Most Underrated NASCAR Drivers of All Time
NASCAR started when a ragtag group of drivers ran in the famed "Race No. 1" in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1949. Those humble beginnings gave little indication of the global behemoth the company would one day become.
As NASCAR's popularity grew, so did the popularity of its drivers. Some of them became international superstars for their ability to create magic on the racetrack. But some drivers didn't get the spotlight they deserve.
These are the most underrated NASCAR drivers of all time.
Honorable Mention: Chris Buescher
Born: Oct. 29, 1992 (Prosper, Texas)
NASCAR racing career: 2009-present
Career highlights: ARCA Racing Series champion (2012), NASCAR Xfinity Series Rookie of the Year (2011), Pennsylvania 400 champion (2016)
Bottom line: Chris Buescher worked his way up the racing ranks as the NASCAR Xfinity Series Rookie of the Year in 2011 before winning an Xfinity Series title in 2015.
Buescher made the leap to NASCAR's top division after winning the Xfinity Series title and has 20 top-10 finishes in the last five years, including a win at the Pennsylvania 400 in 2016.
Buescher bounced back from his time off during the pandemic to finish 2020 with a career-high eight top-10 finishes in the season. That was double his previous best season in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Honorable Mention: Regan Smith
Born: Sept. 23, 1983 (Cato, New York)
NASCAR racing career: 17 seasons (2002-19)
Career highlights: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year (2008), NASCAR Nationwide Series Most Popular Driver (2013), Southern 500 champion (2011)
Bottom line: Regan Smith began his NASCAR career in the Craftsman Truck Series at just 18 years old and moved up to the Busch Series the next year.
Smith was named NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year in 2008 after he became the first rookie driver on the circuit to finish every race he entered in his first season.
Part of Smith's problem was finding the right opportunity, but when he went back to the Nationwide Series in 2013, he began to have immediate success.
30. Landon Cassill
Born: July 7, 1999 (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)
NASCAR racing career: 2007-22
Career highlights: NASCAR Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year (2008)
Bottom line: There's being underrated, and there's just not being a factor because you never win. Cassill might tend to swing toward the latter on some occasions.
One thing Cassill has shown to have is staying power. He was named NASCAR Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year in 2008 at 19 years old.
Cassill's struggles have been in pushing himself away from the middle of the pack. He's got 14 finishes in the Top 10 in 144 starts on the Xfinity Series. Where he's really shown some staying power is in the NASCAR Cup Series, where he made 324 starts over 10 seasons. But he has never finished higher than 29th.
29. J.J. Yeley
Born: Oct. 5, 1976 (Phoenix, Arizona)
NASCAR racing career: 2004-present
Career highlights: USAC Triple Crown champion (2003), two-time National Sprint Car Hall of Fame Non-Winged Driver of the Year (2002, 2003)
Bottom line: J.J. Yeley — that's short for Jimmy Jack — was just the second racer in history to win the United States Auto Club Triple Crown following Tony Stewart in 1995. Yeley actually started off in the Indy Racing League and even posted a top-10 finish at the Indianapolis 500 in 1998.
Yeley made the leap to NASCAR in 2004 and has 54 top-10 finishes across both the NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series since then.
Yeley might not have the wins that some other drivers on this list have racked up but he's been full-time in a car for most of his career and was the driver for Rick Ware Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2020.
28. Jamie McMurray
Born: June 3, 1976 (Joplin, Missouri)
NASCAR racing career: 16 seasons (2003-19)
Career highlights: Daytona 500 champion (2010), Brickyard 400 champion (2010), Sprint Showdown champion (2013), Sprint All-Star Race champion (2014), Rolex 24 at Daytona champion (2015), NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year (2003)
Bottom line: Jamie McMurray was the World Go-Kart champion when he was 15 years old, and just seven years later, he was bringing home NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year honors.
McMurray fans won't buy that he's underrated, and they've got a good case. He won the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 in 2010 and won the Sprint All-Star Race in 2014.
Despite being a model of consistency, the Missouri native was never quite able to punch his way through into that level of superstardom that some of his contemporaries managed to reach.
