The 12 Most Legendary Racing Families in NASCAR History

Michael Guadalupe@The_GuadaFeatured ColumnistOctober 21, 2012

The 12 Most Legendary Racing Families in NASCAR History

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    NASCAR is all about family.

    Racing families have been big in NASCAR since its start in 1948, and even to this day.  There have been a lot of families involved in NASCAR, but only some can really consider themselves legendary.

    While a lot of families on this list had a champion in the family at one point or another, winning a championship alone will not make them legendary.  The familiar names on this list have been selected because of the impact they had on the sport itself. 

    Some played a big role in helping NASCAR first get established, and other racing families are still involved in NASCAR today.

    Racing is important too, as some families would prove their racing superiority and dominate NASCAR for years.

    Still, to be considered legendary, these families needed to help push NASCAR forward and improve the sport as time went on.

    Here is a list of the 12 most legendary racing families in NASCAR history.

    Note: A lot of stats and general information was taken out of this book.  The Complete History of NASCAR is a great book to check out, especially if you're interested in the sports rich history.

Honorable Mention: The Busch Brothers

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    The Busch brothers will more than likely be one of the legendary families of NASCAR history.  Both brothers are fantastic drivers, and Kurt won a championship back in 2004.

    The problem with the Busch brothers, though, is how they end up being remembered.

    Will they be remembered for their skill and fantastic driving ability?  Or will they be remembered for their off-the-field antics?  This year, for example, we've seen Kurt Busch threaten a reporter and Kyle Busch go off on a rant about Toyota Racing Development.

    Last year wasn't any better for the Busch Brothers, as Kyle was involved in a incident in the Camping World Series and Kurt ended up getting dropped from Penske racing, not to mention his rude gesture at Homestead.

    Still, both of these brothers are fantastic drivers.  While Kurt hasn't been on a team like Penske and it's clearly impacting his performance, he is still a solid driver.

    Kyle Busch has all the potential to win a championship even though he failed to make the chase this year.

    Both brothers are great drivers, but until they get their attitudes under control, they might only be remembered for the mistakes they make instead of their driving ability.

12. The Bodine Brothers

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    The Bodines might not have had as much success in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series as some of the other families on this list, but all three brothers have had a significant impact on NASCAR in different ways.

    The oldest brother, Geoff, was the most successful in the Sprint Cup Series out of all three Bodine brothers.  He would win the 1982 Winston Cup Rookie of the Year award and won 18 races in his career.

    His best finish in points would be third in 1990.  He also was named one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers.  While he wouldn't win a Sprint Cup title, Geoff Bodine was still a solid competitor throughout his career.

    The middle Bodine brother, Brett, only managed one win in the Sprint Cup series out of  his 480 races.  His best finish in points was 12th back in 1990.  Brett eventually retired from racing and now drives the pace car for all Sprint Cup Series events.  He also works in the NASCAR office as the director of research and development, working on moving NASCAR into the future.

    The youngest Bodine brother, Todd, wouldn't be successful in the Sprint Cup series, but won two championships and 22 races in the Camping World Truck Series.  He is currently still competing in the Camping World Series.

    The Bodines might not stand out as much as some of the other families on this list, but Geoff Bodine helped put the family on the NASCAR map, and both Brett and Todd continue to play a part in NASCAR's future.

11. The Wallace Family

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    NASCAR in the 1980's improved as far as competition goes.  Big teams were really coming alive, and with drivers like Dale Earnhardt, Sr., Bobby Allison, Terry Labonte and Darrell Waltrip, it was hard for anyone to stand out.

    Except for a young Rusty Wallace

    Rusty began racing in the NASCAR circuit in 1980 and would win the Rookie of the Year award in 1984. He wouldn't make any real noise in the Winston Cup points race until the later part of the 1980's, though.  Rusty's best year was 1989, where he won a hard-fought battle for the Winston Cup against Dale Earnhardt, Sr.

