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5 Current Cup Drivers Who Would Have Rivaled the 'King'

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IJanuary 3, 2013

5 Current Cup Drivers Who Would Have Rivaled the 'King'

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    There will never be a another driver in NASCAR's Cup series that can match the win record of Richard Petty, but that was a different time, and racing was much different. Several modern-era drivers might have been serious rivals, though.

    Petty was nicknamed the "King" because of his ability to win so many races and series titles. He did win 200 Cup races back in his heyday, primarily during the 1960s and 1970s. He has seven championships in the series.

    The race schedule often included multiple events in any given week. Petty was a dominant driver with few who could compete with his resources. David Pearson might have been his biggest nemesis.

    Pearson won 105 races and three championships in NASCAR's top series, but he often did not race full-time. Had this legendary driver raced as often as Petty, he may have surpassed his win record.

    Racing was tough during that era with the bulky, high-horsepower cars. Safety was minimal with the cars and tracks. Drivers wore open-faced helmets with little to restrain them in the car compared to today's standards.

    Sometimes the only communication a driver had with his crew was via a chalkboard. It was much different from the current drivers who rant over the in-car radio, sometimes like spoiled brats.

    The drivers raced the car they brought to the track with few adjustments, unlike the cars that are tuned by engineers with technology that could not have been imagined back in the day.

    Driver requirements consisted of the desire to race and win, strong endurance and a certain mental toughness that kept them doing what they did with what they had. They could barely support families on their winnings.

    Few current NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers would have run the course like Petty because they simply would not have the desire or commitment, and perhaps ability to endure a life that was far from the luxuries of today.

    There are drivers on the current Cup roster who are just racers at heart. They would have raced anything, anytime and won. Some still do race every chance they get in other series. 

    These five drivers might have been tough competition for the "King." See if you agree.

Tony Stewart

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    Tony Stewart is a true racer who continues to race every chance he gets in a variety of series other than NASCAR. Despite being a team owner, track owner/promoter and businessman, he just wants to race.

    Stewart has won races in all three national series of NASCAR with three Cup titles and 47 race wins in the series. He races on dirt as easily as asphalt tracks.

    In addition, he has won numerous open-wheel championships including one in IndyCar and IROC. He continues to race open-wheel cars quite frequently in addition to his hectic schedule with NASCAR.

    Stewart realized a dream when NASCAR decided to run the Camping World Truck race at his Eldora Speedway dirt track in Ohio.

    He tested the trucks on dirt, but his responsibilities as the track promoter may prohibit his participation in the July race.

    Stewart is a wheelman who would have raced the cars of '70s multiple times each week. He would have fit right in with the hard-chargers of that era, and his win record would have been significant.

Clint Bowyer

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    Kansas native Clint Bowyer began racing motocross as a young child, moving up to several Midwest NASCAR series, where he found success.

    Richard Childress spotted the talent of Bowyer at an ARCA race in Nashville during 2003, and so began his career as a driver coming up through all three NASCAR national series where he finished second in Cup standings for 2012 with Michael Waltrip Racing.

    Bowyer has that old-school mentality of racing hard with lots of bumping and banging on the track. He has the toughness to have raced cars of the era when Richard Petty dominated.

    The driver of the 5-hour Energy Toyota still fields dirt cars out of his race shop, and he races in other series every chance he gets. Bowyer, being a big Elvis fan, would have loved the '60s and '70s for more than racing. 

Matt Kenseth

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    Matt Kenseth worked on his father's race car back in Wisconsin until he was old enough to drive and maintain his own racer. He raced short tracks with late models, and found he could win titles.

    In 1997, he began driving for a NASCAR Nationwide team owned by Robbie Reiser, who became his long-time crew chief. Kenseth has won 24 Cup races and the 2003 Cup series championship.

    Kenseth is the quiet type who isn't usually involved in controversy. He just goes out and drives the wheels off of a race car, which is the type of dedication it took to run the demanding schedules of Richard Petty's era.

    Kenseth is not one to whine about his race car, though he can make his feelings clearly known. He makes the best of the car he has, which is what they did back in the day.

    The new driver of the No. 20 for Joe Gibbs Racing races in other series when he can, and though his son is in college, he is coaxing him through the early stages of racing.

    The Wisconsin native might not have been one of the typical Southern drivers, but there is little doubt that he would have been a tough competitor had he driven back in the '60s and '70s.

Ryan Newman

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    Despite the fact Ryan Newman has an engineering degree from Purdue University, something unheard of with drivers of Richard Petty's prime racing years, he is a true racer.

    Newman came up through open-wheel cars in series like USAC, Silver Crown and Midgets. He ran the ARCA series as well before moving up to the Busch (Nationwide) series and Cup in 2001.

    Ryan has a take-no-prisoners attitude when it comes to his hard-charging racing style. He is another driver who will use up a car if he has to in order to get a win. He is hardly afraid to move someone out of his way.

    Ryan is a hardcore racer who would have blended in well with drivers like Cale Yarborough, and the other top racers who ran against Petty. 

Brad Keselowski

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    Our reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion may be a leader in social media, as well as a dedicated racer, but he is very much a throwback with his style of racing that is much like that of David Pearson.

    He is a smart, calculating driver who sets goals, and somehow seems to reach them. He makes strategy calls from his race car along with those from his crew chief Paul Wolfe.

    Brad Keselowski has shown his mental and physical toughness during the three full-time years he has raced in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

    Keselowski is a third-generation racer who knows the sacrifices that must be made to earn a living as a race-car driver. Sacrifice was the name of the game for drivers of the "King's" era.

    Drivers raced through the pain of frequent injuries that were incurred with the violent accidents, and lack of safety equipment in the earlier years of NASCAR.

    Keselowski went on a winning streak immediately after breaking his ankle in 2011 during a racing incident while testing at Road Atlanta.

    The driver of the No. 2 Ford for Penske Racing would have been tough competition for drivers of the '60s and '70s with his never-give-up attitude and talent as a racer.

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