27. Dick Hutcherson
Born: Nov. 30, 1931 (Keokuk, Iowa)
Died: Nov. 6, 2005 (age 73, Columbia, South Carolina)
NASCAR racing career: 1964-67
Career highlights: NASCAR Cup Series runner-up (1965)
Bottom line: Few careers have been as short and packed with as much success as Iowa native Dick Hutcherson, who only raced in the NASCAR Cup Series for four seasons but racked up 14 wins and 73 top-10 finishes in that time.
Hutcherson finished as NASCAR Cup Series runner-up in 1965 and third in 1967 before he retired to focus on his chassis-building business. In short order, Hutcherson became crew chief for his friend and fellow NASCAR driver David Pearson in 1968 and won back-to-back Cup Series titles.
Hutcherson, who was also in the Elvis Presley film "Speedway" in 1968, expanded his business and went on to build cars for some of the greatest race car drivers of all time.
26. Aric Almirola
Born: March 14, 1984 (Fort Walton Beach, Florida)
NASCAR racing career: 2006-present
Career highlights: Coke Zero 400 champion (2014), 1000Bulbs.com 500 champion (2018), NASCAR All-Star Race champion (2021)
Bottom line: Aric Almirola was born in Florida but is of Cuban descent and became one of the first NASCAR drivers to come out of the Driver for Diversity program in the early 2000s under the tutelage of a team co-owned by NFL Hall of Famers Joe Gibbs and the late Reggie White.
Almirola has been a steady presence on NASCAR in the decade-plus since his first race in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2007. Since then, he's registered 353 starts in NASCAR's top division, with two wins and 79 top-10 finishes.
Almirola also has five wins and 76 top-10 finishes spread across NASCAR's Xfinity Series and Craftsman Truck Series.
25. Jerry Cook
Born: June 20, 1943 (Lockport, New York)
NASCAR racing career: 1963-82
Career highlights: Six-time NASCAR Modified Tour champion (1971-72, 1974-77), NASCAR Hall of Fame (2016), NASCAR 50 Greatest Drivers
Bottom line: Jerry Cook had most of his success on the NASCAR Modified Tour, where he was a six-time champion. He won those six titles in a seven-year stretch, only missing in 1973 when he went and raced in NASCAR's Winston Cup Series.
Cook began racing competitively when he was just 13 years old and won a staggering 342 times across all the divisions he raced as a professional out of 1,474 starts.
After his racing career was over, Cook had a long career as a respected NASCAR official.
24. Lake Speed
Born: Jan. 17, 1948 (Jackson, Mississippi)
NASCAR racing career: 1980-98
Career highlights: World Karting champion (1978), TransSouth 500 champion (1988)
Bottom line: If we ever do a NASCAR All-Name Team, please believe Lake Speed is going to be front and center. Speed has a great backstory. His father, Leland Speed, was a wealthy investment banker and the former mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, and was part of a large contingent of family members who did not want Lake Speed to pursue a career in racing.
He didn't listen, of course, and became the first American (and only until 2015) to win the World Karting Championship in 1978 and kicked off an 18-year NASCAR Cup Series career in 1980.
Speed tallied his only NASCAR Cup Series win in 1988 at the TransSouth 500, and had his best season in 1985 with a 10th-place finish in the final standings. All told, he had 75 top-10 finishes in 18 years.
23. Larry Phillips
Born: July 3, 1942 (Springfield, Missouri)
Died: Sept. 21, 2004 (age 62, Springfield, Missouri)
NASCAR racing career: 1976-96
Career highlights: Five-time NASCAR Winston Racing Series champion (1989, 1991, 1992, 1995, 1996), National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame (2001)
Bottom line: We may never get a good idea of how great a driver Larry Phillips was because he raced across so many different platforms, but we do know he's the only five-time champion in NASCAR's weekly racing series.
Phillips was truly an old-school racer who went wherever the money was and had a vast amount of success. He was known for crisscrossing the country and racing on dirt tracks, asphalt tracks, short tracks and long tracks.