    Rusty and Earnhardt were rivals, and Rusty took the points lead from Earnhardt with five races left in the season.  He held on to his points lead and ended up beating Earnhardt by 12 points.  Wallace had six wins and 13 top five finishes in 29 starts during the 1989 year.

    Rusty's success continued into the 90's, though he wouldn't win another title. He came in second in 1993, behind Dale Earnhardt, Sr.  Wallace finished that year with 10 wins and 19 top five finishes in 30 starts.

    Rusty's brothers, Kenny and Mike, joined Rusty in the NASCAR Winston Cup series in the 1990's as well.  1990 was the first time since the Flock family that three brothers had raced against each other in the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit.  Kenny and Mike Wallace didn't have the success of their older brother Rusty, but still were respectable drivers in their own right.

    Kenny won Rookie of the Year in the Busch series in 1989 and the Most Popular Driver award in the Busch series in 1991, 94 and 2006.

    Mike Wallace would win several races in the Busch (Nationwide) series and the Camping World series as well.

    The Wallaces continue their racing traditions with the younger members of the family.  Rusty's son Steve drives in the Nationwide series, and Mike's daughter Chrissy has raced in several Camping World Series races.

    The Wallace brothers were a big part of the 1990's NASCAR scene, and Rusty Wallace would end up on NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers list.

10. The Baker Family

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    The Bakers' legendary start begins with Buck Baker.

    Buck Baker began racing in NASCAR in 1949 and eventually had his last season in 1976.  In his time in NASCAR, Buck was known for his toughness and his driving ability.  He became the first driver to win back to back championships.  Buck would win it all in 1956 and then again in '57.

    In 1956, Baker won 14 races and placed in the top five 31 times.  In '57, Baker won 10 races and finished the season with 30 top five finishes.

    Baker was known for his toughness, and on occasion, got into it with other drivers on pit road, especially if they bumped him during a race.  He was also the first driver in NASCAR to exceed $300,000 in career earnings.

    Buck would have two sons who were both involved with NASCAR.

    Buddy Baker never won a championship, but is one of eight drivers to win a career grand slam by winning the Dayton 500, Aaron's 499, Coca-Cola 600 and the Southern 500.

    In 1970, Buddy Baker became the first driver to exceed speeds of 200 mph on a closed course test run.  He had 28 wins in his career and 498 top five finishes.

    Buck Baker's other son, Randy, only competed in a handful of Sprint Cup races before leaving the series.

    Buck and Buddy Baker set records with their NASCAR careers.  Though they might not have had long careers like some of the other drivers on this list, what they managed to accomplish in their careers is nothing short of legendary.

9. The Labonte Brothers

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    The two drivers who had a big impact on NASCAR from the Labonte family are Terry Labonte and younger brother Bobby Labonte.

    Terry began his career in 1978.  While he would only run in five races, he finished in the top five in three of them.  By his third full season, Labonte was already looking like a championship contender.  He would finish fourth in 1981, third in 1982 and fifth in 1983.

    In 1984, Terry Labonte won his first NASCAR Winston Cup title.  He took the lead from Dale Earnhardt, Sr. with 10 races to go and would hold off Harry Grant by winning the Talladega race in August.

    Terry won his second title 12 years later.  Driving for Hendrick Motorsports, Labonte and Jeff Gordon battled it out for the points lead during the end of the season.  Labonte gained his edge on Gordon with three races left and would win the championship by 37 points. 

    At the last race of the1996 season, while Terry won the championship, his younger brother Bobby would win the race, and it was the only time in NASCAR history where one sibling won the championship and the other won the last race of the season.

    Terry passed Richard Petty's record for consecutive starts of 513 in 1996 and set his own record of 655 starts.  Eventually, though, Terry's record was passed by Ricky Rudd in 2002.

    The younger Labonte brother, Bobby, became a champion as well.  He started racing in 1991, but wouldn't get his first win until 1995.

    Bobby won the NASCAR Winston Cup in 2000, winning the first championship for Joe Gibbs Racing.  He would have four wins that season and 19 top fives.  He managed to hold off both Dale Earnhardt, Sr. and Jeff Burton to win the championship.

