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.
We’ve already discussed some of NASCAR’s great offspring of fellow legends. This time, let’s go down the rabbit hole of drivers who shared parents, instead.
Few drivers in NASCAR history have had a more whirlwind, rollercoaster career journey than Kurt Busch.
The elder Busch brother burst onto the scene with Roush Racing, running a full-time season in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2000 and winning four races while finishing runner-up in points. He impressed owner Jack Roush enough to get a promotion all the way to the NASCAR Cup Series in 2001.
Following an underwhelming rookie season with only six top 10s in 2001, Busch experienced a sophomore surge with four wins, 12 top fives and 20 top 10s the next year, placing third in points. He went on to win at least three races in each of the next three seasons in the No. 97 Ford, capturing his lone Cup championship in 2004.
After a falling out with Roush at the end of 2005, Busch drove for Team Penske
from 2006-2011, all but one of those years in the iconic No. 2 Ford. While his Penske
stint was not as successful as his time with Roush, Busch still secured 10 wins in six seasons, visiting victory lane at least once in each of those seasons and a best points finish of fourth in 2009.
After Penske, Busch endured back-to-back winless seasons with underfunded teams, first in 2012 with Phoenix Racing and then in 2013 with Furniture Row Racing. However, Busch did get 11 top fives and 16 top 10s in 2013, which was enough to catch the eye of Gene Haas for a ride with Stewart-Haas Racing in the No. 41 car.
At SHR, he went through a career renaissance, winning at least one race and placing in the top 15 in points every year from 2014-2021.
Busch’s full-time NASCAR career came to an abrupt pause in 2022 due to a concussion sustained in a crash during qualifying at Pocono Raceway. As the 2023 season begins, he still has designs on racing but has not been able to set a return. -Andrew Stoddard
As great as Kurt Busch’s career has been, his younger brother Kyle Busch has been even better.
While his behavior and feuds have made him a lightning rod of controversy with fans, there is no denying his talent and accomplishments.
Busch’s 60 Cup wins put him in a tie for ninth on the all-time wins list with Kevin Harvick, and he is the winningest driver in both the NASCAR Xfinity Series and
Truck Series, with 102 and 62 victories in each, respectively.
After a brief Truck stint with Roush Racing that was cut short by age restrictions,
Busch’s full-time journey into NASCAR began in 2003 in the Xfinity Series, followed by a five-win full-time Xfinity season for Hendrick Motorsports in 2004, finishing runner-up in points behind Martin Truex Jr.
That was more than enough to warrant a promotion to the Cup Series in Hendrick’s iconic No. 5 Chevrolet in 2005, when he became the youngest winner in Cup history at the time with a triumph at Auto Club Speedway.
Despite six wins in three seasons, Busch was let go from Hendrick at the conclusion of the 2007 season. He signed with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008 to pilot its flagship No. 18 Toyota, and that is when his career really took off.
Right out of the gate, Busch won eight races in 2008. And his peak moment with JGR came in 2015 when, after missing the first 11 races with a broken leg and a foot after an Xfinity crash at Daytona International Speedway, he rallied for five wins in 25 races, including the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway to capture the first of his two championships.
Busch is one of only 17 drivers with multiple Cup titles, and his active streak of
18 consecutive Cup seasons with a win is tied with Richard Petty for the longest streak all time.
At the end of 2022, Busch departed Gibbs and will drive the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing in 2023.
While Busch’s racing resume already makes him a surefire first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, he looks to still have several years — and wins — in front of him. -AS
Fonty Flock was one of the true stars of the early years of Bill France’s promoting days. In 1947, Flock won the National Championship Stock Car Circuit title, which was essentially NASCAR but without the name.
As Red Byron motored to the first Cup championship in 1949, Flock finished fifth in Cup points but won the Modified championship. Unlike Byron, who faded away quickly in the 1950s, Flock’s best years were still ahead.
In 1951, Flock won eight of 34 starts and finished second in points to Herb Thomas. Flock may have had the championship if it wasn’t for Thomas and crew chief/co-owner Smokey Yunick getting a huge boost in the second half of the season with their premiere of the Fabulous Hudson Hornet.
1952 was the year of the Flocks. Big brother Bob Flock scored what ended up being his final Cup victory, little brother Tim Flock cruised to a championship by holding off both Thomas and Lee Petty, and Fonty won the Southern 500. At the time, that Darlington Raceway event was the lone big track on the Cup schedule, so taking that win was a massive deal.
The colorful Flock, wearing his trademark Bermuda shorts, had what was the first notable post-race celebration outside of victory lane. Flock parked on the frontstretch at the finish line much like Cup drivers do today, climbed onto the hood and led the crowd of 32,400 in the singing of “Dixie.”
Five years following his victory, Flock’s career ended after a horrible crash on lap 27 of the very same race. It was a wreck that left both Flock and Paul Goldsmith injured and took the life of Bobby Myers. It was a terrible end to a legendary career. -Michael Finley
The famous story of Curtis Turner’s exile from NASCAR after creating a drivers’ union with the help of the Teamsters often forgets the second driver who signed off on the plan: Fort Payne, Ala.’s Tim Flock.
