The Cup series is filled with some of the world's most gifted and talented drivers. I have scraped up a list of the top 15 most talented drivers in the sport.
The Kansas boy is the 15th most talented driver. Clint came all the way from Tornado Alley to make a name for himself in NASCAR. With a nationwide champion in 2007, 2 cup wins in 4 cup seasons, 2 chase berths, 8 nationwide wins, and a truck win, Clint Bowyer has been a modest success in NASCAR racing career. Even in an off year he is the best performing of all Richard Childress racing cars 15th in points and has 4 top fives, and 12 top ten finishes. From 2007 to 2008 Bowyer never finished lower than 5th in points.
14th:Dale Earnhardt Jr
That is right, NASCAR's most popular driver only ranks 14th in the top 15 most talented drivers list. Jr still however, is a great driver. He has accomplished things in his racing career that others envy. He has 2 nationwide series championships, 18 cups, The 2004 Daytona 500 champion, the first rookie to win the allstar race, and in 2004 won 6 races enroute to a 5th place finish in points standings. Jr may be having the most rough season of his career he still remains one of NASCAR more talented drivers. What prevents him from making the top 12 is that for 1 he lacks a top ten at Sonoma and Homestead despite being in the Cup series since 2000. And his lack of road course skills isn't impressive.
Jamie Mac just barely misses the top 12 in this list. The Missouri native is a talented one. He grabbed his first cup win in only his 2nd start at Lowes motor speedway the fall of 2002 subbing for an injured Sterling Marlin. Right after that he recorded his first 2 nationwide wins grabbing a top ten finish in nationwide points. In 2004 McMurray joined the list of the few drivers to win in all 3 series when he won at Martinsville in the trucks series. McMurray won the 2003 rookie of the year beating Roush racing's Greg Biffle and finishing 13th in the points standings, and contended for wins and chase berths in 2004 and 2005 coming up short both seasons finishing 11th and 12th in points. In 2004 McMurray recorded the best season of his cup career with 9 top fives, 23 top tens (2nd most only to Jeff Gordon) an average finish of 13.22, and 11th in points standings. Though he has had a rough year much like Earnhardt his talent was shown this year at Las Vegas where he was sent sideways by Joey Logano and somehow saved the racecar. He is also a national go kart champion, and an international go kart champion. When he won at Daytona in July of 2007 it was the 2nd closest finish in NASCAR's timing and scoring history.
Now your asking how in the world is Jimmie Johnson the 3 time defending cup champion, 44 time race winner, all the way down in 12th on my list? Well it is simple. Jimmie Johnson isn't the best driver in NACSAR. He has the best crew chief in Chad Kanus, and the best team in the 48 Lowes Chevrolet. Without them it is questionable weither Johnson would have experienced all the success he has. He has proven he can't drive aswell in a nationwide series car only winning 1 race on fuel in 2001 at Chicagoland, and in 2000 scoring 0 top five finishes, in the Prelude to the dream in a dirt late model, never being a factor, and being winless in the seasons he raced in the IROC series. But he is still a great racecar driver who would be having success in the cup series. For whatever reason Johnson excels at Cup while he fails at other racing leagues. That lack of versatility isn't impressive and puts him 12th.
The 2004 series champion ranks 11th on my list. His career has been impressive. He has a camping world west championship, an NASCAR elite championship, a IROC championship, and clearly a cup championship. In his rookie year in the trucks season he won 5 races and finished 2nd in points. He currently has 19 cup wins. He has joined the list of drivers in 2006 that had won in all 3 series when he made his nationwide debut at Texas and won. The reason Kurt doesn't make the top however is the fact that he can't seem top drive an ill handling racecar. Some of his worst seasons in cup to to ill handling racecars result in 29th,16th, and 18th place finishes in point standings.
Kevin Happy Harvick may be having a rough 2009 season but the driver of the 29 can wheel a racecar better than most. He has won go kart championships, he is a 2 time nationwide series champion, he has won a NASCAR camping world west championship, an IROC championship, he is the 2000 nationwide series rookie of the year, the 2001 cup series rookie of the year, won in only his 3rd start after taking over what was the 3 car after the tragic death of Dale Earnhardt. In 2006 Harvick competed for the 2nd time in his career a fulltime cup and nationwide schedule and much like 2001 won the nationwide champion with 9 wins and 32 top tens. He completed all but 1 lap. In the Cup series he recorded his best season with 5 wins, 15 top fives, 20 top tens, an average finish of 12.5, and 4th in points. Harvick has been faced with some of the most diffcult situations of any driver with having the team leader Dale Earnhardt die, having to be the leader senior driver on a team in his 20s, and being faced with 14 different teammates. Harvick's skills is not only shown on track but off track as he owns a championship trucks team and a nationwide team that is a solid top 5 team week in and week out.
Chesterfield Virginia’s Denny Hamlin is 9th on this list. The Virginia native has had nothing but success in the cup series. In his rookie Cup season he scored a win in the budshoot, becoming the first rookie to do so, scored 2 dominant wins at Pocono, had 8 top fives, 20 top tens, and finishes 3rd in points the highest for a rookie in this modern era of NASCAR. Every year of his cup career he has been in the chase and contending for a championship. This driver is nothing flashy. But is one of the most consistent drivers in the cup series. His talent at the flatter/short tracks shows that racing at tracks like Southside, and South Boston, has honed this driver's skills.
The Rocketman has been one of the more fearless drivers that has came to cup in a while. Having 44 poles because of it. He was a USAC standout who came into stockcar and had success as if he was a veteran. In his rookie season he becamed the 2nd rookie to win the allstar race, won at Loudon, had 14 top fives, 22 top tens, 6 poles , finishes 6th in points and beat Jimmie Johnson for the rookie of the years honors. Newman has finally reverted bad to his past success joing Stewart Haas racing in the 2009 season and making the chase for the cup.
