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NASCAR Sprint Cup: Carl Edwards and the 20 'Dirtiest' Drivers of All Time

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IApril 19, 2011

NASCAR Sprint Cup: Carl Edwards and the 20 'Dirtiest' Drivers of All Time

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    It can be a fine line between the move that gets a driver penalized or in Victory Lane. Dirty driving in NASCAR is frowned upon, but in reality it is the aggressiveness that a hard-charging driver has that makes him a contender for race wins.

    Many of the sport's most recognized drivers throughout NASCAR history have the attitude that winning is all that matters and second is the first loser.

    As a result, there were intense drivers behind the wheel who often made moves that proved unpopular with their fellow drivers and fans.

    It has often been the case that a talent with great ability to drive a stock car, bursts upon the scene and begins snatching wins from the top drivers who are fan favorites.

    Dale Earnhardt was a wild man who could tear up equipment like a novice racer. He was the new, hot driver who came into NASCAR when Richard Petty was considered a racing icon along with those we now call legends.

    Earnhardt was booed by fans. Now in retrospect, he is considered to be possibly the greatest driver in NASCAR history and the most respected.

    Names we see as inductees and nominees for the NASCAR Hall of Fame were extremely aggressive behind the wheel of a race car. Their moves on the track would certainly be considered dirty driving by many.

    A few of the drivers we might consider "dirty drivers" carefully calculate retaliation for something another driver did to them. NASCAR drivers have very long memories when they feel they have been wronged.

    Some drivers just have a hot temper and impulsively spin or wreck another car. Often this type of interaction carries over to personal attacks outside the race car. This sometimes can prove costly with fines and penalties, yet it is part of racing.

    Dirty driving may temporarily affect the respect a driver garners from his peers and the fans, but it is part of the sport.

    In this slideshow you will see names of drivers who are or will be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Many are drivers with one or more NASCAR Sprint Cup championships.

    You will also see drivers who could win races, but for a variety of reasons they have not won the series title. A few names were winners and champions in other series, but found Cup wins difficult to attain.

    Let's scroll through a ranking of 20 drivers who despite popularity, titles and their impressive statistics were actually some of the sport's "dirtiest" drivers.

    The list is the opinion of the writer, feel free to comment on those you would add or delete from the list.

20. Ralph Earnhardt

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    photo credit: justcustomsz.com/google images

    Ralph Earnhardt started racing at dirt tracks, but went on to race in the top series of NASCAR. He was a true racer who built his own cars.

    His equipment was strong and consistent usually requiring nothing but tire changes when he showed up at a track to race.

    Earnhardt was innovative with his racing equipment and discovered tire stagger which gave him an advantage and he built bars into the doors of his car for protection.

    Just like his son, the Intimidator, he was one tough racer. In a quote by Ned Jarrett on Legends of NASCAR, Jarrett said, "Ralph Earnhardt was absolutely the toughest driver I raced against."

    Sadly, Earnhardt died in 1973 at the age of 45 from a heart attack. He was a tough competitor and did what was necessary to gain an advantage.

19. Richard Petty

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    Richard Petty was a seven-time NASCAR Cup champion with a record 200 career wins to his credit. He was inducted into the first class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

    Petty hardly seems a candidate for dirty driving, but in his years with his dad, Lee Petty, and Petty Enterprises this legend became very innovative.

    With the number of races he ran and his ability to build cars with state of the art equipment that was often factory backed or well-sponsored, his dirty driving was a result of bending rules.

    Sometimes engine size was questionable and perhaps tires would be a bit softer than other cars. They would sometimes gain advantage with the cars they built and the way they did it.

    Petty was hardly afraid to cheat and hope he wasn't caught. He was also an aggressive driver who was known for his battles especially with David Pearson.

    This HOF legend makes the list for his tenacity behind the wheel that drove him to do whatever was necessary to grab a win from another driver with a car that just might have been a tad illegal. 

18. Geoff Bodine

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    Geoff Bodine came out of the modified series to Cup where he had 18 career wins. Bodine made strong contributions to the sport with power steering and full-face helmets.

    Bodine and Dale Earnhardt had an intense rivalry and dislike for one another.

    Their aggressive driving antics on the track became serious enough that Bill France invited the two for lunch to address their behavior.

