Race Weekend Central

NASCAR’s 75 Greatest Drivers: Generation X

NASCAR is celebrating its 75th anniversary all throughout the 2023 season.

In 1998, NASCAR had a panel select a list of its 50 greatest drivers for its golden anniversary.

Likewise, we at Frontstretch decided to put together our own list of the 75 greatest NASCAR drivers in honor of this year’s milestone. Seventeen of our writers weighed in to pick the final 75, and we’ll be releasing four to seven drivers from that list every weekday for the next three weeks.

Similar to the one in 1998, this list is not a ranking of the top-75 drivers. Instead, we’ve broken the list down into categories, with a new category released each day (see the full list below). Within those categories, the drivers are listed in alphabetical order.

Up next: the stars of Generation X.

Greg Biffle

Trifectas of many ilks exist in NASCAR, but Greg Biffle might have one of the most unique: he claimed a championship, Most Popular Driver and Rookie of the Year titles in the NASCAR Xfinity and Craftsman Truck series as he rose through the sport’s ranks.

Once he arrived in the NASCAR Cup Series, Biffle drove full time for 13 seasons, scoring 19 wins for Roush Racing at NASCAR’s premier level. In lower series, his stats are undeniable: 20 Xfinity wins, 17 Truck victories and enviable top-10 stats: 149 top 10s in 244 appearances in the former, 55 top 10s in 83 starts in the latter.

Biffle won two Southern 500s, claiming the duo of crown-jewel victories in back-to-back years; the former of those came in a six-win, 21-top-10 2005 effort, which propelled the No. 16 to a second-place finish in the standings.

Additionally, as former fellow Roush driver and action sports legend Travis Pastrana prepares to return to NASCAR, Biffle has made his own ventures in the opposite direction: IROC, the 24 Hours of Daytona, Stadium Super Trucks and the Camping World SRX Series all dot his resume.

More recently, a much-heralded return to the Truck Series in 2019 came with Kyle Busch Motorsports at Texas Motor Speedway. Biffle led twice for 18 laps and won the damn thing. Age isn’t a detriment for the now-53-year-old. -Adam Cheek

See also
NASCAR's 75 Greatest Drivers: The Legends

Carl Edwards

A former substitute teacher from Columbia, Mo., Carl Edwards took the competition to school during a NASCAR career that spanned 15 years and included 72 wins across NASCAR’s three national-touring series, with 28 coming in the NASCAR Cup Series, 38 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and six in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

Edwards started out in 2002 with Roush, making seven Truck starts with one top-
10 at his home track at Kansas Speedway. When Roush parted ways with Jeff Burton midway through 2004, the then-25 year old Edwards suddenly found himself in the Cup Series, acquitting himself well with a third-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway and five top 10s in 13 Cup races in 2004.

Edwards broke through in his first full-time season in 2005, edging out Jimmie Johnson for his first career win at Atlanta, one of four victories on his way to a third-place points finish. Edwards’ winningest season came in 2008, when he led the Cup Series with a staggering nine trips to victory lane, placing runner-up in the standings to Johnson.

Edwards is considered one of the greatest drivers to never win a Cup championship, finishing in the top five in points six times in his 12 full-time seasons (2005, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2015 and 2016). The closest of those calls occurred in 2011 when he tied in points with Tony Stewart but lost out via a tiebreaker of most season wins, only winning once to Stewart’s five.

In January 2017, Edwards shocked the NASCAR world by retiring from NASCAR competition seemingly in his prime, only two months removed from a three-win season and Championship 4 appearance in 2016. He hasn’t returned since. -Andrew Stoddard

Denny Hamlin

A Cup veteran entering his 18th full-time season, Denny Hamlin has become the
figurehead driver of Joe Gibbs Racing, the same team he has competed for his entire Cup career.

Hamlin began racing stock cars at the age of 16 and won both his first pole and race in his debut start at his home track of Langley Speedway. After winning over 30 combined late-model races in 2002 and 2003, Hamlin was signed on by JGR as a development driver in 2004.

