Ranking the 10 Most Versatile NASCAR Drivers

Michael GuadalupeFeatured ColumnistMarch 13, 2013

Ranking the 10 Most Versatile NASCAR Drivers

0 of 10

    NASCAR is filled with great drivers, but only a handful of them can claim that they are versatile.

    A versatile driver is one who can deliver on almost any track and in any situation. Sometimes though, they can go above just being able to win on the different styles of raceways.

    Drivers often switch teams, and the ones who can make the change and still prove to be strong should also be considered versatile.

    With the 2013 season underway, what drivers will be versatile enough to be able to handle the gen-6 car and still win races?

    Which drivers will continually finish well as the year moves on?

    Different drivers may dominate at certain tracks, but these 10 versatile drivers should be expected to finish well week after week as the season continues.

10. Denny Hamlin

1 of 10

    Denny Hamlin is a driver who tends to be solid on short tracks and the 1.5-mile cookie-cutter raceways.

    Still, he's one of NASCAR's more versatile drivers.

    He made a big adjustment last season when Darian Grubb was brought on to be his crew chief, and his ability to adjust translated well for him in 2012.

    Hamlin and the 11 team went one to win five races last season, and they looked like a solid contender to win the championship until he ran into bad luck toward the end of the year.

    He had an average finish of 12.81 in 2012, and while he's one of the hot topics in NASCAR, refusing to pay a recent fine, he's also one of NASCAR's top drivers for a reason.

    Hamlin can adjust to a situation well, and while he may struggle on road courses, Hamlin's ability to be a threat on almost every track on the Sprint Cup circuit makes him one of the sport’s most versatile drivers.

9. Kevin Harvick

2 of 10

    Kevin Harvick only managed one win last year, and it came at the second to last race of the season.

    Still, the "Closer" made it into the Chase and was in the top 10 of the standings for most of the season.  His average finish for the 2012 season was 12.08, proving that Harvick had great finishes last year.

    Harvick managed to make it into the Chase with no wins under his belt, mainly due to his ability to finish races in the top 10.

    He may not have seemed like a title contender last year, but his ability to maintain solid finishes week after week prove that Harvick can deliver on almost any track.

8. Clint Bowyer

3 of 10

    Clint Bowyer finished second in the points standing last season for a couple of reasons.

    Jimmie Johnson failing to finish the Homestead race helped propel Bowyer into second place once the season was over, but more importantly, Bowyer was solid enough throughout the season and the Chase to keep a good standing in the points.

    He finished last season with a 10.94 average finish and had three wins last year, all on different tracks.

    He won on a road course, short track and intermediate 1.5-mile track last season, proving that he can win, regardless of the track.

    When the post season started in 2012, the only finishes Bowyer had outside the top 10 were at Talladega and Phoenix.

    Bowyer is a great driver, and he proved his versatility in the Chase last year.

7. Kurt Busch

4 of 10

    Kurt Busch has been through a lot over the past couple of years.

    From letting his mouth and actions lead to his departure from Penske Racing, to his actions that got him suspended last season, Busch is one driver who can't seem to avoid trouble.

    At the same time though, he's still one of NASCAR's top drivers.

    Regardless of the team he is on, Busch will always push his car to its limit, along with the team around him.

    He might not be part of a top organization like Penske Racing anymore, but Busch is one driver who can adjust to his situation and make the most out of it.

    He's won on every style of track besides for the big superspeedways of Daytona and Talladega, and after everything Busch has been through over the last couple of years, for him to still be a relevant driver is proof of how versatile he is.

6. Matt Kenseth

5 of 10

    Matt Kenseth is a fantastic driver.

    He does struggle on road courses, but Kenseth is versatile in a different way from the rest of the drivers on this list.

    Kenseth has shifted over to Joe Gibbs Racing after being with Roush-Fenway Racing his whole career.  This big move could cause even the best drivers to struggle as they tried to adjust to a whole new organization and manufacturer.

    Instead of struggling through, Kenseth has been able to adapt well to the new team. He was one of the faster cars at Daytona until he blew an engine, and his recent win at Las Vegas shows that regardless of what team he is on, Kenseth can still win.

