Easiest Drivers to Root for in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
NASCAR fans are perhaps the most loyal fans in sports when it comes to their drivers. There is a variety of personalities in the elite series that runs the gamut from highly controversial to easygoing and charismatic.
Some fans may be drawn to a driver who is tough and has an an old-school style of driving. Others like the modern-era driver who says all the right things and also finds the way to Victory Lane.
Just as in a cross section of any group of people, Cup drivers are no different with their flaws, which often become as apparent as their accomplishments.
This slideshow will highlight drivers who fans most easily gravitate to, regardless of their record of wins and series titles, and why they do.
1. Matt Kenseth
The 2003 NASCAR Cup champion was Matt Kenseth. His consistency with only one win that year triggered a change that resulted in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Kenseth is a very accomplished driver with a smooth driving style. He is not one to normally lead the most laps, but he quietly finds his way to the front. He has 24 career wins in NASCAR's elite series.
The former Roush Fenway Racing driver will drive for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Home Depot No. 20 Toyota beginning next season.
Kenseth appears low key, but he is actually very funny. This driver is well-liked and respected amongst his peers.
Fans love him because he is a true racer, but he is a clean racer. Seldom has he been caught up in controversy. He has a solid family life and is a driver fans can relate to with his less-than-flashy style.
2. Jimmie Johnson
Even though Jimmie Johnson won five NASCAR Sprint Cup championships in a row, there are those who just don't like him or respect his amazing accomplishments.
Certainly, though, there are far more people who are fans of this driver and respect all that he has done in the sport of NASCAR.
The driver of the Lowe's No. 48 Chevrolet is a strong family man, and he lives a healthy lifestyle with a fitness regime few can keep pace with.
Johnson has been described as vanilla, but that is more his California casual attitude. He is very personable, and his radio transmissions during a race show his passion and fire.
This is a driver who many think of as too corporate, but when you achieve his status in racing as a driver for Hendrick Motorsports and with a loyal sponsor like Lowe's, perhaps that is a bit mandatory.
Johnson is one of the most popular drivers in the sport.
3. Kasey Kahne
Kasey Kahne came from an open-wheel background, making his way to the Cup series of NASCAR in 2004. Since that time, he has found Victory Lane 14 times.
Kahne's journey to Hendrick Motorsports was not always smooth, but he is a hard racer who made the best with what he had in any given race.
This is a driver who has always been popular, especially with the female fans. His penetrating blue eyes, clean-cut good looks and driving ability have won the hearts of many fans.
Kahne is well thought of by other drivers and most everybody who knows him. He is definitely a racer who will race most anything anytime. His personality tends to be shy, but he is very easy to talk to.
Now a driver for Hendrick Motorsports, fans can look for him to win a lot of races in his No. 5 Chevrolet and likely win a championship or two along the way.
4. Marcos Ambrose
The likeable Australian was born in Tasmania and rose to championship status as a driver primarily in the Supercar series.
Ambrose has found a home with Richard Petty Motorsports as the driver of the No. 9 Ford.
His pairing with crew chief Todd Parrott has produced some solid performances, though he finished 18th in the point standings.
Seldom do you see Ambrose without a broad smile on his face. He is very personable and is well-liked by not only his peers, but fans in general.
He is a clean driver and a true racer, so it's not hard to root for him.
5. Jeff Gordon
Jeff Gordon is the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet at Hendrick Motorsports. It is the only Cup ride he has ever had.
He came on the scene when Dale Earnhardt ruled, and he wasn't all that welcomed.
Gordon now has 87 wins in NASCAR's top series, which ranks him third all-time against the record of Richard Petty and David Pearson.
Over the years, fans have seen the mustached kid mature into a respected four-time series champion, family man and humanitarian.
This driver is heading toward the end of his driving career probably within the next several years, but his passion for racing is still evident.
Gordon is considered a leader in the NASCAR garage, and he garners a great deal of respect, despite his recent encounter with Clint Bowyer in Phoenix.
His fanbase is one of the largest in NASCAR, and his ability to wheel a race car is much appreciated by those who follow the sport.
6. Mark Martin
Mark Martin, 53, is a veteran driver who has won 40 races in the Cup series over the last 30-plus years. He currently pilots the No. 56 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing on a part-time basis.
Martin has a wealth of knowledge from his years of racing, and his mission is to help younger drivers further their careers when they seek his advice.
He may be the oldest competitive driver in NASCAR, but his fitness regime keeps him more physically fit than most drivers who are many years younger.
Fans find it hard to believe he has not won a Cup championship. He has been runner-up for the title more times than he cares to count.
Martin is known as a clean racer, but he's tough. He still can qualify on the pole and contend for the lead at any given race.
This is a driver that fans continue to root for because they appreciate his accomplishments in the sport, and they know he doesn't have any quit in him when he is racing.
7. Bobby Labonte
Texas native Bobby Labonte was the 2000 Winston (Sprint) Cup champion and has 21 wins to his credit in NASCAR's top series.
Labonte may have his best racing years behind him, but he remains somewhat competitive with his No. 47 Toyota out of JTG Daugherty Racing. During 2012, he had only two top-10 finishes.
This Labonte is the younger of two racing brothers who found success in NASCAR. His older brother is Terry Labonte, a two-time Winston (Sprint) Cup champion.
Fans have always liked this personable driver, who races clean and is trusted by other drivers on the track. With top-tier equipment, he could perhaps still be a contender.
Labonte is easy to root for because he is just a nice guy, and fans would like to see him make it to Victory Lane again.
8. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Bearing the name of one of NASCAR's most legendary and popular drivers, many think Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a fanbase handed to him with the tragic passing of his father at Daytona in 2001.
To some extent, he did pick up the banner for those fans who were at a loss, but he is really nothing like his father, and he handles his life in a much different manner.
Fans are drawn to him because of his shy demeanor and refusal to try to be something he is not. Despite his fame and wealth, he remains humble and very ordinary which fans relate to.
Though expectations have been high for him throughout his career in Cup racing, he has not won a Sprint Cup championship. He does have 19 wins in the series.
He is highly respected within the NASCAR community. When Junior has something to say, he has most everyone's ear.
Whether or not Earnhardt wins races, his fans, known collectively as Junior Nation, remain strong. He was just voted NASCAR's most popular driver for the 10th straight year.