Top Ten Restrictor Plate Drivers In NASCAR

Todd JacobsCorrespondent IJanuary 21, 2011

Top Ten Restrictor Plate Drivers In NASCAR

0 of 10

    Carl Edwards launches towards the stands in spectacular crash at Talladega restrictor plate race.Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

    NASCAR Sprint Cup's four restrictor plate races are the most dangerous and highly specialized races on the schedule.  Teams have engineers that specialize on only restrictor plate body geometry and attitude. 

    Teams like Hendrick Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing have the edge now, but there are other teams that are quickly catching up.

    The Toyota Red Bull Racing team has made strides in the offseason, as well as Michael Waltrip Racing.  Earnhardt Childress Racing won the Daytona 500 last season with Jamie McMurray behind the wheel.

    Who is the best restrictor plate driver entering the 2011 season?  The following is a list of the best active restrictor plate drivers in NASCAR Sprint Cup.

No. 10. Carl Edwards

1 of 10

    Carl Edwards 2009 race at Talladega was looking good until he was sent airborne by Brad Keselowski.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Carl Edwards has never won a restrictor plate race, but he does perform well on the big tracks.  Edwards has also been involved in some of the biggest wrecks on the super speedways. 

    His last-lap crash with Brad Keselowski that cost him the win in 2009 was his most famous restrictor plate crash but not his only failure.

    Edwards wrecked his own teammates in another accident when he made the mistake of bump drafting in the corner. 

    Experience and his affiliation with Roush Fenway make Carl Edwards a threat to win any restrictor plate race he enters.  Look for Edwards to notch his first restrictor plate victory this season.

No. 9. Kurt Busch

2 of 10

    Kurt Busch ended his 2010 Daytona 500 wrecked on the infield.Jason Smith/Getty Images

    Kurt Busch is the best restrictor plate driver in NASCAR Sprint Cup without a restrictor plate win. 

    Busch has pushed the best drivers to victories in the past, including his teammate Ryan Newman: the push to victory Newman called "The Push from Heaven."

    Busch has never found himself in position for a win at either Daytona or Talladega, but he is always around the top five when the white flag is unfurled. 

    Busch has 18 top fives and 31 top tens in 40 super speedway races.  He will be in contention for wins on all four restrictor plate races this season; it will just come down to positioning.

No.8. Clint Bowyer

3 of 10

    Clint Bowyer has fared much better in restrictor plate racing since this incident in 2007.Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    Clint Bowyer's restrictor plate racing prowess has developed over the years and he is now one of the best drivers in the draft on the big tracks. 

    He has become adept at squeezing his car into precarious positions without disrupting the pack and he has learned the intricacies of side drafting on the straightaways.

    Bowyer locked up his first restrictor plate win last season and more will follow as his career blossoms. 

    Bowyer has six top fives and 12 top tens in 20 career restrictor plate races, but his recent success outweighs his career numbers.

No. 7. Mark Martin

4 of 10

    Mark Martin's success on super speedways has been limited of late.Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Mark Martin is not a fan of restrictor plate racing, but he has always been one of the better drivers on the big tracks. 

    Martin has been close to winning the Daytona 500 on several occasions, but has never broken through for a win on the track on February.

    Martin is a driver everyone in the garage would love to work with on a restrictor plate track. 

    He knows when to back off and when to push the envelope in drafting situations and, he is an expert on what his car is capable of doing. 

    Martin will be in contention in every restrictor plate race this season.

No.6. Kyle Busch

5 of 10

    Kyle Busch pushes the edge of the envelope in every race but especially on restrictor plate tracks.Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Kyle Busch is not afraid to look foolish going for a win, and every once in a while, he falls just short while making a daring move. 

    Daytona and Talladega are the two tracks where Kyle Busch has shown the most skill and also made his biggest mistakes of his career. 

    Kyle Busch has one win at Talladega and one at Daytona, but he has also failed to make the top ten in 14 of his 24 super speedway starts.

    Kyle Busch's record on the big tracks is two wins, six top fives and 10 top tens. 

