 NASCAR HOF inductee. The 1976 movie Greased Lightning, starring Richard Pryor, is loosely based on Scott's life.
  • Tony Stewart (1971–) competed in the NASCAR Cup Series from 1999-2016note , first in the #20 Home Depot car for Joe Gibbs Racing, and then the #14 for Stewart-Haas Racing (co-owned with Gene Haas) from 2009 until his retirement in 2016. He won three Cup Series titles as a driver in 2002, 2005, and 2011, and a fourth as Kevin Harvick's car owner in 2014. Stewart's 2011 title was the first by a driver-owner since Alan Kulwicki nearly two decades earlier. Stewart was inducted into NASCAR's HOF in 2020. In that same year, he co-founded a new stock-car circuit, the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX), which held its first season in 2021.note  Stewart has since pivoted to drag racing, running in the NHRA's second level in the Top Alcohol dragster class and fielding two cars as an owner in the NHRA's top level (a Top Fuel dragster driven by his wife and a Funny Car with another driver).
  • Brian Vickers (1983-) began by driving go karts and by 2001 had worked his way up to what was then the Busch (now Xfinity) Series, making his full-time debut in that series the following year driving for his father's team. After that team ran into financial problems in 2003; Vickers got hired by Rick Hendrick to replace his son Ricky in the #5 GMAC-sponsored Chevrolet as the younger Hendrick decided to move to an ownership role, winning 3 races and becoming the youngest Busch Series champion up to then at the age of 20. Vickers moved to a full-time Cup Series ride in 2004 and finished 3rd in that circuit's Rookie of the Year vote. Vickers' first Cup Series win was in the 2005 Nextel Opennote  by dumping teammate Mike Bliss on the final lap (Vickers would finish 3rd in the All-Star Race). More controversy came the following year when Vickersnote  decided during the fall 2006 race at Talladega to dump teammate Jimmie Johnson to take his first points-paying win; though getting blasted by the media and Johnson (whose crew chief, Chad Knaus, would say that Vickers "ran out of talent"). 2007 saw Vickers move to upstart Red Bull Racing; one of the first teams to field Toyotas in NASCAR, and the change appeared promising with Vickers scoring Toyota's first Top 10, Top 5 and first laps led; though the Top 5 - at the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte - was a disappointing finish after Vickers led 70 laps before his power steering failed and Vickers ended up failing to qualify for 13 races. 2008 saw history repeat again at the Coca-Cola 600 when Vickers led 63 laps before disaster struck (this time, losing a left rear tire). 2009 saw Vickers make the Chase for the Cup on the strength of 6 polesnote  and his second career winnote ; ultimately finishing a career-best 12th in points. However, in May 2010, Vickers missed the spring Dover race due to blood clots in his legs and - more seriously - near his lungs, ultimately missing the remainder of the season. Vickers returned in 2011 but despite 7 Top 10 finishes a series of wrecks led to his finish 25th. Red Bull Racing closed its doors after 2011; but instead of moving to BK Racingnote  Vickers left for Michael Waltrip Racing, running part-time in 2012 and then (after a stint as a substitute driver for an injured Denny Hamlin) returning in 2013; picking up his third career win and securing a full-time ride for 2014 and 2015, only to be embroiled in the Spingate controversynote ; which was followed by another blood clot ending his season (by which time Vickers did commercials for the prescription blood thinner Xarelto). Vickers ran the 2014 season but missed much of 2015 due to health reasons, this time a patch inserted into a hole in the heart during his initial health troubles in 2010 being rejected by his body. After Michael Waltrip Racing closed in 2015; Vickers last raced in 2016 as a substitute driver for Tony Stewart. Vickers was last known to be working as an interior decorator; but found himself at the center of controversy in 2019 when it was revealed that Vickers' wife, Sarah Kellen, had been a scheduler under the alias Sarah Kensington for sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein but had received immunity as part of Epstein's non-prosecution deal. While whether Vickers had any involvement himself is unknown; his decision to go dark on social media raised a number of eyebrows.
