The first two lines of Act II, Scene ii of William Shakespeare's famous play Romeo and Juliet have Juliet Capulet ask an age old question:
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet"
In other words, a name itself does not hold much value, but rather the person behind the name.
Nicknames, however, are completely different. They are based, usually, on the driver’s personality, driving style and/or a combination of the two. They truly can define a driver or, at least, the body of his work on the racetrack.
The movie Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby illustrates the point in more modern terms. In the beginning, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly are known as a tandem. They call themselves “Shake ‘N Bake.”
Eventually, Reilly becomes disillusioned with never getting the chance to win and breaks off from his comrade. Almost immediately, he creates a new nickname just for himself: “The Magic Man” (now you see him, now you don’t). Ferrell eventually admits that, yes indeed, this is an “awesome” nickname.
Either way, nicknames in racing are important. Some are very good and imply the advanced talents of the Sprint Cup drivers. Tony “Smoke” Stewart and Ryan “Rocket Man” Newman are among the best today.
Other notables are Jimmie “Superman” Johnson and Matt “Special K” Kenseth.
Unfortunately, some nicknames just miss the mark for either a lack of creativity or an unfair character assumption placed upon the driver.
Some were so bad or misused that they were included on this list. Here are some noteworthy members.