Phillips' longtime crew chief, Jim Ince, told Bleacher Report in 2015 that he estimated Phillips may have won up to 2,000 races in his career — which included an esteemed career racing motorcycles as well.
22. Todd Bodine
Born: Feb. 27, 1964 (Chemung, New York)
NASCAR racing career: 1986-2013
Career highlights: Craftsman Truck Series champion (2006), NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion (2010)
Bottom line: Todd Bodine earned his nickname — "The Onion" — for his signature shaved head and was a fixture on both the NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series throughout the late 1980s and 1990s.
Bodine never posted a win in NASCAR's top division but did rack up 21 top-10 finishes in 19 years. Bodine thrived in the Xfinity Series — yes, we know it wasn't named that back then — and ended his career with 15 wins and a more-than-impressive 156 top-10 finishes.
Bodine ended up having his most success in trucks. He was the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion in 2006 and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion in 2010.
21. Brian Vickers
Born: Oct. 24, 1983 (Thomasville, North Carolina)
NASCAR racing career: 15 seasons (2001-16)
Career highlights: NASCAR Busch Series champion (2003)
Bottom line: It's really unfair that Brian Vickers didn't get to see his career go to the next level because of serious health issues that came on right as he was entering his prime.
Vickers was the NASCAR Busch Series champion in 2003 and worked his way up the Sprint Cup standings until he had a career-best 12th-place finish in 2009. He finished in the top 10 in his first 11 races in 2010 before blood clots kept him out for the rest of the season.
Blood clots kept Vickers out for most of 2013 and 2015 and essentially brought his career to a close after 2016.
20. David Ragan
Born: Dec. 24, 1985 (Unadilla, Georgia)
NASCAR racing career: 18 seasons (2003-21)
Career highlights: NASCAR Busch Series Rookie of the Year (2007), Coke Zero 400 champion (2011), Aaron's 499 champion (2013)
Bottom line: The son of former NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Ken Ragan, David Ragan was racing in the Nationwide Series by the time he was 18 years old and was the NASCAR Busch Series Rookie of the Year in 2007.
David Ragan won his first NASCAR Cup Series race in 2011 at the Coke Zero 400 and added another title on the top circuit in 2013 at the Aaron's 499.
Ragan's career has been overlooked somewhat because of just having two wins, but if we take a closer look, we see one of the most consistent drivers of the last decade with 41 top-10 finishes in the NASCAR Cup Series.
19. Ward Burton
Born: Oct. 25, 1961 (South Boston, Virginia)
NASCAR racing career: 1990-2017
Career highlights: Daytona 500 champion (2002), Southern 500 champion (2001)
Bottom line: Ward Burton comes from a family of NASCAR drivers — younger brother Jeff Burton, nephew Harrison Burton and son Jeb Burton.
Ward Burton's win totals don't come close to some other drivers on this list, but the quality is what we point to when we say he's underrated. Racing on the NASCAR Cup Series, Ward Burton won the Southern 500 in 2001 and followed that up with a signature win at the Daytona 500 in 2002.
He also led the NASCAR Busch Series in poles in 1993. He ended up with four wins in that division. The Burton family is among the oldest in Virginia and can trace their lineage back to the Jamestown Colony, which was the first permanent English settlement in what would become the United States.
18. Robby Gordon
Born: Jan. 2, 1969 (Los Angeles, California)
NASCAR racing career: 1991-2012
Career highlights: New Hampshire 300 champion (2001), Dodge/Save Mart 350 champion (2003)
Bottom line: Robby Gordon came from a family of off-road racers and was the first to make the leap to track racing with a great amount of success.
Gordon's success rate in NASCAR was pretty low all things considered. He made exactly 450 starts between the top two divisions in his career but posted just four wins in that time. But he always seemed to be competitive.
Notoriously private about his personal life, Gordon became known later in his career for the "start and park" strategy where a driver starts a race, goes enough laps to register a finish and takes the lowest amount of prize money. Unbelievably, it's a technique he has criticized other drivers for using. Oh, the hypocrisy!
