NASCAR, a sport where only the most competitive survive. But who are 20 drivers in NASCAR history who have helped themselves be competitive by pulling some dirty stunts from cheating to wrecking?
There is definitely a fine line between the words competitive and dirty. But drivers frequently cross it and depending whose side you are on (the wrecker's or the wreckee's) calling someone's driver dirty can sometimes be fighting words. But, in the interest of trying to rank the dirtiest drivers in the sport, here is a list of those drivers that have toed the line, and crossed it, when it comes to the dirty vs. competitive view.
While Joe Weatherly was a big party boy and the garage's jokester in the early days, he was also a fiend on the track.
Weatherly raced (and won) in multiple different series, although the rough and tumble world of stock car racing suited him the best. He asked for everything from his car and his side of that deal meant moving other cars out of the way.
Weatherly was famous for banging into other cars, especially Curtis Turner's, and wouldn't give an inch in any on track fights. His no holds barred driving style earned him two Grand National (Sprint Cup) titles before his race related death in 1964 as the defending champion.
While Richard Petty doesn't really fall into the dirty, wrecking everyone category of this list, he definitely toed the rule line and even walked onto the cheating side of the line.
Petty wasn't worried about running a car through inspection that may be a little off what NASCAR was expecting and looked for every possible advantage he could find.
Sure, Petty may not fall straight into line with this list's dirty wreck anyone drivers, but between his aggressive driving to get to the front and his overwillingness to bend the rule line to win, Petty falls into the dirty side of driving without blinking an eye.
Part of the "Alabama Gang", Donnie Allison may be best known for his brawl in the 1979 Daytona 500 with his brother and Cale Yarborough.
However, Allison would never back down if he wanted a spot and would do nearly whatever it took to get it. Competitive or dirty, Allison did employ some questionable moves to get what he wanted and was rewarded with 10 Sprint Cup wins.
When you are willing to take out your own brother on the track because you once had a rivalry with him, you know you are a dirty driver.
Geoff Bodine wasn't one to back off of any driver during his career and even had to have lunch with Bill France and Dale Earnhardt so France could tell them to avoid each other on the track so their dirty driving against each other would stop and slow down their hatred fueled rivalry.
Bodine definitely stepped over the line with his retaliations and even just his driving at times, landing himself on the dirty list.
Cale Yarborough drove like the devil was chasing him on the track and he was willing to sacrifice others in order to put more room between him and the devil on the track.
While Yarborough definitely toys with that competitive vs. dirty line, his relentlessness and willingness to push cars out of the way to get ahead of them puts him on this list.
NASCAR definitely helped to take the dirtiness out of Kurt Busch a few years ago and now he can be seen more as a good, friendly guy (with the occasional aggressive remarks) than the driver that made no friends when he first came to Cup in the early 2000s.
Before NASCAR stepped in after an off-track incident with Busch, he would have encounters with drivers that wouldn't just stop at bumping. Possibly his most infamous encounter was with Jimmy Spencer, who punched Busch multiple times when he was still in the car in the garage area.
Busch definitely gave his bad boy rep to his brother, but at one time Baby Busch wasn't the only one burning bridges in the garage.
Like many drivers of his era, Darrell Waltrip lands on this list because of his take no prisoners approach.
Waltrip felt that he was the best driver out there and if you couldn't out drive him, you needed to get out of his way. If you wouldn't voluntarily move, he'd help you like any good Kentucky boy would.
Waltrip may fall more on the competitiveness side of this line but he definitely wasn't anywhere near a saint on the track.
Jeff Gordon had a few years of calm after bringing Jimmie Johnson into Sprint Cup but he's back and driving with a vengeance for his fifth championship.
Gordon isn't afraid to tangle with drivers, including Johnson. The more frustrated Gordon gets, the dirtier he drives and that can definitely be seen when his cards are on the table.
When your nickname is "Pops" because you'll hit another driver from behind to move them out of the way and think nothing of it, you deserve to be on this list.
Curtis Turner would hit a driver to get them out of the way and if they came back at him, he'd retaliate again. One such incident with Fred Lorenzen at Darlington found Turner bashing Lorenzen's car on the track after swapping paint before walking back to the pits. Turner also had quite a few run ins with Bobby Allison throughout his racing years.
Turner may not be a household name, but he definitely is a dirty one.
Another nickname worthy dirty driver, Swervin' Ernie Irvan doesn't need all that much said about him when it comes to dirty driver land.
His controversial incidents even had him apologizing at a drivers meeting at one point when he was extremely unpopular on the track. When you have to apologize to all the other drivers because of your run ins, you know you've stepped over the line.
When you have had issues with nearly everyone on the track, you may want to rethink your position, and this definitely goes for Robby Gordon. Gordon has had altercations with everyone from the top drivers to the start and parks and has found himself on many losing ends of the probation stick with NASCAR.