  • The Wallace family:
    • Rusty Wallace (1955–) is the oldest and most successful of the Wallace brothers. A native of Arnold, Missouri; a small-town just outside of St. Louis, Wallace - after racing in Florida and winning the United States Auto Club Rookie of the Year honors in 1979, made his NASCAR debut in the Atlanta 500 spring race in 1980; where driving for Roger Penske, he finished 2nd to a driver whose fortunes would be linked with Wallace for years to come - Dale Earnhardt. Wallace would make his full-time NASCAR debut in 1984, driving for Cliff Stewart in the #88 Gatorade-sponsored Pontiac Grand Prixnote  and went on to win Rookie of the Year honors. 1985 saw Stewart switch sponsors (to Alugard) and car numbers (to #2). In 1986; Wallace moved to Raymond Beadle's Blue Max Racing to replace Tim Richmond, and Wallace would claim his first career victory at the spring race at Bristol, ultimately finishing 6th in the points. 1987 saw Wallace switch to Kodiak chewing tobacco, adding two more victories and his first career pole. 1988 would be Wallace's breakout season with 6 victoriesnote  including the last race held at Riverside International Raceway and the season-finale at Atlanta; ultimately finishing 2nd to Bill Elliott in points by a margin of 24. Wallace would also experience a close brush with death in 1988 when - after choking on a ham sandwich - Wallace lost control in an August practice session in Bristol and crashed into the Turn 4 wall; resulting in rescue workers plus ESPN pit road reporter Dr. Jerry Punch (who had trained as an emergency medical physician) having to rush to save Wallace's life. 1989 saw Wallace win another 6 racesnote  plus the Winston All-Star Race after spinning out Darrell Waltrip on the final lapnote ; this time managing to hold off Earnhardt for the championship by just 12 points, in the process making Wallace the last driver to win a championship with primary sponsorship from a tobacco brand. However, Wallace and Beadle had been feuding during 1989; and after the 1990 season (in which Wallace received new sponsorship from the company that would be his main sponsor for the remainder of his career: Miller Brewing) saw him win twice (including his only Crown Jewelnote  race win at the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte), Wallace took the Miller Genuine Draft sponsorship to Penske Racing, adding 2 more wins in 1991. After slipping to just 1 victory in 1992; Wallace rebounded with a career-high 10 victories (despite being involved in frightening crashes at the Daytona 500 and Winston 500 in Talladega) including the spring race at Bristol just days after defending race and Winston Cup champion Alan Kulwicki was killed in a plane crashnote ; the first race at the New Hampshire Speedway (just one day before Davey Allison lost his life in a helicopter crash) and the season finale at Atlanta, though it would not be enough to win his second championship, which saw Dale Earnhardtnote  win his 6th title. Wallace would win 8 races in 1994note  despite Team Penske switching from Pontiac to Ford; en route to finishing 3rd in points. In all; Wallace would win 55 racesnote  - 34 of them on short tracks such as Bristol and Martinsville; including being the winningest driver ever for the now-defunct Pontiac brand, 36 poles and holding the record for most wins at Richmond since the current configuration was used in 1988. After retiring in 2005; Wallace went into broadcasting, working races for ESPN and ABC before moving to the Motor Racing Network radio booth. Wallace was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2013.
    • Mike Wallace (1959–) is the middle of the Wallace brothers. Mike began his career as a journeyman, unable to get a regular Cup ride until Junie Donleavy hired him in 1994, with Mike finishing 5th in the Rookie of the Year standings and getting a Top 5 finish at the season finale in Atlanta. Mike would remain with the team until the cash-strapped Donleavy let him go midway through 1996, not getting another regular Cup ride until 2001; when Ultra Motorsports (who Mike drove for in the Truck Series), but despite finishing in the Top 10 in both Daytona races, inconsistent performances led to Mike moving to Team Penske; joining brother Rusty in the #12 Mobil Ford after Jeremy Mayfield was fired before moving on to Andy Petree Racing after Joe Nemechek left when sponsor Oakwood Homes ran into financial trouble. Despite racing in Cup until 2015; Mike would not have a steady ride in that circuit. He would have more success in the Xfinity and Truck series; collecting 4 victories and 66 Top 10's in the Xfinity Series and 5 wins, 56 Top 10's and 3 poles in the Truck Series.
    • Kenny Wallace (1963–) is the youngest of the Wallace brothers. Kenny started his career as a crew member for Joe Ruttman, then won the American Stock Association's Rookie of the Year honor in 1986 before moving to what was then the Busch Series after being offered an opportunity to drive Dale Earnhardt's Busch car before moving to the Busch Series full-time driving for older brother Rusty. 1990 saw Kenny make his Cup Series debut at North Wilkesboro; being involved in a late crash that led to Brett Bodine's lone victory. While running primarily in the Busch Series, Kenny also drove 2 races for Felix Sabates as a fill-in for an injured Kyle Petty in 1991; and Sabates remembered him to offer Kenny a ride in Team SABCO's 2nd car for 1993, finishing with 3 Top 10's. 1994 saw Kenny race for Filmar Racing in the Busch Series while finishing the year as a substitute driver for Robert Yates Racing as Ernie Irvan recovered from his near-fatal crash at Michigan. Filmar upped their team to run in Cup full-time from 1996-98 before Kenny left for Andy Petree (taking sponsor Square D electrical equipment with him) in 1999. Petree let Kenny go in 2000 following one Top 10 (the Winston 500 which was Dale Earnhardt's final victory). 2001 and 2002 saw Kenny focus mostly on the Busch Series while once again serving as a substitute; filling in for the likes of Steve Park in 2001note  and Kevin Harvick in 2002note ; ultimately racing in NASCAR until 2015. Like middle brother Mike, Kenny had most of his success outside the Cup Series, winning 9 races in what's now the Xfinity Series along with 173 Top 10's, 10 poles and finishing 2nd to Bobby Labonte in the Busch Series championship along with 4 Top 10's in the Truck Series. Like eldest brother Rusty; Kenny would go into broadcasting, working as a studio contributor for Fox coverage (including hosting NASCAR Raceday on Speed until that channel was folded into FOX Sports 1) from 2007 until he retired from broadcasting in 2018.