    France told the two drivers to try an avoid one another on the track. Bodine then used his style of driving to take out his brother, Brett Bodine, with whom he had a brief rivalry.

    Bodine was a talented driver, but he was outspoken and often took his frustrations out on the track. He drove for some of NASCAR's top owners like Junior Johnson and Rick Hendrick.

17. Donnie Allison

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    Donnie Allison is the brother of Bobby Allison and was part of the famous "Alabama Gang" that terrorized short tracks around the southeast.

    This Allison never ran a full Cup series season and never got the backing his brother did.

    He was still a very hard racer who maximized his position however he had to. He did have 10 career Cup wins.

    Allison was never one to back off and he is best known for the 1979 televised Daytona 500 when a blocking incident with Cale Yarborough caused the famous infield brawl between the two and his brother, Bobby.

16. Bobby Allison

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    Bobby Allison is a difficult one to add to this list, but the leader of the "Alabama Gang" was tough on his competitors as he made his way to 84 career wins in the top series of NASCAR.

    Allison is to be inducted this year at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

    He has certainly paid his dues in the sport of NASCAR with personal tragedy losing his youngest son, Clifford Allison, in a Busch (Nationwide) practice session at Michigan International Speedway in 1992.

    Later that year, his other son, Davey Allison, lost his life in a helicopter crash at Talladega Superspeedway.

    Allison nearly lost his own life in 1988 when he crashed at Pocono. The accident forced him to retire from racing.

    The Alabama driver knew how to put a car together and had worked as a mechanic which gave him knowledge that encouraged working in the gray area of the rules. He drove for some of the top owners in the sport.

    Allison stirred controversy with the races he claims he should be credited with, the protest of Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough's engines. His win in 1982 was with a missing bumper that apparently just fell off making the car lighter.

    His scrappy attitude was apparent when he helped defend his brother, Donnie Allison, during the famous televised fight with Cale Yarborough in 1979.

    Allison is very popular with fans, and was certainly a great talent behind the wheel, but he was never one to back off and used every means possible to win the races he did.

     

15. Curtis Turner

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    photo credit: CurtisTurner Museum

    Curtis Turner was a business man who made and lost millions in the timber business. He lived hard, partied hard and drove hard.

    Turner is considered one of the great all-time drivers with 18 wins in the Cup series. His prime driving days were in the 1950s.

    In 1959 he headed the group that built Charlotte Motor Speedway.Turner ran out of cash with the project and decided to organize the drivers with a union. Bill France would have nothing to do with the teamsters and banned Turner from racing. He was later re-instated.

    In a quote by Bill France on the Curtis Turner Museum.com website, he stated, "Curtis Turner was the greatest race car driver I have ever seen."

    Turner was unique in that he could drive anything and win with it, while living a lifestyle that should have distracted him.

    He would think nothing of taking out a driver that was in his way. Fred Lorenzen was one such driver in the Rebel 300 at Darlington when some paint-swapping between the two ended with Turner bashing his competitor several times and walking back to the pits.

    Turner was nicknamed "Pops" because he would hit another driver in the rear to move them out of his way.

    Turner won in other divisions including the convertible series of NASCAR. He was one of the greats, but certainly not one to mess with.

    The high-flyer died in a plane crash in 1970 on his way to Charlotte Motor Speedway.

14. Junior Johnson

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    Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images

    Junior Johnson honed his driving skills by running moonshine. He ran his first Cup race in 1953 at Darlington and went on to win 50 races in the top series of NASCAR.

    Johnson was inducted in the first class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. He is not only a legendary driver, but team owner as well.

    The North Carolina native was always trying to gain an advantage as a driver. He discovered that drafting made cars go faster and drivers have been using the draft ever since.

    As an owner he was consistent with innovations in car preparation, many of which tested the rules and sometimes failed NASCAR's policies.

    He is on this ranking because he was such a tough competitor and for his cutting edge ability as an owner to motivate his drivers to do what ever it took to win just as he had done.

13. Darrell Waltrip

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    Darrell Waltrip ran his first NASCAR Winston Cup (Sprint Cup) race in 1972. He went on to win 84 Cup races and three series titles.