For being more of a low budget driver, Gordon really has done his share when it comes to altercations and hard driving and has even tried to back into drivers on the track (Michael Waltrip, anyone?).
While it's not clear if Gordon's driving comes from trying to hard or intentional stirring of the pot, it's definitely something that almost everyone on the track has had a taste of.
While we're reaching way back in time here to the really early days of NASCAR, Lee Petty set the stage for testing limits in NASCAR.
While Lee pushed the limits with illegal parts, he was also an aggressive driver that it seemed no one on the track liked.
“There wasn’t too many people who liked Lee Petty…a two-faced, dirty driver.” Smokey Yunick said in an interview for the book American Zoom.
While it is always believed that the Dale Earnhardt era was an extremely tough one to race in, it seems like the earliest NASCAR era was even tougher.
Jimmy Spencer, aka Mr. Excitement, did more on the track when it came to aggressive driving than winning and definitely wasn't afraid to wreck someone if they had done something he felt needed retaliation or if he wanted them out of the way.
One of these moves led to a confrontation in the garage with Kurt Busch where Spencer's fists just happened to enter Busch's car. Spencer's arrogant attitude didn't help things on the track and definitely contributed to his dirty driving.
While Kyle Busch has calmed down over the past few years because of truck ownership and marriage, he has also wrecked others just for the sake of wrecking them in the past.
Busch does whatever it takes to get a win, because (to quote Ricky Bobby) "If you ain't first, you're last" but he definitely steps over the competitive line into dirty territory just to get what he wants.
Sure, Busch is an extremely talented driver but he's burned a lot of bridges with his driving style that he'll want to repair down the road.
When Kevin Harvick jumped into Dale Earnhardt's car after his untimely death, he also took Earnhardt's style of driving.
Harvick has been known to be a little tough on drivers, bringing on Joey Logano's famous quote.
"His wife wears the fire suit in the family and tells him what to do. It's probably not his fault," Joey Logano told NASCAR and others at Pocono last year.
While Harvick toys the dirty driving line, he doesn't have any fear of taking out other drivers and does hold grudges for a long time, but he also plays the cards by usually only screwing with those that he feels have messed with him or others that deserve it.
However, deciding who deserves to be bumped and harassed puts him in the dirty driver category for many fans.
Car ownership has definitely quieted Tony Stewart down compared to the past but Stewart still pushes the limit ten-fold when it comes to dirty driving.
From spinning Jeff Gordon on pit road as retaliation for a bump and run to incidents with other drivers, Stewart isn't afraid to get dirty in response to something that happens to him.
While Stewart has calmed down compared to the past, he has a warning out for all drivers right now that he will dump them if he blocks them. He's put warnings out in the past like this one and he sticks to his word, so drivers need to be on the look out.
All rookies definitely need to be warned before they make their first lap around the track that if they do anything to Tony Stewart, he will retaliate and it will probably end up with their car in the garage.
When drivers see Juan Pablo Montoya in their mirror, they brace for impact and for a good reason. Like the drivers of old, Montoya is not afraid to move someone if he thinks it will get them out of his way. Nor is he afraid to retaliate.
While, like many drivers, Montoya has settled down with experience in NASCAR, he came into the sport with little respect for anyone else and wasn't afraid to have confrontations with drivers over their driving or vica-versa.
But his firey temper still exists, as does his aggressive driving so no one is surprised when he is found to be the cause of an incident on the track.
While Dale Earnhardt is known to many as the dirtiest driver of all time, Richard Petty disagrees, naming someone he feels was even tougher to race, Earnhardt's father Ralph.
“You think Dale Earnhardt is tough, you should have raced against his daddy,” Petty said about the elder Earnhardt according to onedirt.com.
While Ralph Earnhardt took care of his own equipment, he had no problem shoving someone else into the wall or tearing up their equipment in order to get to the front. And if that person challenged him again, Ralph would push him off the track.
Ralph pushed buttons on the pavement and on the dirt, making him a force no one wanted to mess with, no matter where he was racing.
Carl Edwards does an excellent job of acting like Mr. Good Guy in the garage and to fans, but he can flip a switch and it's like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
While Edwards is a good driver, his dirty driving streak of spinning cars, including pit road (Tony Stewart at Pocono in 2009), even sometimes as premeditated payback definitely puts him high on this list. His comments at Gateway after flipping Brad Keselowski (among other comments made through the years) help his cause for the No. 2 spot as well.
Love him or hate him, Dale Earnhardt, Sr. definitely could turn into a dirty driver if it gained him an advantage.
Sure, a little bumping is just competitiveness showing through, but the "Intimidator" was willing to move cars out of his way through any means necessary if it gave him the lead.
His driving style definitely helped him out, as others got nervous whenever they saw him in their rearview mirrors. They knew he would move them if they didn't move themselves when he wanted to get by.