The Chesterfield, Va., racer impressed early on by earning a top 10 in his first NASCAR Xfinity Series start at Darlington Raceway in 2004. The following year, Hamlin not only ran full time in the second-tier series, earning 11 top 10s and finishing fifth in the standings, he also competed in seven Cup races for JGR after Jason Leffler was let go near the end of the season. During that time, he
earned three top 10s and a pole at Phoenix Raceway in the No. 11 FedEx car – the same ride he drives to this day.

In his rookie Cup year of 2006, Hamlin swept both Pocono Raceway wins and finished third in points, earning him Rookie of the Year honors.

Four years later, Hamlin had a breakout season. With a career-best eight wins in one year, he entered the final race with a 15-point lead over Jimmie Johnson, only losing the title after an early spin cost him his chance.

With a whopping 48 wins, including three Daytona 500 victories, 312 top 10s and eight top-five championship results, Hamlin is statistically one of the greatest drivers to have not won a Cup title.

At least not yet. -Dalton Hopkins

Kasey Kahne

Tapped to replace Bill Elliott in the Cup Series in 2004, Kasey Kahne emerged onto NASCAR’s premier stage relatively unknown. However, it did not take long for fans to become familiar with him.

The Enumclaw, Wash,. native spent time with Evernham Motorsports, Richard Petty Motorsports, Red Bull Racing, Hendrick Motorsports and Leavine Family Racing over 15 seasons.

After winning the 2004 Rookie of the Year award in Evernham’s No. 9 Dodge, Kahne finally broke through for his first win at Richmond Raceway in 2005 after scoring six runner-up finishes. That transitioned into a 2006 season that saw him win a series-leading six races. During that season, he won his first Coca-Cola 600, a race he conquered three times to tie him for the third-most 600 wins. In 2008, he became the first and only driver so far to win after transferring in from the fan vote.

His first season with Hendrick saw him instantly compete for a championship, earning a career-high fourth-place points finish. Kahne’s run at Hendrick saw him win six races and make the playoffs four times, including an illustrious final victory in a chaotic 2017 Brickyard 400.

Kahne’s success also expanded beyond the Cup level. He won eight races in the Xfinity Series and nearly had a perfect record in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, winning five of his six starts.

Kahne was forced to retire on the Cup level during the 2018 season due to dehydration issues. However, that and his under-the-radar persona shouldn’t overshadow his success, recording 18 Cup wins, 93 top fives, 176 top 10s, 27 poles and 4,678 laps led.

The 42-year-old continues to oversee and race for Kasey Kahne Racing in the World of Outlaws, a five-time champion organization. -Luken Glover

See also
NASCAR's 75 Greatest Drivers: The GOATs

Ryan Newman

Known as the Rocket Man for his engineering background and qualifying prowess, Ryan Newman stood as one of the great Cup drivers of the 2000s.

In 20 full-time Cup seasons, Newman visited victory lane 18 times with 117 top fives and 268 top 10s in 725 career starts. His 51 career poles rank him ninth all time in Cup history.

A native of Rushville, Ind., Newman’s career peaked during his first seven seasons with Team Penske, piloting the No. 12 ALLTEL Ford. He finished in the top 10 in points in each of his first three seasons.

During his rookie campaign in 2002, Newman picked up his first career win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and edged out future seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson for Cup Rookie of the Year honors.

Newman’s highest win total came in 2003, claiming eight checkered flags and placing sixth in the standings. He followed that up with a two-win season in 2004 and became one of the 10 drivers in the inaugural series playoffs.

In 2008, Newman began his final season with Penske by adding a
Daytona 500 win to his racing resume.

After his Penske years, Newman went on to drive for three other teams. From 2009-2013, Newman joined forces with Tony Stewart at the newly established Stewart-Haas Racing, getting one win per season from 2010-2013, most notably scoring the 2013 Brickyard 400.