  • The Waltrip family:
    • Darrell Waltrip (1947–) started his Cup career in 1972 and raced his first full-time season in 1976. He was initially one of NASCAR's most polarizing drivers thanks to a take-no-prisoners driving style, but cleaned up his image and driving style after a harrowing wreck in the 1983 Daytona 500. By the end of the '80s, he became one of the circuit's most popular drivers, taking home the most popular driver award in 1989-90 after Rusty Wallace spun Waltrip in The Winston, resulting in Waltrip giving Wallace a tongue-lashing with the infamous "I hope he chokes on the 200 thousand". A three-time Cup Series champion (1981, 1982, 1985), he also won the 1989 Daytona 500, a record 12 races at Bristol, a record five Coca-Cola 600s, and in one of his non-title seasons (1983), had a modern-day record of 23 top-five finishes. He retired from racing in 2000 with 84 Cup wins, a modern-era record now held by Jeff Gordon, and moved to the broadcast booth, serving as Fox's lead analyst from 2001 until retiring from that role at the end of the 2019 season. During his time in the booth, he was in the NASCAR HOF's 2012 class. Waltrip voiced race commentator Darrell Cartrip in all three films of the Cars franchise, notably using his most famous catchphrase from his Fox days: "Boogity, boogity, boogity – let's go racing, boys!"
    • Michael Waltrip (1963–), Darrell's younger brother, is one of NASCAR's biggest examples of Overshadowed by Awesome. Debuting in 1985 and running his first full season in 1986, he never finished higher than 12th in the series standings, but did one-up his brother in one respect: two of his four Cup Series wins were in the Daytona 500. Sadly, the first is all but forgotten as it was also the one in which his car owner, the elder Dale Earnhardt, had his fatal crash just before Waltrip took the checkered flag. (The second was in 2003.) Even after running his last full-time season in 2009, he remained active as a Cup driver, mostly running only the Daytona 500, until 2017. During that time, he also ran his own NASCAR team, but had a Never Live It Down episode in 2013 when the team was one of three involved in a scheme to manipulate the results of the last pre-Chase race. Now races in SRX. As an aside, he's easy to spot at a racers' event, as he is 6 feet 5 inches tall (196 centimeters for metric folks), large for anyone but absolutely huge for a race driver (though he's not as hefty as Tiny Lund, also 6'5", was).
  • William Caleb "Cale" Yarborough (1939–) developed a love for stock-car racing at an early age by managing to sneak into the 2nd running of the Southern 500 at Darlington in Yarborough's native South Carolina. After being a high-school football star who briefly played semi-pro football and becoming a Golden Gloves boxer; Yarborough first attempted to enter the Southern 500 as a teenager but was caught lying about his age and disqualified; resulting in his waiting until 1957 (at the same event) to make his debut. Yarborough would not get a full-time ride until 1963 and collected his first victory in Valdosta, GA in 1965. Yarborough would find consistent success and stability in 1968 after joining the Wood Brothers team, and despite running in only 17 racesnote , won 6 races; including the Daytona 500note ; the Firecracker 400 on July 4 and his first Southern 500 victory on Labor Daynote ; remaining with Wood Brothers until 1970 due to Ford withdrawing manufacturer support, and after four races driving Plymouths for Ray Fox in 1971; Yarborough turned his focus to U.S. Auto Club racing, or USAC, before returning to NASCAR full-time for 1973, making every racenote  driving for Howard & Edgerton Racing as well as being the first driver to lead every lap in a Cup Series race at the spring Bristol race. 1974 would see Yarborough win a career-high 10 races but finish 2nd by nearly 600 points to Richard Pettynote ; a season that saw Junior Johnson buy the team. 1975 saw Yarborough struggle until gaining sponsorship by poultry supplier Holly Farmsnote  before hitting his stride in the late 1970s; winning 9 races in 1976 and 1977 (including his 2nd Daytona 500; Yarborough would also become the first of only two drivers to win the championship and finish every race; a feat matched only by Bobby Labonte in 2000) and tying a career-high 10 wins in 1978; winning the Winston Cup championship all three years. 1979 would see Yarborough finish 4th in the points, though that season was best remembered for his last lap crash with Donnie Allison at the Daytona 500 and the subsequent fight between the two and Donnie's brother Bobby. 