17. Jeff Burton
Born: June 29, 1967 (South Boston, Virginia)
NASCAR racing career: 1988-2014
Career highlights: Southern 500 champion (1999), two-time Coca-Cola 600 champion (1999, 2001), Winston Cup Series Rookie of the Year (1994)
Bottom line: Jeff Burton is one of three family members to compete in the NASCAR Cup Series alongside brother Ward Burton and nephew Jeb Burton.
Jeff Burton cut his teeth in the NASCAR Busch Series for six years before he was named NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year in 1994 and made a staggering 696 starts in the top division over the next 22 years.
Burton's 21 wins might not seem like a high rate of success for how much he raced, but he had 254 top-10 finishes and added another 27 NASCAR Xfinity Series wins in that same time.
16. Benny Parsons
Born: Jan. 16, 2007 (Charlotte, North Carolina)
NASCAR racing career: 1964-88
Career highlights: NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion (1973), Daytona 500 champion (1975), two-time ARCA Racing Series champion (1968, 1969), ARCA Racing Series Rookie of the Year (1965), International Motorsports Hall of Fame (1994), NASCAR Hall of Fame (2017), NASCAR 50 Greatest Drivers
Bottom line: Few characters in NASCAR have been as beloved as Benny Parsons, who raced for over two decades before going into a lengthy career as a broadcaster.
Parsons was a two-time ARCA Racing Series champion in the late 1960s before he made the leap to NASCAR. Parsons became one of the biggest stars in the sport in the 1970s, winning a Winston Cup Series championship in 1973 and following that up with a win at the Daytona 500 in 1975.
Parsons died of cancer in 2007. He was 65 years old.
15. Geoff Bodine
Born: April 18, 1949 (Chemung, New York)
NASCAR racing career: 1979-2011
Career highlights: Daytona 500 champion (1986), The Winston champion (1994), Busch Clash champion (1992), IROC champion (1987), NASCAR Winston Cup Series Rookie of the Year (1982), NASCAR 50 Greatest Drivers
Bottom line: Geoff Bodine grew up around racing. He was born shortly after his father and grandfather built an asphalt racetrack called the Chemung Speedrome in tiny Chemung, New York, and earned a reputation early as a top modified driver in the Northeast.
Bodine earned a career signature win in 1986 at the Daytona 500 and became embroiled in one of the greatest NASCAR rivalries of all time with Dale Earnhardt.
Bodine also survived one of the most vicious, violent and fiery crashes in racing history when he wrecked his truck at Daytona International Speedway at 190 miles per hour. Bodine somehow lived, fracturing his right ankle, cheekbone, right wrist, vertebrae and suffered a concussion. He only missed 10 races.
14. Davey Allison
Born: Feb. 25, 1961 (Hollywood, Florida)
Died: July 13, 1993 (age 32, Birmingham, Alabama)
NASCAR racing career: 1983-93
Career highlights: Daytona 500 champion (1992), NASCAR Winston Cup Series Rookie of the Year (1987), three-time Winston 500 champion (1987, 1989, 1992), two-time The Winston champion (1991, 1992), IROC champion (1993), NASCAR 50 Greatest Drivers
Bottom line: The son of legendary NASCAR driver Bobby Allison, Davey Allison was a racing wunderkind who was named NASCAR Winston Cup Series Rookie of the Year in 1987, won the Daytona 500 in 1992 and finished third in the NASCAR Cup Series in 1991 and 1992.
In 191 NASCAR Cup Series races in 10 years, Allison won 19 times, added 92 top-10 finishes and won approximately $6.7 million.
Allison died while trying to land his helicopter on a trip to Talladega Motor Speedway in 1993. He was only 32 years old.
13. Glenn "Fireball" Roberts
Born: Jan. 20, 1929 (Tavares, Florida)
Died: July 2, 1965 (age 35, Charlotte, North Carolina)
NASCAR racing career: 1950-64
Career highlights: Daytona 500 champion (1962), two-time Southern 500 champion (1958, 1963), NASCAR Grand National Series Most Popular Drivers (1957), International Motorsports Hall of Fame (1990), NASCAR Hall of Fame (2014), NASCAR 50 Greatest Drivers
Bottom line: Glenn "Fireball" Roberts didn't get his name for how he raced. He got it because his fastball was so unhittable as a teenager growing up in Florida.