    Busch has a long way to go to catch his childhood idol Jeff Gordon in restrictor plate wins, but it will surprise no one when he surpasses Gordon's record.

No.5. Jimmie Johnson

6 of 10

    Restrictor plate racing is the one facet of NASCAR Jimmie Johnson does not dominate.Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Jimmie Johnson has one Daytona 500 win under his belt and he has been a solid restrictor plate driver in NASCAR Sprint Cup since he began his career. 

    Under the guidance of his mentor and car co-owner Jeff Gordon, Johnson has learned to stay away from trouble and show up at the end for most restrictor plate races.

No.4. Tony Stewart

7 of 10

    Tony Stewart is one of the best restrictor plate drivers in NASCAR desptie the occasional set backs.John Harrelson/Getty Images

    Tony Stewart runs well at both Talladega and Daytona and has notched two wins in the Fourth of July weekend race but has never crossed the finish line in first for the Daytona 500.

    The Daytona 500 is one race Stewart is hoping to check off on his career to-do list in the next few years.

    Stewart is another driver in the garage that has formed alliances over the years and they pay off when the NASCAR Sprint Cup series hits the restrictor plate tracks.

    No one wins these races without help, and Stewart is a magnet to the best restrictor plate drivers once the race gets down to brass tacks.

No.3. Kevin Harvick

8 of 10

    Kevin Harvick has come into his own as one of the best restrictor plate racers in NASCAR.John Harrelson/Getty Images

    Kevin Harvick assumed the seat of "The Intimidator" and he has the unenviable task of living up to the legend.

    The restrictor plate engine package and aero package improvements by the Richard Childress Racing organization has made incredible leaps over the past two years, and the result has been much better performances on the track by Harvick.

    Harvick has grown into his role as one of the best restrictor plate drivers on the NASCAR Cup circuit by working well with others when in the pack and making noninvasive moves when the time is right for a move to the front.

    There is no how-to book on restrictor plate driving or special techniques to win on a restrictor plate track.  It comes down to experience and instincts, two things Harvick has acquired through trial and error over the years. 

No. 2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

9 of 10

    Dale Earnhardt Jr.s first win in Daytona 500 came much earlier in his career than his fathers first win.Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    Hendrick Motorsports' restrictor plate package has dropped in the last few years as the RCR and Earnhardt Ganassi teams have improved their programs.

    With Dale Earnhardt Jr. finishing second to Jamie McMurray in the 2010 Daytona 500, it may have said more about the direction of the Hendrick program than the Earnhardt Ganassi program.

    Earnhardt Jr. is still considered the pied piper when he makes his move to the front of the draft.

    Dale Jr. may never live up to the expectations of his father's fans, but he has the respect of every driver when they get down to the last five laps on a restrictor plate track.

    Dale Jr's seven restrictor plate victories ranks third behind his father and Jeff Gordon. 

    His unbeaten streak at Talladega of four consecutive wins has never been duplicated on either restrictor plate track and is a feat that may may never be accomplished again.

No. 1. Jeff Gordon

10 of 10

    Jeff Gordon has won more restrictor plate races in history than anyone.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Jeff Gordon is the No. 1 active restrictor plate driver in NASCAR Sprint Cup.  Gordon has shown his understanding and skill on the dangerous super speedways since entering NASCAR in 1994. 

    Gordon has had the advantage of stepping into some of the best equipment in NASCAR at the time but he also picked up on the nuances of driving in the draft in the restrictor plate races. 

    Gordon's background in sprint car racing taught him the discipline to race in close quarters without making contact.  In open wheel sprint car racing if drivers touch wheels they are flipping end over end and headed for disaster.

    Gordon's 11 restrictor plate wins were evenly distributed among the two tracks.  Gordon captured five wins at Talladega and six wins on Daytona International Speedway. 

    Gordon is still up front for every restrictor plate race and he has three teammates who all rate as top ten restrictor plate drivers.

    Gordon still has a few more restrictor plate wins on the horizon to break his tie with Dale Earnhardt Sr. for most restrictor plate wins.