Mark the kid Martin is a wonder. How can 50 year old be the winningest driver in a sport dominated by drivers ages 24 to 40? Easy. If this 50 year old a a very talented one it is no issue. Since coming back fulltime in 2009, Mark Martin has won 5 races, only the second time in his career he has won 5 or more races in a season. makes you wonder if he was being held back at Roush? Mark seems to be like a fine wine and only get better with age. Mark also has a record that will never be broken as he won the most IROC championships with 6.
now some writers might give the honor to Kyle being the best driver in the sport. Sorry I can't put a driver at #1 who has never won a cup championship. But Kyle Busch is still one talented driver. He made his first trucks start at age 16 in 2001, should have won a few races, but thanks to NASCAR's age rule got kicked out until he was 18th. Then made his first nationwide series start at 18 in 2004 and finishes 2nd to Matt Kenseth after leading laps due to taking 2 tires on the final pitstop. He came into Cup won 2 races and rookie of the year in 2005. He has made the chase 3 out of the 5 times he has raced in the cup series. Getting fired by Rick Hendrick might have been the best thing for his career as he has gone on to win 12 more races while he only won 4 times in 3 seasons in the 5 car. His car control has been shown probably more than most drivers as it is well known he loves to man handle a loose racecar. But 1 driver just barely beats him to the top 5.
5th:Juan Pablo Montoya
That is right. Bogota's Juan Pablo Montoya is the 5 most talented driver in the cup series. His cup creditendentials may not say it but he is only getting better. Think about it. He is a champ car champion, in his one in only Indy 500 start in 2000 he won, He has won 7 F1 races including the Grand Prix at Monoco and made the chase solidly and is 3rd in points with 4 top fives, 14 top tens, and an average finish of 13.07. Juan ahs versatility and versatility shows talent.
perhaps the best model of consistency is Matt Kenseth. He made his first cup start at Dover in 1998 subbing for Bill Elliott in the 94 and finishes in the top ten. In 2000 he became the first and thus far only rookie to win the Coca Cola 600, and beat Dale Earnhardt Jr for rookie of the year. In 2002 he won more races than anyone with 5 wins. Finally in 2003 he won 1 race and led the points after the 4th race of the seasonad never gave it up clinching the championship prior to the final race of the season. Up until this season he had never missed the chase. Even in one of his worst seasons of his career he manages to have 2 wins which were the first 2 races of the season , including a rain shortened Daytona 500. He proves his versatility by racing late models and always seems to be the winner in the races he enters. Matt is also the 2004 IROC series champion.
Carl Edwards is by the one of the most incredible drivers I have had the pleasure to witness racing in all of my life. His car control is impreshes. his driving style is very impressive as well. The Missouri native grew up on the dirt racing sprints, IMCA modifieds, and dirt late models winning in all of them. Got a break and has full taken advantaged of it. In 5 seasons he ahs scored 16 cup career wins. To put that in perspective , Dale Earnhardt and Matt Kenseth both have 18 cup wins just 2 more than Edwards, and Kurt Busch had 19 wins, just 3 more than Edwards. In his first cup season he won 4 races and tied for second in points with teammate Greg Biffle. In 2009 he won an outstanding 9 wins, scored 19 top fives, 27 top tens, average finish of 9th only coming up 69 points short to Jimmie Johnson.
Jeff Gordon is a true legend. His cup career speaks for it self. 82 wins, 4 championships, only 2 finishes outside the top ten in points. Gordon began his career racing USAC and became the youngest USAC sliver crown champion at age 19. He went into the nationwide series for Bill Davis winning races. Then he made his cup debut in the last race of the 1992 cup season with permission from his parents (since Winston was the sponsor and Gordon was under the age of 21 he needed parental consent). In 1993 despite finishing 14th in points and 0 wins Gordon won rookie of the year. In 1994 hw won 2 races including the Coca Cola 600 and the ingnargual Brickyard 400 and in 1995 he won his first of 4 championships. Jeff's best years may be behind as his last championship was in his 9th season 2001, but this driver always is in the hunt for another championship and his skills and versatility make him not only one of the best in NASCAR, but one of the best in the world.
Tony Stewart has had amazing racing career. 11 championships (4 time USAC champion, 1 time NMA champion,1 time WKA champion,1 time IKF champion, 2 time cup champion,1997 IRL champion, the last IROC champion), at least 1 in every series he has competed in fulltime, rookie of the year in the 1999 cup season, 2 time Sprint cup season and 36 wins. Stewart started racing young racing go karts then dirt. He raced USAC from 1994 to `1995 winning the 1994 USAC midgets championships, and doing the triple crown in 1995 winning the USAC Silver crown championship , the USAC sprints championships, and the USAC midgets champion. In 1996 he mad ether jump to the IRL winning rookie of the year. In 1997 he came the champion. In 1999 he made a seemless jump into the world of NASCAR. He won 3 times , had 12 top fives, 21 top tens, an average finish of 10.26, 1,226 laps led, and 4th in points. In 2009 he made the jump to ownership after 10 season at Joe Gibbs racing. Many questioned this saying that he would struggles. Clearly Stewart proved all his doubters wrong. With 3 wins, 13 top fives, 19 top tens, an average finish of 9.29 and 5th in points and leading the majority of the regular season's points and still in contention for the cup Stewart has proven that put him in any situation that he will rise and also succeed. His versatility is the best of any driver currently in racing and that is why he is #1.