In an era dominated by multi-car super teams with excess sponsorship money at their disposal, NASCAR purists probably wondered when (or if) the Sprint Cup Series would ever see another owner-driver win a championship. In 2008, the only driver mounting a serious independent charge was Robby Gordon, and his team wasn't even contending for top-10s, never mind race wins or championships.
Then, Tony Stewart accepted an offer to own half of the former Haas CNC Racing, and everything changed.
This year, in its third season of operation under Stewart's watchful eye, Stewart-Haas Racing took its first championship with its namesake at the wheel. Stewart had one of the best Chases in history, scoring five wins in 10 events and edging out Carl Edwards in a tiebreaker for the title. He then became the first owner-driver to win a championship since Alan Kulwicki in 1992.
That statistic brings up a new question: Who are the best owner-drivers in NASCAR history? That's what we aim to answer today.
This list takes multiple factors into account: Besides race victories and championships, it also considers the competitiveness of the team across all three of NASCAR's national levels, longevity, consistency and the ability to attract major sponsorship.
With that being said, check out these 10 owner-drivers who can make a serious case among the best in NASCAR history and a few great drivers who don't quite make the cut: