Random Lugnuts: NASCAR's Top 60 at 60 Years
What is Random Lugnuts? It's random bits of stock car racing commentary written on an irregular basis by an irregular racing fan. The name is a reference to the lugnuts that go flying off a car during a pit stop: you never know where they are going to go, what they're going to do when they get there, they can be annoying, they're often useless after a race, and every once in a while someone gets hit and they don't know exactly where it came from.
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July 17, 2008
In 1998, NASCAR named their 50 Greatest Drivers from their 50 year history. Ten years later, I have ten additions I feel worthy of the list from the last decade (I have nothing to do with the official list, but if I did, this is who I would recommend):
Tony Stewart Two championships, numerous wins and one of the most important personalities in NASCAR today. Honestly, I don't think I need to elaborate too much on my reasoning for picking him.
Jimmie Johnson In addition to the two championships, he has consistently ranked near the top of the championship points. Along with his 34 wins, nearly a season's worth, he's become one of the dominant drivers of the 2000's.
Kyle Busch It's not just about this season, he's won races before he got into a Gibbs Toyota. One of his wins was the first "Car of Tomorrow" race, after which he had the testicular fortitude to say that NASCAR's new car "sucked" after winning its coming out party.
Michael Waltrip This gets a little philosophical. What does it mean to be one of NASCAR's greatest "drivers?" Is it solely about driving talent, the hands on the wheel and the feet on the pedals, how many trophies won and championship points scored and nothing more? Or is it about the complete package of filling the many items in the job description that comes with being a "NASCAR driver?" If the second is true, and I believe it is, Michael Waltrip deserves a place on the list as the greatest spokesperson in NASCAR over the last decade, and some (more knowledgeable than me) even say the greatest spokesperson in NASCAR history.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Bill France introduced the 50 Greatest in 1998 with a little speech that included the statement, "These are the drivers who made and make NASCAR fans stand on their feet and cheer." That's Dale Jr. If that's not enough for you, how about the restrictor plate race dominance of earlier this decade?
Kevin Harvick Kevin was the first driver, if you make the exception of the 2001 Daytona 500, to race the full season in both Busch and Cup competition in the same year, racing successfully in both as Winston Cup Rookie of the Year and Busch Series Champion. While he's enjoyed more success in the Busch Series than Cup Series, his 11 Cup wins include the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400. Until Jamie McMurray won in his second start, Kevin Harvick held the record for quickest win for scoring a victory in his third Cup race.
Ron Hornaday and Jack Sprague Each has three championships, and over a season's worth of wins (36 for Hornaday, 28 for Sprague). In the 13 seasons of truck racing completed, just under half of the championships were won by one of these two drivers. Hornaday has about 150 top ten finishes and Sprague nearly 190. That means, since the trucks have run about 25 races a year since its creation in 1995, that Jack Sprague has finished in the Top 10 in over half the events and Hornaday in over 2/5ths.
Juan Pablo Montoya His driving success alone wouldn't place him anywhere near this list, but he deserves a place becuase just because he made it to victory lane in NASCAR's top series. I think that while his move to NASCAR won't be regarded with the same sense of historical importance as Jackie Robinson playing in baseball's major leagues, his arrival in the NASCAR Cup Series (a series that included a driver each from Canada and Scotland this season) is an important historical point in a sport that still has issues with display of the Confederate flag and had less than a warm welcome for a Japanese manufacturer racing in its first Cup season last year.
Kyle Petty NASCAR is unlike many other sports in this country. While other sports struggle with steroids, greed and violence, or at least with stars charging fans for autographs, NASCAR drivers are meeting the fans, scribbling their name on as much merchandise as time will allow in their schedules and doing charitable work with some of the rest of that time. I've always thought of it as part of the obligations that NASCAR drivers take on as both race car drivers and sponsor spokespersons. But "going above and beyond" doesn't begin to describe Kyle Petty's Victory Junction Gang Camp, created to honor his son, Adam Petty, who died in a NASCAR Busch Grand National practice crash in 2000. Kyle Petty has become the face of generosity in the one sport that prides itself on its charity work more than any other in America, and that in my mind makes him more than worthy of a place next to his father and grandfather on a list of great NASCAR drivers.
The official "NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers" from 1998 are: Bobby Allison, Davey Allison, Buddy Baker, Buck Baker, Geoff Bodine, Neil Bonnett, Red Byron, Jerry Cook, Dale Earnhardt, Ralph Earnhardt, Bill Elliott, Richie Evans, Red Farmer, Tim Flock, A.J. Foyt, Harry Gant, Jeff Gordon, Ray Hendrick, Jack Ingram, Bobby Isaac, Ernie Irvan, Dale Jarrett, Ned Jarrett, Junior Johnson, Alan Kulwicki, Terry Labonte, Fred Lorenzen, Tiny Lund, Mark Martin, Hershel McGriff, Cotton Owens, Marvin Panch, Benny Parsons, David Pearson, Richard Petty, Lee Petty, Tim Richmond, Fireball Roberts, Ricky Rudd, Marshall Teague, Herb Thomas, Curtis Turner, Rusty Wallace, Darrell Waltrip, Joe Weatherly, Bob Welborn, Rex White, Glen Wood, Cale Yarborough, LeeRoy Yarbrough
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