Flock was an unquestionable star of NASCAR’s early years, a two-time series champion, two-time winner on Daytona Beach and the most successful member of the Flock racing family, scoring 39 wins in Grand National competition before Bill France forced his retirement in 1961.
His first win came in 1950 behind the wheel of a Lincoln, but by 1952 he’d sourced one of the dominant factory-prepared Hudson Hornets. Flock won the series-opening race at Palm Beach Speedway from the pole, and then six more times en route to his first championship.
In 1955 he swapped the Hudson for one of Carl Kiekhaefer’s Chrysler 300s and won 20 poles and 18 races, both NASCAR records at the time, before walking away from the team at the end of the season. His final victory, in 1956, was in the inaugural Cup race at Road America.
But of course, we have to talk about the monkey. In 1953, defending Grand National champion Flock drove a number of mid-season races with a rhesus monkey named Jocko Flocko in the passenger seat of his No. 91 Hudson. On May 16, 1953, Flock won at Hickory Motor Speedway. To date, it is the only NASCAR win to have featured a co-driver (a co-driver who was, I repeat, a monkey).
Jocko might have gotten to lift a second trophy two weeks later at Raleigh Speedway, had he not broken out of his cage and been hit in the face with a small rock. Flock, leading the race at the time, had to make an unscheduled pit stop to remove the angry monkey loose in his racecar and finished the day in third. -Jack Swansey
Like many racing siblings, Bobby Labonte followed in the footsteps of a successful older brother, in his case Terry Labonte. But the Corpus Christi native was determined to be successful in his own right.
The younger Labonte didn’t race full time on the Xfinity tour until 1990, when he was 26 years old. Despite not winning that year, he led the points for five weeks, ultimately finishing fifth in points. 1991 brought not only his first two wins in his family-owned car but also the series title. The following season saw three more wins and a runner-up points finish.
His Xfinity success brought an opportunity to run for the Cup Rookie of the Year title in 1993 with Bill Davis. However, he wound up second in the rookie battle to Jeff Gordon.
1994 brought similar results, as Labonte spent the season piling up midpack finishes, with just a single top five over the course of his first two years in Cup.
The move that would change everything for him came prior to 1995. Dale Jarrett vacated the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18, and Gibbs tapped Labonte as his replacement. The team-up was nothing short of spectacular, as Labonte captured his first win in the 1995 Coca Cola 600. He proved that it was no fluke either, sweeping both races at Michigan International Speedway later that summer.
He picked up nine more victories by the end of 1999, including winning one race at Atlanta Motor Speedway for four consecutive years. Additionally, Labonte wound up 11th or better in points at the conclusion of each of his first seven years with JGR.
Labonte finally claimed the Cup championship in 2000 on the strength of four wins and 24 top-10 finishes. He won five more times over the ensuing three years, the last of which was the 2003 finale at Homestead.
A 2005 triumph at Martinsville made Labonte just the 12th driver to win a Cup, Xfinity and Truck race but the first ever to win at the same track in all three divisions.
Departing from JGR after the 2005 season, Labonte continued to race full time until 2012. After just a handful of Cup appearances during the previous four years, he made his final start at Talladega in 2016.
He joined Terry in the NASCAR Hall of Fame as part of the 2020 induction class. -Frank Velat
It all began in the 1978 Southern 500, when Texas’ Terry Labonte scored a fourth-place finish in his first Cup start. Two years later, Labonte came back to Darlington and earned his first win, slipping past David Pearson at the last second in a duel back to the race- ending caution flag. A legend was born.
Throughout his long career, Labonte was known both as the Iceman and the Ironman. Iceman came from his cool demeanor away from the track and his unshakable nerve in the driver’s seat. He picked up Ironman by surpassing Richard Petty’s record for most consecutive starts, running a special silver paint scheme at North Wilkesboro Speedway in spring 1996 to commemorate the achievement. Labonte won that race too.
Labonte set another impressive record in 1996 by winning his second championship 12 years after his first. His 1984 title, racing for team owner Billy Hagan, came on the strength of two wins, 17 top fives and 24 top 10s in 30 races. Labonte went through some ups and downs in the years that followed before joining Hendrick Motorsports in 1994. The union with Hendrick’s team breathed new life into Labonte’s career, allowing him another shot at the championship.
Competing with a broken hand for the final two races of the season, Labonte beat teammate Jeff Gordon by 37 points to win his second title.
From 1995-1998, Labonte was the only driver other than Gordon to hoist the Winston Cup.
Fittingly, the last of Labonte’s 22 Cup victories came in the 2003 Southern 500. Though 2003 was his last full-time season, he made periodic appearances in the Cup Series through 2014.
His final career numbers include 890 starts over 37 seasons. Clearly, the Ironman
was worthy of his name. -Bryan Gable
Frontstretch‘s 75 Greatest NASCAR Drivers
Champions of the 2010s & Beyond
Martin Truex Jr.
The Next Generation
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Masters of the Modifieds
Ron Hornaday Jr.
Gone Too Soon
Stars of the ’60s & ’70s
Stars of the ’80s & ’90s
Stars From 1949-1960
??? (Feb. 9)
Jacks of All Trades
??? (Feb. 10)
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