The 10 Best Nicknames in NASCAR Today
The 1970s had The King versus The Silver Fox. The 1980s saw the emergence of The Intimidator and Jaws. But in a period of enhanced media attention from all angles, it seems like more NASCAR drivers than ever before have defining, borderline iconic nicknames that fans will remember for years to come.
Some of them are less well-known or emphasized by the media than others. Some of them are more marketable, whether or not the explanation behind them is easily recognizable. (Hint, hint, Chase Authentics.)
But these 10 nicknames are the perfect mix—perfectly appropriate, reasonably well-known (at least), and the kinds of marketable phrases that an experienced, clever merchandising company could turn into a fantastic promotion.
Here are the 10 most driver-appropriate nicknames in NASCAR today:
Jamie McMurray: "Big Mac"
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
McMurray isn't a big guy, but his name plays perfectly into the hands of co-primary sponsor McDonald's and their iconic sandwich, the Big Mac.
McMurray has already scored two top 10s in the McDonald's car this season, at Las Vegas and Bristol. He's also a longtime Coca-Cola driver, and if you think a Big Mac goes with anything else but a Coke, you're crazy.
Marcos Ambrose: "The Tasmanian Devil"
Jerry Markland/Getty Images
Ambrose's nickname comes from his place of birth (Launceston, Tasmania) and a fierce driving style learned in the V8 Supercars of his home country of Australia.
That hard-charging mindset took him to three consecutive Nationwide wins at Watkins Glen from 2008-10, and a win there in Cup action (plus another Nationwide win at Montreal) last season.
Tony Stewart: "Smoke"
John Harrelson/Getty Images
Besides being one of the coolest nicknames in the sport, this one is accurate if you think of "smoke" as a verb—as in, "to utterly destroy the competition."
Stewart has now won seven of his past 15 Sprint Cup starts despite transitioning from crew chief Darian Grubb to new head honcho Steve Addington. He's done it in spite of the sort of consistent performances from Greg Biffle (this year) and Carl Edwards (last year) that used to run away with championships.
And he's done it while trying to establish a third program for Danica Patrick. Where there's smoke, there's fire, and Stewart has been on fire for half a year now.
Matt Kenseth: "Special K"
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Special K is a brand of Kellogg's cereal that emphasizes substance over style, making it the perfect nickname for Kenseth.
Quietly consistent, Kenseth isn't one of NASCAR's media darlings, but has been one of its most consistent drivers for the past decade. His 2003 championship came on the strength of 25 top 10s despite taking only one win, which came all the way back at Las Vegas in March of that year.
Kyle Busch: "Rowdy"
Todd Warshaw/Getty Images
For all the folks who dislike Busch enough to give him the name of the antagonist of "Days of Thunder," this nickname actually originated in tribute to the late Bobby Hamilton.
In March 2006, Hamilton, who drove the No. 51 Exxon stunt car for the film, was diagnosed with neck cancer; two months later, Busch entered a one-off Craftsman Truck Series event in a truck painted like the movie car and won the race.
The nickname (and, on his late models, the number and paint scheme) has stuck ever since.
Kevin Harvick: "The Closer"
Todd Warshaw/Getty Images
Think about this: In five of his last eight career Sprint Cup wins, Harvick has led six or fewer laps, leading only the last one at California last year and only two in last year's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte.
Even in last year's fall Richmond race, an event he dominated with 202 of 400 laps led, Harvick only made the winning pass with 16 laps to go.
Jeff Burton: "The Mayor"
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
When Burton talks, people in the sport listen.
As one of the sport's most experienced full-time drivers, the level-headed and popular Virginian has consistently been among the sport's elite for the past 15 years. Having experienced everything from the highest of highs (championship contention) to the lowest of lows (running the majority of a season unsponsored), Burton's opinion is valuable in almost any situation.
Jimmie Johnson: "Five-Time"
Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images
Yes, this one is pretty straightforward, given the fact that Johnson has five Sprint Cups on his trophy case. But it's partially inspired by Jeff Gordon, Johnson's teammate and listed team owner, who acquired the nickname "Four-Time" after winning his fourth title in 2001.
And you think NASCAR fans aren't creative.
Mark Martin: "Epic Swag"
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Originally the result of his Twitter account getting hacked last week, the name fits Martin well.
He lists Gucci Mane as his favorite rapper, frequently works out to "Watch The Throne," and Roush Fenway Racing even commissioned his own rap anthem for him while he was still driving the No. 6 car.
Carl Edwards: "Concrete Carl"
Todd Warshaw/Getty Images
Edwards is one of the top drivers in the sport on the handful of concrete tracks on the NASCAR schedule.
Last year, he led 117 and 116 laps in the two Dover Cup races, respectively, and hasn't finished outside the top 15 there since June 2005. In Nationwide, he swept both Dover races last year as well, including a dominant 179-lap performance in the fall.
He also won six career races at Nashville Superspeedway, five in Nationwide, including the track's final event last year.