    Waltrip was a brash, confident, good-looking young driver who burst upon the NASCAR scene running against fan favorites like Richard Petty, David Pearson, and Cale Yarborough.

    He attracted good sponsors and team owners as a total package driver which was unique to the sport at that time.

    Often he would get booed for his arrogant remarks and aggressive driving on the track, but his talent behind the wheel and personality won over his fellow drivers and the fans.

12. Cale Yarborough

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    Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images

    South Carolina native, Cale Yarborough, won 83 Cup series races and three consecutive series titles in 1976, 1977 and 1978.

    Yarborough may have been short in stature, but he was strong as a bull with a background in football and boxing.

    He attended a race at Darlington near his home as a young boy and decided he wanted to be a driver. As a teenager, he lied about his age to get into a race and drive, but his secret was discovered and he was disqualified.

    In 1957, he ran his first NASCAR race at Darlington. His first win in the top series of NASCAR came in 1965.

    Yarborough is on this list simply because he drove like a man possessed. He man-handled the cars and would not hesitate to move someone out of his way.

    Like other top drivers of that era, he could often be found running at short tracks around the south and the sight of Yarborough in a driver's mirror could be intimidating.

11. Jeff Gordon

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    Jeff Gordon began racing quarter-midgets at the age of five. Now he has four NASCAR Winston Cup (Sprint Cup) championships and 83 career wins.

    Gordon's first race was 1992 and the good-looking kid came into the sport at a time when Dale Earnhardt was very popular.

    He was polarizing because many fans didn't like the fact he was taking wins from the "Intimidator."

    Gordon is considered a modern era driver with not only great driving ability, but fan appeal, sponsorship appeal and a persona much different from that of the good ole boys.

    The California native was tough on his competitors and won his first race in 1994. In 1995, he battled Earnhardt for the championship and got his first title.

    Gordon appeared to be mellowing with age like a fine wine and was regarded as a clean driver after he won his last title in 2001.

    It was in 2001, he brought Jimmie Johnson to Hendrick Motorsports and hasn't won a title since. The frustration of not winning titles and some extended winless streaks have put Gordon back in an aggressive driving style.

    He has tangled with Johnson and other drivers. Gordon has openly expressed his displeasure with Johnson and some of their on-track encounters.

    As the prime years for this driver begin to wind down, he is anxious to not only win, but at least equal his teammate Johnson's five titles.

    Look for that fine line between aggression and dirty driving to be crossed by Gordon this season and future seasons just as it was in 2010.

10. Kurt Busch

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    Las Vegas native, Kurt Busch, ran his first NASCAR Cup race in 2000, got his first win in 2002 and the series title in 2004.

    Busch found himself to be unpopular because of his somewhat arrogant attitude and his encounters with other drivers that resulted in wrecks.

    One time he made contact with Dale Earnhardt during a Daytona 500 and was shown a finger that probably didn't mean he was number one.

    Over the years, Busch has become more charismatic with his job as a driver for Penske Racing. He apparently passed the controversial banner to his younger brother, Kyle Busch.

9. Ernie Irvan

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    Ernie Irvan earned the nickname of "Swervin' Irvan" which pretty much explains why he is on this list. His moves on the track proved to be unpopular with a lot of drivers.

    Irvan ran his first NASCAR Cup race in 1987 and raced for some 12 years with 15 wins in the series. His controversial wrecks caused him to apologized to his fellow drivers at a drivers meeting before a race.

    During 1994, he was a contender for the series title during much of the season. He matched Dale Earnhardt's three wins.

    His run for the title ended during a practice session at Michigan International Speedway where he hit the wall at 170 mph after blowing a tire.

    He was in critical condition with a 10 percent chance of survival. Irvan fought his way back through rehabilitation and walked on stage at the NASCAR Awards Banquet less than two months after the accident.

    Irvan did make a comeback in racing, but a subsequent accident forced his retirement from the sport in 1999.

8. Jimmy Spencer

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    Jimmy Spencer is nicknamed "Mr. Excitement" for his aggressive driving style which is pretty much the reason he makes this list.

    He was a champion modified driver, but only had two wins in NASCAR's Cup series. He began racing in the Winston Cup (Sprint Cup) series during 1989.

    Spencer was the proverbial bull in a china shop on the race tracks. If you add in his outspoken manner and temper, you can bet his racing confrontations were frequent.

