8 Current Drivers with the Best Personalities in NASCAR
Judging personalities is all about perception, which can be highly subjective. NASCAR drivers exhibit a persona to the fans that may or may not be a true reflection of the type of person they are.
Drivers must appease their corporate sponsors, so often they appear rehearsed with their interviews and public appearances. Those who stray from the regimented responses sometimes risk alienating someone who doles out cash.
The fact is that drivers in the top national series of NASCAR are just regular people with high-profile dangerous jobs that can elevate them to celebrity status if they perform well.
Part of a driver's duties include being cordial to the media and fans, which comes very naturally to some, while others would prefer skipping that part of their job. They must court sponsors at all costs because they make the racing possible.
There are drivers who are very down to earth regardless of the level of success they have had with NASCAR. What you see at the track or on television is pretty much true to their real personalities.
The criteria for "best" personality does not mean most popular or most wins, but rather a driver that remains fan-friendly, is normally upbeat and is deserving of respect from fans and peers.
This slideshow will take a look at eight drivers that may perhaps have the best personalities so far as not only their general appeal to fans, but the way they actually interact with others on a day-to-day basis.
Kasey Kahne, 32, has been popular with fans of NASCAR and open-wheel cars because of his quiet, yet friendly persona and clean-cut good looks—to say nothing of his talent as a driver.
Kahne may have a fanbase that is slightly tilted toward the females who are enamoured with his crystal blue eyes and great smile.
The driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet SS for Hendrick Motorsports started his racing with the open-wheel cars where he won several USAC championships. He was the Cup series Rookie of the Year in 2004.
Kahne has won races in all three of NASCAR's national series. He has driven for several teams, but makes the transitions easily from one to another as easily as he drives different types of race cars.
This is a driver who is very personable, though a bit shy. What you see as his public personality is a true portrait of Kahne in everyday life.
Marcos Ambrose, 36, is a racing champion from Australia who came to the USA in 2006 to pursue a career in NASCAR.
It would be difficult not to like this outgoing, personable driver with the cool accent. Seldom do you find him not smiling and willing to chat with most anyone.
Ambrose has strong family values. He is respected as a driver by fans and his peers. Though he has only two Cup wins and four Nationwide wins, he is a very competitive racer, especially on a road course.
The likable Aussie has found a home with Richard Petty Motorsports, where he looks to be formidable with his No. 9 Ford in the Cup series during 2013.
Regan Smith, 29, is from New York, where he comes from a background in karting. He made the move to North Carolina with hopes of pursuing a NASCAR career.
Smith began racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and made his way to the Sprint Cup Series with a debut at Bristol in the COT during 2007.
He has driven for many teams in NASCAR's top series, with many were less than top-tier rides, but Smith always presented himself in a positive and professional manner.
Even as the driver of the Furniture Row No. 78 Cup car, Smith did not garner much attention other than his win at Darlington in 2011.
Fans haven't gotten to really see much of this polite, well-spoken and approachable driver. Smith will be driving for the NASCAR Nationwide championship with the full-time ride out of JR Motorsports in 2013 and a few select Cup races for Phoenix Racing.
Smith is easy to talk to and very respectful. He is not one to seek a lot of media attention, but this driver handles it well when it comes his way.
It is likely he will gain more attention with his new ride, and wins will surely come his way. He is a talented driver with an even-tempered attitude. When fans get to know Smith, they can't help but like him.
Sam Hornish Jr.
Sam Hornish Jr., 33, came from karting to win three IndyCar championships. As a driver for Roger Penske he was able to move to NASCAR, where he has gone from wrecking to being a contender in Cup and Nationwide races.
Hornish was driving in the Nationwide series for Penske Racing when he got the call to take over the ride in the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge after A.J. Allmendinger was suspended from NASCAR for violation of the drug abuse policy.
This driver ultimately wants to drive in the premier series of NASCAR, but his hopes to keep the ride in the No. 22 were dashed when Joey Logano got the permanent ride for 2013.
Despite periods of time when Hornish saw his career in limbo with NASCAR, either due to lack of sponsorship or not having a ride, he remained positive. He has gained respect as a driver and has a significant fanbase.
Hornish is fan-friendly, well-spoken, a family man and just a nice guy. Despite being a driver for prestigious Penske Racing, he remains humble with a somewhat endearing personality.
Jimmie Johnson, 37, won five consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup championships, but yet there were those who were turned off by his ability to win races and titles, and considered him to have a vanilla personality.
Johnson is a masterful race car driver. His talent as a driver will rank him one day near the top on the list of all-time greats.
The driver of the Lowe's No. 48 is actually funny and easy to talk to. He respects fellow drivers, the media and of course the fans. His attitude is nearly always upbeat and positive.
Johnson has a very significant fanbase, and sales of his racing merchandise are impressive. Though a certain group of fans find the need to boo him when he wins, those who respect him and cheer for him are by far in the majority.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver is very much a glowing example of physical fitness. Since becoming a father, he has shown that he has strong family values.
Though Johnson can get as fired up as any driver on the in-car radio during a race, he is normally calm during prerace and postrace interviews.
Johnson has all the attributes that certainly make him deserving of not only one of the best drivers in NASCAR, but the best personalities as well.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 25, began driving a partial Nationwide schedule in 2009, was forced to sit out some races because he wrecked too many cars in 2010, then became the series champion in 2011 and 2012.
The driver for Roush Fenway Racing will now step up his game in 2013 as driver of the No. 17 Ford Cup car formerly driven by Matt Kenseth.
Stenhouse, a Mississippi native, is a Southern charmer with good looks to match. He is always very personable, has a great smile, is well-spoken and respected for his driving ability.
This driver is developing a strong fanbase that likely will grow as he hones his skills as a driver in NASCAR's premier series.
Mark Martin will be 54 years old on January 9, yet he remains one of the most physically fit drivers in the NASCAR garage.
Martin may be the winningest Cup series driver to never win a title, though he has been runner-up more times than he cares to count.
Over the 30-plus years that Martin has been a NASCAR driver, he has amassed 40 wins in the premier series and 43 wins in the Nationwide series.
A driver with such credentials is bound to have a significant fanbase and Martin certainly does. Though he has cut back to a partial schedule with Michael Waltrip Racing, he can still win poles and lead races.
Martin is a leader and mentor for younger drivers who seek his advice. He has had a positive impact on the performance at MWR with his peaceful demeanor, racing wisdom and cool personality traits that include his love of rap music and popularity on Twitter.
This driver has an optimistic attitude, and he never fails to express gratitude for the opportunities he has been given. Martin will chat easily with people when he has the time. He appreciates his fans and all NASCAR fans.
Martin thinks and acts young, remains calm in stressful circumstances and has a humbleness about him that is unique considering his accomplishments in NASCAR.
Matt Kenseth, 40, is a Cup series champion with 24 wins in the series over the 15 years he spent as a driver for Jack Roush. The driver moved to Joe Gibbs Racing for 2013, when he will pilot the No. 20 Toyota.
Kenseth has been described as boring because he appears to be somewhat quiet and calm except when he gets fired up over the radio in his race car.
Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of chatting with Kenseth or observe him during appearances or amongst his peers and friends knows that he is just plain funny.
He has a low-key personality that some perceive as dull, but he is anything but that. Kenseth has strong family values that are often part of the comedy we see with his posts on Twitter.
This driver is smart and highly respected by other drivers. He is easy to talk to and the kind of person one would treasure as a friend.