From 2014-2018, Newman was behind the wheel of the No. 31 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. In 2014, despite going winless, Newman clinched a spot in the first-ever Championship 4, finishing a close second behind Kevin Harvick. His one win with RCR came at Phoenix Raceway in 2017.

In 2019, Newman moved over to the No. 6 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing and spent his final three seasons there. He went winless with Roush, and his most memorable moment with the team was getting injured in a last-lap wreck at the 2020 Daytona 500, missing the next four races.

Newman will always be remembered for his longevity in the sport and for being one of the best ever in qualifying. -AS

Frontstretch‘s 75 Greatest NASCAR Drivers

The GOATs
Dale Earnhardt
Jeff Gordon
Jimmie Johnson
David Pearson
Richard Petty

The Legends
Bobby Allison
Ned Jarrett
Rusty Wallace
Darrell Waltrip
Cale Yarborough

Generation X
Greg Biffle
Carl Edwards
Denny Hamlin
Kasey Kahne
Ryan Newman

Champions of the 2010s & Beyond
Brad Keselowski
Kyle Larson
Joey Logano
Martin Truex Jr.

The Next Generation
Buddy Baker
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Chase Elliott
Dale Jarrett

The Pioneers
Buck Baker
Red Byron
Lee Petty
Herb Thomas
Curtis Turner

Brotherly Love
Kurt Busch
Kyle Busch
Fonty Flock
Tim Flock
Bobby Labonte
Terry Labonte

Masters of the Modifieds
Jerry Cook
Richie Evans
Ray Hendrick
Mike Stefanik

Lower-Series Lifers
Sam Ard
Matt Crafton
Red Farmer
Ron Hornaday Jr.
Jack Ingram
Jack Sprague

Exceptional Longevity
Bill Elliott
Harry Gant
Kevin Harvick
Matt Kenseth
Mark Martin
Ricky Rudd

Gone Too Soon
Davey Allison
Neil Bonnett
Alan Kulwicki
Tiny Lund
Tim Richmond
Fireball Roberts
Joe Weatherly

Stars of the ’60s & ’70s
Bobby Isaac
Fred Lorenzen
Benny Parsons
Jim Paschal
LeeRoy Yarbrough

Stars of the ’80s & ’90s
Geoff Bodine
Jeff Burton
Ernie Irvan
Sterling Marlin

Stars From 1949-1960
??? (Feb. 9)

Jacks of All Trades
??? (Feb. 10)

About the author

Adam Cheek joined Frontstretch as a contributing writer in January 2019. A 2020 graduate of VCU, he works as a producer and talent for Audacy Richmond's radio stations. In addition to motorsports journalism, Adam also covered and broadcasted numerous VCU athletics for the campus newspaper and radio station during his four years there. He's been a racing fan since the age of three, inheriting the passion from his grandfather, who raced in amateur events up and down the East Coast in the 1950s.

Andrew Stoddard joined Frontstretch in May of 2022 as an iRacing contributor. He is a graduate of Hampden-Sydney College, the University of Richmond, and VCU. He has a new day job as an athletic communications specialist at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va.

Dalton Hopkins began writing for Frontstretch in April 2021. Currently, he is the lead writer for the weekly Thinkin' Out Loud column and one of our lead reporters. Beforehand, he wrote for IMSA shortly after graduating from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 2019. Simultaneously, he also serves as a First Lieutenant in the US Army.

Follow Dalton on Twitter @PitLaneLT

Luken Glover joined the Frontstretch team in 2020 as a contributor, furthering a love for racing that traces back to his earliest memories. Glover inherited his passion for racing from his grandfather, who used to help former NASCAR team owner Junie Donlavey in his Richmond, Va. garage. A 2023 graduate from the University of the Cumberlands, Glover is the author of "The Underdog House," contributes to commentary pieces, and does occasional at-track reporting. Additionally, Glover enjoys working in ministry, coaching basketball, playing sports, and karting.

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