1980 would mark Cale's last season with Junior Johnson and last full-time season; but he went out strong, winning 6 races and a modern-era record 14 pole positions; narrowly losing the championship by 19 points to 2nd-year driver Dale Earnhardt. Despite moving to a part-time career; Cale would collect 5 wins in a 2-year span with M.C. Anderson (including his final Southern 500 victory in 1982) before moving to the Hardee's-sponsored Ranier-Lundy Racing after the Anderson team shuttered; racing there from 1983-86, including winning the 1983 and 1984 Daytona 500s to become the second driver to win back-to-back Daytona 500snote , the 1984 Winston 500 at Talladega (which had a then-record 75 lead changes) and his final victory in the fall Charlotte race in 1985 for a total of 83 victories. After buying Jack Beebe's Race Hill Farm team in 1986; Yarborough ran his final two seasons as an owner-driver, bringing the Hardee's sponsorship with him before retiring after 1988. Yarborough would have much less success as a car owner, with only one victory in the 1997 Pepsi 400 in Daytona before selling the team in mid-2000 due to financial troubles. Outside of NASCAR; Yarborough dabbled in local politics as the first Republican member of Florence County's County Council since Reconstruction in 1972 (though he would later be re-elected as a Democrat and was a close supporter of Jimmy Carter during Carter's successful campaign for President in 1976); won the International Race of Champions title in 1984 and ran 4 Indianapolis 500's in 1966-67 and 1971-72, with the last race being his best Indy finish at 10th place. Yarborough would be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2012. No relation to LeeRoy below.
  • LeeRoy Yarbrough (1938–1984), no relation to Cale above, was a tragic case of a driver whose career was cut short. He never ran a full season in his brief tenure, but his 1969 season was his best as he finished 16th in the standings while winning 7 of the 30 races he entered, including the Daytona 500, the Worldnote  600, Southern 500 and a sweep of the Darlington events while racing for Junior Johnson. In 1970, he was the victim of bad circumstances involving Ford withdrawing factory support and a terrible crash that left him in a memory lock as he remembered nothing from 1970 onwards. He retired in 1973, but his health continued to worsen. In 1980, he was found not competent to stand trial in the attempted strangulation of his mother and an assault on a police officer, forcing him to live out the remainder of his life in mental hospitals until he died in 1984 from a seizure that caused internal bleeding in his brain.

NASCAR is frequently the victim of snark and Public Medium Ignorance, ranging from light jabs (such as the worn-to-death "left turn contest" crack that provides the page image for the latter) to vicious attacks on both the sport and its fans. A backronym popularized among NASCAR's vocal detractors is "Non-Athletic Sport Centered Around Rednecks", which perfectly crystallizes the most common complaints about the sport; some have even stated that NASCAR (along with all forms of motorsport) are not sports because they don't involve physical activitynote  and/or a ball, and isn't an Olympic sports. Because of its roots in the rural South, NASCAR is heavily associated with stereotypes of that region (see Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, an Affectionate Parody of the sport, for one of the canonical examples). Even if you are an Ivy League grad from Boston, admitting to being a NASCAR fan is an easy way to get called a redneck, although this is becoming less the case as the sport's popularity spreads beyond the South.

If you do choose to become a NASCAR fan, be advised that its fans are as unpleaseable as Sonic the Hedgehog and Star Wars fans.

In addition, a fair number of motorsport fans, particularly European ones (among them the hosts of Top Gearnote ), like to contend that NASCAR requires less skill than other motorsports like Formula One and rally racing, as nearly all of the races take place on oval circuits instead of the more technical road courses found outside NASCAR. While the courses may be "simpler" from a technical standpoint, they require a completely different set of skills to race successfully on; a fair number of Formula One drivers have floundered when making the jump to NASCAR because they underestimated how big a shift this is, only finding any success on what few road courses NASCAR visits; the only open-wheel driver who made the jump to NASCAR and flourished is Tony Stewartnote , who won 49 races, three Cup Series championships, and now owns one of the top teams in NASCAR (though he never won the Daytona 500 in his career, being known as "The Greatest Driver to Never Win the Daytona 500"note ).