Roberts began dominating NASCAR's dirt track series as a college freshman at the University of Florida in the late 1940s, then made the move to superspeedways with NASCAR in the 1950s.
Roberts became one of NASCAR's most popular drivers and racked up 33 victories and 122 top-10 finishes in the Cup Series from 1950 to 1964, including winning the Daytona 500 in 1962. His best finish in the standings came in 1950, when he took second place.
Roberts was involved in a fiery crash at the World 600 in Charlotte on May 24, 1964, suffering severe burns to 80 percent of his body. He lived for two weeks before he died from injuries in the crash on July 2 at 35 years old.
12. Herb Thomas
Born: April 6, 1923 (Olivia, North Carolina)
Died: Aug. 9, 2000 (age 77, Sanford, North Carolina)
NASCAR racing career: 1949-62
Career highlights: Two-time NASCAR Grand National Series champion (1951, 1953), three-time Southern 500 champion (1951, 1954, 1955), International Motorsports Hall of Fame (1994), NASCAR 50 Greatest Drivers
Bottom line: Herb Thomas' career is intertwined with the very story of NASCAR itself. He participated in NASCAR's first official race of the top division that would eventually become the Cup Series in 1949.
Thomas was a two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion in 1951 and 1953 — then called the Grand National Series — and had a staggering 48 wins in 228 career NASCAR Cup Series races.
Thomas' younger brother, Donald, raced six years in NASCAR's top division and was the youngest driver in NASCAR history to win a race from 1952 until Kyle Busch broke his record in 2005.
11. Junior Johnson
Born: June 28, 1931 (Ronda, North Carolina)
Died: Dec. 20, 2019 (age 88, Charlotte, North Carolina)
NASCAR racing career: 1953-66
Career highlights: Daytona 500 champion (1960), International Motorsports Hall of Fame (1990), NASCAR Hall of Fame (2010), NASCAR 50 Greatest Drivers
Bottom line: In North Carolina, four athletes have stretches of highway named after them. One is Michael Jordan. The other three are race car drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr., Richard Petty and Junior Johnson.
Few professional athletes — or Americans — have lived as thrilling a life as Johnson, who was convicted of moonshining in 1956, won the the Daytona 500 in 1960 and shot to international fame when legendary novelist Tom Wolfe wrote an article about him in Esquire in 1965.
Johnson was eventually given a presidential pardon for his moonshining conviction by Ronald Reagan in 1986 and won six NASCAR Series Cup titles as an owner.
10. Fred Lorenzen
Born: Dec. 30, 1934 (Elmhurst, Illinois)
NASCAR racing career: 1956-72
Career highlights: Daytona 500 champion (1965), two-time World 600 champion (1963, 1965), two-time NASCAR Grand National Series Most Popular Driver (1963, 1965), NASCAR Hall of Fame (2015), NASCAR 50 Greatest Drivers
Bottom line: Fred Lorenzen was the dominant driver in NASCAR for a large part of its "Golden Era" in the 1960s, but you don't hear his name thrown about with the greats of the sport as much as other drivers for some reason.
Lorenzen dominated NASCAR from 1962 to 1965 and was the most popular driver in the sport in that stretch, capping his run with a Daytona 500 victory in 1965.
Lorenzen had a streak that drivers today are still in awe of. He won at least one race in NASCAR's top division every year from 1962 to 1967.
9. Tim Flock
Born: May 11, 1924 (Fort Payne, Alabama)
Died: March 31, 1998 (age 73, Charlotte, North Carolina)
NASCAR racing career: 1949-61
Career highlights: Two-time NASCAR Grand National Series champion (1952, 1955), two-time Daytona Beach Road Course champion (1955, 1956), International Motorsports Hall of Fame (1991), NASCAR Hall of Fame (1994), NASCAR 50 Greatest Drivers
Bottom line: Tim Flock is another driver from a long-forgotten era of NASCAR that dominated the sport in his day.
