Top 5 NASCAR Drivers of All Time

NASCAR has a long history of fantastic finishes, powerful machines, and historic events. Most of all, though, NASCAR history has been defined by the colorful men and women who live for the thrill of controlling a fast machine. Deciding on the best drivers ever depends on what factors you take into consideration, but certainly number of wins have to come into play.

Of the hundreds of men and women drivers, only a small percentage have ever won a race. Even fewer have won a championship. From that elite list, then, who are truly the best NASCAR drivers of all time? Here are our top five choices:

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Dale Earnhardt

9 Apr 1999: Dale Earnhardt #3 looking on during practice for the Food City 500 of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series at the Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee.
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This champion was born April 29, 1951, in Kannapolis, North Carolina, into a NASCAR family. Earnhardt began his career with a Winston Cup race in 1975 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. From there, he would go on to earn 76 wins and seven championships, all in the modern NASCAR era (1972–present). His record was unbroken until Jimmie Johnson tied his wins in 2016. 

Still, it's hard to refute that "The Intimidator" is the best that NASCAR has ever seen. He was a master on the track and equally good with the press. Dale Earnhardt left us while still on top of his game. He certainly had many more wins in front of him and a great shot at his eighth championship.

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Jimmie Johnson

2016 Nascar Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson Visits The Empire State Building
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This California native born in 1975 started racing motorcycles when he was only four years old. Eventually switching to four-wheeled machines, Johnson burst onto the NASCAR scene with three wins in his 2002 rookie season. As of the close of the 2016 season, Johnson has been to Victory Lane 84 times and is tied with Earnhardt and Richard Petty for an incredible seven championships.

While Dale Earnhardt Sr. still scores above him on this list, Johnson seems unstoppable. The gap between the two champs will no doubt get narrower with each passing season.

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Richard Petty

Richard Petty
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Some readers are going to balk at our placing Richard Petty in number three behind Earnhardt and Johnson, and we can see their point. There is a reason why the North Carolina native is called "The King" of NASCAR. It's in his blood and in his brains. Before he retired in 1992, he chalked up seven championships and 200 wins. However, most of those wins came in the pre-modern era of NASCAR (before 1972), when there were nearly double the yearly races there are today. Which is why we also take exception to the claims of a tie between Earnhardt, Johnson, and Petty.

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Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon
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You may love him or you may hate him, but honestly, Jeff Gordon is one of the best ever. With four championships and over 90 wins already in his career, Jeff Gordon has the tools to continue to climb this list. With Earnhardt gone, Gordon is the winningest active driver and still runs up front week in and week out. Four more championships are definitely not out of reach.

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David Pearson

1983 Daytona 500
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"The Silver Fox" has three championships and 105 wins to his credit. Although his championships were earned pre-modern era (Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, and Tony Stewart all earned their three wins in the years following 1972), it's Pearson's smooth style, finesse, and mastery of tricky tracks like Darlington that give him the edge in our book.