    Kenseth made a huge move and showed his versatility by continuing to win regardless of the car he drives.

5. Jeff Gordon

6 of 10

    Jeff Gordon hasn't started off the 2013 season like he wanted to, but he's still one driver who can win on almost any track.

    Gordon has a ton of experience in NASCAR at this point in his career, and he should be regarded as one of the best drivers to enter the sport.

    Whether it's on a cookie-cutter 1.5-mile track or something shorter like Richmond, Jeff Gordon is one driver who, when he has a solid car, usually finds himself toward the front.

    Part of Gordon being so versatile is how he can deliver when everything is on the line. Fans saw this last year as Gordon found a way to make it into the Chase.

    Gordon struggled last year and hasn't exactly started on a great note this year. Gordon is still one driver who could win at any track, which makes him extremely versatile.

4. Brad Keselowski

7 of 10

    Brad Keselowski wasn't always a versatile driver.

    In fact, there were several tracks where Keselowski would struggle.

    He turned his misfortune around last season, though.

    Heading into the Chase, many doubted that the young driver would be able to hold his momentum throughout the postseason. There were several tracks in the Chase where Keselowski tended to struggle.

    Instead of falling apart though, he pushed forward and saw great finishes in the Chase.  He was able to adjust to the pressure, and improve on his past mistakes.

    He continues to show his versatility this season was well. 

    Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a track where Brad usually struggled. This season though, Keselowski and the team behind the Blue Deuce went to Vegas and were running up in the top 10 for most of the race.

    He finished third, a huge improvement given that his best finish at Vegas had been 26th.

    Keselowski continues to show that he is one driver no one should underestimate, and regardless of the track, he has what it takes to win.

3. Kyle Busch

8 of 10

    Kyle Busch is one of NASCAR's biggest hot heads and the first driver to storm away when something doesn't go his way, but Busch is also one of best drivers in the sport.

    Even though Busch didn't have a great year last season, he showed why he is one of NASCAR's most versatile drivers.

    As the season started to come to an end, regardless of the track, Busch was one driver who was always up front and racing for the lead at one point or another.

    When he has a solid car and can avoid blowing an engine, Busch is a driver who is used to winning. He also does well on road courses, as fans saw at Watkins Glen last season.

    Busch may always seem to be upset about something in NASCAR, but he's still one of the sport’s most versatile drivers.

2. Tony Stewart

9 of 10

    If you're looking for a versatile driver in NASCAR, Tony Stewart is one of the best.

    After seeing success in the Indy Car Series, "Smoke" headed over to NASCAR and quickly become one of the sport's top drivers.

    Whether it's a road course or a superspeedway, Smoke isn't afraid to take a risk, and sometimes he benefits from it.

    His aggressive style of driving usually pushes him toward the front, if he's got a solid car. Smoke also isn't afraid to back down from anyone, as fans saw at Bristol last year when he clashed with Kenseth.

    His championship win in 2011 is a clear reflection of just how versatile he is, as he was still fairly new at being an owner of a racing team, yet he still managed to win a championship.

    Stewart came alive in the 2011 Chase, winning when everything was on the line. He is one of the top drivers in the sport, and because he can win on almost any track, Smoke is one of the most versatile drivers in NASCAR.

1. Jimmie Johnson

10 of 10

    When it comes to being the most versatile driver in NASCAR, it's hard to beat Jimmie Johnson. 

    Besides for his five consecutive championships, which alone prove how well he can adapt, Jimmie Johnson has won a race on every style of track.

    He can run well on superspeedways or even at a short track like Martinsville. He really stands out though when it comes to average tracks in NASCAR.

    He can seemingly go to any of the 1.5-mile tracks that make up a large part of the NASCAR schedule and emerge as a top driver before the race has even started.

    Even on road courses Johnson stands out, with an average finish of 6.50 at a track like Watkins Glenn.

    Daytona is one of Johnson's weaker tracks, as he has an average finish of 25.20. Yet he still managed to win there when the 2013 season started.

    No matter the track Jimmie Johnson always seems like a top driver. It's why he is clearly NASCAR's most versatile driver.