Flock won two NASCAR Cup Series championships in 1952 and 1955 — when it was called the NASCAR Grand National Series — and racked up 10 NASCAR Cup Series wins and 129 top-10 finishes in 187 career starts.
Flock came from a racing family that helped define NASCAR in its early days. Both his brothers, Bob and Fonty, were also drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series and so was his sister, Ethel Mobley, who was just the second female driver in NASCAR history.
8. Harry Gant
Born: Jan. 10, 1940 (Taylorsville, North Carolina)
NASCAR racing career: 23 seasons (1973-96)
Career highlights: Winston 500 champion (1991), two-time Southern 500 champion (1984, 1991), IROC champion (1985), International Motorsports Hall of Fame (2006), NASCAR 50 Greatest Drivers
Bottom line: "Handsome Harry Gant" was most well-known for running the Skoal Bandit car for decades under the single most swagtastic ownership team of all time — stuntman-turned-director Hal Needham and actor Burt Reynolds, who were reportedly the basis for the Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio characters in Quentin Tarantino's Oscar-winning film "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" about 1960s Hollywood.
Gant's life and career may deserve its own movie. He dominated NASCAR's version of the Nationwide Series in the 1970s, the Sportsman Series, and became the oldest person to ever win a NASCAR Cup Series race when he won the Winston 500 at 52 years old.
7. LeeRoy Yarbrough
Born: Sept. 17. 1938 (Jacksonville, Florida)
Died: Dec. 7, 1984 (age 46, Jacksonville, Florida)
NASCAR racing career: 1960-72
Career highlights: NASCAR Triple Crown winner (1969), Daytona 500 champion (1969), Southern 500 champion (1969), World 600 champion (1969), NASCAR 50 Greatest Drivers
Bottom line: LeeRoy Yarbrough was meant to be on a race track. The Jacksonville, Florida, native won his first race at Jacksonville Motor Speedway when he was 19 years old in a car he built with his own hands — a 1934 Ford coupe body with a Chrysler engine.
Yarbrough's career arc is tragic. He became NASCAR's first Triple Crown winner in 1969 when he swept the Daytona 500, Southern 500 and World 600 but suffered a major head injury during a race in 1970. He continued to race before leaving the sport altogether in 1972 as friends and competitors began to remark on the drastic change in his personality.
In 1980, Yarbrough was convicted of attempted murder of his mother and battery of a law enforcement officer and committed to a mental hospital. He died of injuries from a fall at the hospital in 1984.
6. Bobby Isaac
Born: Aug. 1, 1932 (Catawba, North Carolina)
Died: Aug. 14, 1977 (age 45, Hickory, North Carolina)
NASCAR racing career: 1961-77
Career highlights: NASCAR Grand National Series champion (1970), International Motorsports Hall of Fame (1996), NASCAR Hall of Fame (2016), NASCAR 50 Greatest Drivers
Bottom line: If you want to understand one thing about Bobby Isaac's career, it should be that he drove as fast as anyone who ever hopped behind the wheel.
Isaac set the NASCAR Cup Series record with 20 poles in 1969 and won his lone NASCAR Grand National Series championship in 1970. In 1971, Isaac went to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah and set 28 land speed records, some of which still exist to this day.
Isaac's life tragically came to an end in 1977 after he pulled over midway through the Winston 400 suffering from heat exhaustion and died shortly after of a stroke.
5. Tim Richmond
Born: June 7, 1955 (Ashland, Ohio)
Died: Aug. 13, 1989 (age 34, West Palm Beach, Florida)
NASCAR racing career: 1980-87
Career highlights: International Motorsports Hall of Fame (2002), 50 Greatest NASCAR Drivers of All Time
Bottom line: Tim Richmond was a former high school football star from a privileged Ohio family who took the racing world by storm when he was named Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year in 1980.
Richmond's success on the Indy Car circuit came with collateral damage. He "split two cars in half" in his first year and was worried he would be run out of the sport because of his recklessness and made the leap to NASCAR.
Richmond won 13 times in seven years in the NASCAR Cup Series, with his first and last wins both coming at the Budweiser 400. Richmond died of complications from HIV/AIDS in 1989 in West Palm Beach, Florida, at just 34 years old.
