It is no secret what is the heart and soul of NASCAR. It's not the money that Sprint, Nationwide or Camping World puts out to be the champion. It's not the track promoters that spend the money in commercials, and it is certainly not the sponsors getting their product exposure every weekend.
No, the heart and soul of NASCAR is in the people that sit in those stands every weekend. The fans, young and old, have made NASCAR what it is today.
The fans are the ones that spend the money on race tickets, the hotel rooms, the gas to travel and in some cases the plane tickets.
NASCAR fans are the ones that purchase their favorite t-shirts, hats and die-casts of the driver they root for each week. They are also the ones that argue every Sunday as to who is better at winning, or who's the driver most hated. Each one comes to the track wearing familiar colors of their driver, just showing the passion that the sport brings out.
All this means that popularity in NASCAR can be defined by its fan base. At the same time, popularity in the garage has another way of defining the sport.
Drivers have a way of earning respect on the track, but that carries over in the garage. Some drivers have their peers come for advice, sometimes for issues in the race and sometimes it's advice outside the race.
Popularity not only defines a driver, it simply defines the sport.
Who is the most popular driver of all time? Is it someone who is defined by his fan base, by the respect in the garage, the amount of merchandise sold or a combination of all three?
In simple terms, NASCAR is all about popularity. The sport got this big because it became the popular sport in the country.
But who is the most popular driver of all-time? Let's count down the 50 most popular drivers in NASCAR to find out.