    One of Spencer's most memorable out of control moments was in 2003 when Kurt Busch made a move that "Mr. Excitement" didn't care for.

    Spencer pulled up behind him in the garage area after the race and he punched Busch through the car window numerous times. Spencer faced a fine, temporary suspension and probation.

    Currently you can find Spencer and his trademark cigar on Speed TV as a commentator about all things  NASCAR.

7. Robby Gordon

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    Robby Gordon has driven open-wheel cars and excels with off-road racing, but since coming into NASCAR during 1991 he has stirred up more than his share of controversy.

    He has raced for strong teams including Richard Childress Racing, but for the most part he raced for low-budget teams or his own team.

    Some of his more notable moments were with Jeff Gordon during 2001 and Greg Biffle in 2004. No doubt he has upset most of the top drivers in the Cup series at one time or another whether it was deliberate or accidental.

    At a New Hampshire race he tangled with Michael Waltrip as the yellow flag waved. Gordon attempted to back into Waltrip when he came back around and then got out and threw his helmet at him. A fine from NASCAR soon followed.

    Gordon is no stranger to penalties and probation from NASCAR for rule infractions and bad behavior. He is innovative as a car owner, but sometimes a bit too much as he struggles to keep funding to run his team.

6. Tony Stewart

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    Tony Stewart has titles in IndyCar, USAC Silver Crown, midgets and sprints. He ran his first NASCAR Winston Cup (Sprint Cup) race in 1999 at the Daytona 500.

    Stewart went on to win two championship titles in NASCAR's top series in 2002 and 2005. He has 39 career wins in the Cup series.

    The Indiana driver was known for his fiery temper and remarks that sometimes got him in trouble with NASCAR and other drivers. He is no stranger to fines and penalties.

    The year, 2001 had some controversial events with Stewart. Jeff Gordon had pulled off a bump and run with him at Bristol. Stewart retaliated by spinning him on pit road.

    That same year there was an incident with a reporter that caused Stewart to kick his recorder away.

    In 2002 his altercations included one with a photographer and he made it clear that he had little love for the media and their questions.

    In 2006 there were several incidents involving Stewart and Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth during the Daytona 500. In a quote shown on Wikipedia, Stewart said of Kenseth, "He started it and I finished it."

    The incidents have continued throughout his career on and off the track. When Stewart became an owner/driver he seemed to mellow and even warmed to the media a bit.

    Things have not played out for Stewart at the end of some races this season and the usually approachable driver has steered clear of any interviews at the end of the race. Perhaps that is best because who knows what the angry driver of the No. 14 might say.

5. Juan Pablo Montoya

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    Juan Pablo Montoya, the Columbian native, has been a winner in Formula One and Cart. He ran his first NASCAR Cup race in 2006 and has two career wins to his credit.

    Montoya brought his fiery Latin temper with him when he came to NASCAR and seemed a bit out of place in the stock car series.

    Montoya doesn't hesitate to show his anger and can be very verbal as was demonstrated at the Brickyard 400 when he was assessed a speeding penalty in 2009.

    In 2007, Montoya had a face to face confrontation with Kevin Harvick at Watkins Glen, though both drivers still had their helmets on.

    There are other incidents where Montoya felt wronged and either retaliated with his car or had a verbal meltdown.

    When JPM came into NASCAR, he had little respect for the other drivers and pretty much vice versa. He has since gained respect in the sport, but his hot temper remains fully intact.

4. Kevin Harvick

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    Kevin Harvick took over the ride of the late Dale Earnhardt at Richard Childress Racing. Some of the aggressiveness and intimidating driving style that Earnhardt had is reflected in Harvick.

    Harvick has 16 career wins in the NASCAR Cup series. He is a very talented driver with a tendency to make unexpected appearances at the front of the pack on the final laps of a race.

    The driver of the No. 29 Chevrolet has a temper and won't hesitate to spin a driver out if he deems it advantageous.

    He has been known to exit his car and jump on the hood of another driver's car before a confrontation ensues as was the case with Juan Pablo Montoya at Watkins Glen.

    Overall Harvick has realized the importance of not tearing up equipment since he started his own teams at Kevin Harvick Inc., but that doesn't stop him from taking out another driver.