4. Greg Biffle
Born: Dec. 23, 1969 (Vancouver, Washington)
NASCAR racing career: 1996-2016
Career highlights: NASCAR Busch Series champion (2002), NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion (2000), two-time Southern 500 champion (2005, 2006), two-time NASCAR Sprint Showdown champion (2015, 2016), NASCAR Busch Series Rookie of the Year (2001), NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Rookie of the Year (1998), NASCAR Busch Series Most Popular Driver (2002), NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Most Popular Driver (2000)
Bottom line: Not too many drivers have had success across all of NASCAR's driving platforms like Greg Biffle. The Washington native has won championships in NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
Biffle's ascent to the NASCAR Cup Series happened in pretty rapid succession. He won the Trucks Series title in 2000, the Busch Series title in 2002 and was the runner-up on the Cup Series in 2002.
Biffle's consistency is truly remarkable. He has 19 NASCAR Cup Series wins and 20 NASCAR Xfinity Series wins in that same time and 323 top-10 finishes across the two divisions.
3. James Hylton
Born: Aug. 26, 1934 (Roanoke, Virginia)
Died: April 28, 2018 (age 83, Franklin County, Georgia)
NASCAR racing career: 1966-95, 2006-08
Career highlights: Grand National Series Rookie of the Year (1966), three-time NASCAR Cup Series runner-up (1966, 1967, 1971)
Bottom line: James Hylton came as close to NASCAR superstardom as perhaps any racer in history without grabbing the ring. He finished as the NASCAR Cup Series runner-up three times in six years.
Hylton made over 600 starts in NASCAR for his career and only won twice, but finished in the top 10 in 301 races and in the top five in 140 races. He also holds the record for the oldest driver to finish a race in NASCAR's top three series when he completed a Nationwide Series race in 2008 at 73 years old.
Hylton and his son, James Jr., died in an automobile accident in 2018 while they were driving home from an ARCA race in Talladega.
2. Curtis Turner
Born: April 12, 1924 (Floyd, Virginia)
Died: Oct. 4, 1970 (age 46, Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania)
NASCAR racing career: 1949-61, 1965-68
Career highlights: Southern 500 champion (1956), Rockingham Speedway champion (1965), two-time NASCAR Grand National Series Most Popular Driver (1949, 1956), International Motorsports Hall of Fame (1992), NASCAR Hall of Fame (2016), 50 Greatest NASCAR Drivers
Bottom line: Curtis Turner was the son of a well-known bootlegger in Virginia and began driving loads of his family's moonshine by the time he was 13 years old and became known for his ability to always escape pursuit from lawmen, tax collectors and rival bootleggers.
Turner was instrumental in NASCAR's start in 1949 and won 17 times in the NASCAR Cup Series with 73 more top 10 finishes. His statistics were made even more remarkable because of a four-year ban for trying to start a union of NASCAR drivers. He returned to the sport in 1965 and became the first NASCAR driver on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1968.
Turner died in an airplane crash in 1970 alongside pro golfer Clarence King.
1. Clint Bowyer
Born: May 30, 1979 (Emporia, Kansas)
NASCAR racing career: 2004-20
Career highlights: Two-time Alabama 500 champion (2010, 2011), three-time NASCAR All-Star Race Open champion (2014, 2015, 2017), NASCAR Nationwide Series champion (2008)
Bottom line: There aren't a lot of great NASCAR drivers who come from the Midwest, but Kansas native Clint Bowyer might be the best of them.
Bowyer's name has been front and center on NASCAR circuits for the last decade, and that's even though he's never posted a signature victory. What Bowyer has been throughout the entirety of his career is consistent on a level that comes along just once a generation or so outside of the best of the best drivers.
Just look at Bowyer's stat lines for the evidence you need. In 181 NASCAR Xfinity/Busch Series races, he won the overall championship in 2008 and has eight wins and 116 top-10 finishes. In the NASCAR Cup Series, Bowyer has a stunning 226 top-10 finishes and 10 wins in 541 career starts.