Traditionally, NASCAR drivers are looked down on in the world of motorsports because people do not see them as being as talented as drivers from other series.
This stereotype is one that still plagues NASCAR today, and like most stereotypes it is untrue. NASCAR has some of the top-level driver talent in the world and has a rich history of talented drivers.
This list ranks which drivers I think are the most talented in NASCAR. The way I like to define a talented driver is one who, if asked, could sit behind the wheel of any vehicle on any surface and be a threat to win.
This ranges from short- and long-paved ovals, road courses, flat dirt tracks and off-road to stock cars or open-wheelers, and I think many will be surprised at how rich NASCAR is in terms of driver talent.
This may be the biggest surprise of the list, but I believe that Mears has the talent to drive almost any kind of vehicle well and be competitive.
He started his career racing open-wheelers, like his father Roger Mears, in the Indy Lights series and then stepped up to IRL for a short time. He then moved to NASCAR, where he has found success, winning the grueling Coca-Cola 600 in 2007.
He was also the first NASCAR driver to make the jump and win the 24 Hours of Daytona.
- 2006 24 Hours of Daytona winner
- Two NASCAR wins (1/1/0)
Another driver who came from open-wheel success trying to prove himself in NASCAR is The Dinger.
He began his career driving in the CART series, finishing in the top five in points for the three years he spent in the series. He then decided to move to NASCAR and give stock cars a go, and he has enjoyed some success.
He is currently having his best season yet and could be a factor at the upcoming road race at Watkins Glen.
- CART Atlantic Series Champion
- 12 CART Wins (5/7)
- 2004 Champ Car Rookie of the Year
- 12 Sprint Cup Top-10s
There must be something in the water in Las Vegas because the Busch brothers are two of the top drivers in NASCAR today.
Elder brother Kurt has been one of the better drivers in NASCAR for going on a decade now. He won the first-ever Chase for the Sprint Cup and is in the running this year for his second. He is now trying to branch out and is giving the NHRA Pro Stock Series a try.
He is in good company because he is only the third driver to make the jump from NASCAR to NHRA, and one of the others just happens to be Richard Petty.
- 2004 Sprint Cup champion
- 2003 IROC champion
- 29 NASCAR Wins (23/2/4)
- Only third NASCAR driver in NHRA
Ambrose is another driver who has enjoyed great success in other series before finding his way to NASCAR.
Ambrose first made a name for himself by winning in junior Formula series in Europe before finding his way back home to Australia and competing in the V8 Supercar Series. While only racing V8 Supercars for four seasons, Ambrose enjoyed many victories and has even been called the greatest driver ever in the series.
He now finds himself driving stock cars and has been a strong driver but is still seeking his first win in the Sprint Cup Series.
- Two-time V8 Supercar champion
- 13 career V8 Supercar wins
- Formula Ford Eurocup champion
- Three NASCAR wins (0/3/0)
Carl Edwards is currently in one of his best Sprint Cup seasons to date, and that is saying a lot seeing how many good seasons he has had.
Edwards got his break in NASCAR in 2001 in the Truck Series and like many other drivers worked his way up to the top-level Sprint Cup Series. Carl has shown he has the talent to race well on any type of track and is a threat to win each race of season.
He also represented the US in the Race of Champions and beat F1 driver Michael Schumacher in a head-to-head race.
- 2007 Nationwide champion
- 59 NASCAR Wins (19/34/6)
- 2007 Prelude to the Dream winner
- 2008 Race of Champions driver
Kyle “Rowdy” Busch is currently driving the No. 18 car for Joe Gibbs racing in the Sprint Cup Series.
Lately, he has been in the news for reaching 100 career wins in NASCAR. Some people are saying that it isn’t a big deal because he only has 22 career Sprint Cup wins.
I think it shows great versatility and talent and that he can drive almost anything. This kind of talent had him linked to driving for the now defunct USF1 team in Formula 1.
- 100 NASCAR wins (22/49/29)
- 2009 Nationwide champion
Jeff Gordon has enjoyed one of the greatest careers in NASCAR history. He started racing in NASCAR at the young age of 18 in the Nationwide Series and quickly moved up the ranks and found a ride with Hendrick Motorsports.
This would turn out to be one of the most successful partnerships in NASCAR history with Gordon winning multiple championships. He has also raced in 24 Hours of Daytona and represented the USA in the Race of Champions.
- Four-time NASCAR champion
- 89 NASCAR wins (84/5/0)
- Three-time Daytona 500 winner
- Winston Million winner
- 2002 Race of Champions winner
Jimmie Johnson has been the most dominant racer in NASCAR over the last decade. Johnson began his racing career by driving in several different dirt track series, where he found success.
Johnson came into the Sprint Cup in 2001 driving for Hendrick Motorsports and has never looked back. As well as driving stock cars, he has found success in other series such as Grand Am cars and representing the US in the Race of Champions.
- Five-time NASCAR champion
- 55 NASCAR wins (54/1/0)
- 2006 Daytona 500 winner
- SODA, SCORE, MTEG Off Road championships
- 2002 Race of Champions winner
Tony Stewart is one of the most talented drivers ever to drive a stock car. His talents have been seen in many different series and on many different track surfaces.
He began his career as a dirt track prodigy, being the first to win championships in all three major divisions in the same year. He then moved to IRL, where he continued his winning ways, and finally ended up driving stock cars, solidifying his reputation as one of the top drivers in the world.
- 1995 USAC Triple Crown
- 1997 IRL champion
- Two-time NASCAR champion
- 2006 IROC champion
- 51 NASCAR wins (39/10/2)
- Three IRL wins
Montoya has enjoyed one of the greatest racing careers in recent memory. He is the only current driver to have recorded wins in the three major series and is simply a jack of all trades.
His career began with success in CART, followed by a very good career in F1 and he finally moved to NASCAR. He has also competed in Grand Am racing, having competed in 24 Hours of Daytona.
He has been competitive in all the series he has ever raced in and is continuing to show his talents. He is a true throwback driver in the mold of drivers like Mario Andretti.
- Three NASCAR wins (2/1/0)
- Seven F1 wins
- 10 CART wins
- 1999 CART champion
- 2000 INDY 500 winner
- 2003 Monaco Grand Prix winner
- Two-time 24 Hours of Daytona winner
- Fastest lap in F1 history
- Fastest top speed in F1 history
I would just like to thank you for reading this article and would love to entertain any questions or comments.