    This is a driver who really straddles the line between aggressiveness and dirty driving. His style of driving has served him well as he challenged for the NASCAR Sprint Cup title in 2010 and led the point standings much of the season prior to the Chase.

    Whether you consider him a dirty driver or not is pretty much irrelevant because he wins races with the penalties he has been assessed being mostly for things other than rough driving.

3. Kyle Busch

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    The 25-year-old Las Vegas native, Kyle Busch, is an extraordinary racing talent who made his first NASCAR Cup start in 2004.

    He has since won 19 Cup races and holds the record for the most wins across the top three series of NASCAR.

    Busch consistently gets more than his share of boos from the fans and has yet to cross the threshold to driver popularity.

    The same thing happened with other drivers who came into the sport and started putting on a show with three examples being Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon.

    One factor that contributed to his lack of popularity was his lack of maturity on and off the track and another was his arrogant attitude.

    Busch began his Cup career with Hendrick Motorsports, but his career took a turn for the better with his move to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008.

    The driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota has certainly been guilty of  dirty driving. He has caused wrecks for himself and other drivers with little respect for the guys that spend hours repairing damaged cars.

    The win is all that matters to this driver and he will do anything to get one because finishing second or worse is losing.

    This is a talented driver who will one day win one or more NASCAR Sprint Cup championships. He is a owner in the truck series and was recently married. Both factors plus the guidance at Joe Gibbs Racing has resulted in Busch showing more maturity.

    Fans will one day recognize just how good this driver is, but his drive to win and aggressive driving style will continue to bounce around on the edge of the dirty driving category.

2. Dale Earnhardt

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    Dale Earnhardt ran his first NASCAR Cup race in 1975. He went on to win seven NASCAR Winston Cup (Sprint Cup) titles with 76 career wins.

    He came into the sport as a wild child who tore up equipment, but still found a way to beat the hot drivers of that era like Richard Petty.

    Earnhardt was hardly the most popular driver during his early NASCAR years, with his long messy hair and mustached face and a swagger like no other driver.

    It was obvious to all that he was a force to deal with and the term dirty driving most certainly applied to his aggressive style.

    In 1987,  Earnhardt earned the nickname of "The Intimidator" when he sent Bill Elliott spinning in the Winston non-points race.

    The title served him well because he indeed was able to intimidate the drivers he competed with. They knew he was able to make moves that seemed impossible. They also knew he would not hesitate to move them out of the way.

    Earnhardt garnered great respect with his driving talent, despite some of the unpopular moves he made with other drivers.

    A part of NASCAR died when Earnhardt lost his life at Daytona in 2001 and there may never be another driver like him in the sport.

    Dirty driving or whatever you wish to call his style of driving may not have been a negative. He was inducted in the first class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame last year.

1. Carl Edwards

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    Carl Edwards plays the cool, personable, nice guy that drives his No.99 Aflac Ford for Roush Fenway Racing.

    There is no doubt he has outstanding talent as a driver with 19 Cup wins since his first race in the series during 2004.

    How could the Missouri native who does back flips off his car when he wins and climbs in with the fans in the grandstands, be anything other than one of the nicest drivers in the sport?

    His pre-meditated retaliatory actions on the track specifically against Brad Keselowski put him at the top of the dirty driving list.

    At the 2009 Aaron's 499 at Talladega, Edwards tried to pull off a block of Keselowski and his car went airborne into the catch fence injuring fans.

    At the Kobalt 500 in Atlanta, Edwards had been in the garage area when he emerged to deliberately run into Keselowski sending him airborne.

    NASCAR parked Edwards immediately, but the probation was minimal, as was the penalty. They went light on Edwards because of the new "boy's have at it policy."

    During a NASCAR Nationwide race at Gateway International Raceway, Edwards caused Keselowski to have a violent crash on the last lap as a payback for contact the two had prior to the incident.

    He was fined a placed on probation. Keselowski was also placed on probation.

    Edwards is a tough contender and does what he has to do to win. He has been known to make other on-track moves that are a very aggressive.

    The driver known as "Cousin Carl" is always smiling, but underneath his friendly persona seems to be an anger problem that causes him to go way across the line into dirty-driving land.

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