    Bobby Labonte still races today, and while he might not have the same success he did in his earlier years, Bobby helped place Joe Gibbs Racing on the map and was a force in NASCAR through the late 90's and early 2000's.

    Both Labontes were tough competitors, and both would be champions.

8. The Jarrett Family

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    Ned Jarrett and his son Dale Jarrett took NASCAR by storm at much different times.  Ned would be a competitor in the sport through most of the 1960's, but had run a limited schedule since the early 1950's. His son Dale would enter the NASCAR scene in the 1990's

    Ned would win his first NASCAR Grand National title in 1961 with just one win in the entire season.  He had 23 top fives and 34 top 10s.  His one win was enough to get him his first NASCAR title.

    Ned would again become NASCAR Grand National champion in 1965.  He won 13 races that year and finished in the top five 42 times.  Ned had to hold back up-and-coming rookie Dick Hutcherson while wearing a back brace at one point after injuring his back in a race at Greensville, South Carolina.

    Ned Jarrett retired in 1966 after Ford decided to withdraw from NASCAR.  He was 34 years old and the only NASCAR driver to retire as the defending champion.

    Eventually, Ned's son Dale entered the NASCAR scene.  Dale began racing full Sprint Cup schedules in 1987, but wouldn't become a real threat for the title until 1996.  He finished third that year in the points.  In 1997, he finished in second behind Jeff Gordon, and in 1998, he would finish third again.

    Dale eventually grabbed the NASCAR Winston Cup championship in 1999, winning four races that season and having 24 top-five finishes. He gave team owner Robert Yates his first championship win.

    He continued to be competitive in 2000 and '01 as well.  Dale Jarrett also managed to win at least one race in every season from 1993 to 2003.  He would retire in 2008.

    Ned and Dale Jarrett would become the second father-son drivers to win a championship.  The Pettys were the other family to complete this feat.

7. The Wood Brothers

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    The Wood brothers were a dominate racing team through most of NASCAR's history.

    It started with Glen Wood, who would race in the NASCAR circuit in the 1950's-1960's.  He was named one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers.  Eventually, he would give up racing and just focus on his team.

    He employed family members to help with the cars and the pit stops, which were extremely fast.  The Wood brothers continued to be a dominant force in NASCAR into the 1980's.  Glen eventually retired, and the team was taken over by his sons.

    The Wood brothers became such a dominate force in NASCAR that they were only matched by the Pettys.

    Some of the best drivers in NASCAR have also driven for the Wood Brothers.  Drivers like Cale Yarborough, Junior Johnson, David Pearson and Ned Jarrett to name a few.

    Wood Brothers Racing has won 98 races in its massive NASCAR career and managed to win one race in each of the last six decades.

    While they might not be as dominant now as they were in their earlier years, the Wood brothers have made a huge impact on NASCAR and helped shape the sport we know today.

    Here is a full list of the Wood brothers' milestones, along with career stats.

6. The Flock Gang

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    The Flock gang was one of NASCAR's early legendary racing families.

    Brothers Bob, Fonty and Tim all raced in NASCAR during the late 1940's and into the 1950's.  Even their sister Ethel would race in over 100 NASCAR modified events.

    The Flocks were early pioneers of NASCAR.  Fonty Flock won the 1947 National Championship Stock Car Racing Circuit, a year before NASCAR was fully established with a points system.  In 1948, the first year of the system, Fonty would come in second place, winning 15 races out of the 40 he started in.

    Bob Flock had a rough NASCAR career filled with some pretty bad injuries.  He broke his neck in 1951 and also broke his back in 1956, causing him to retire as a NASCAR driver.  Bob might not have had as much success as his other brothers, but he was still a great driver who helped shaped NASCAR in its early years.

    Tim Flock had the most success out of the Flock gang in the 1950's.  He would win the 1952 and 1955 NASCAR Grand National Championships.  He dominated in 1955, winning 19 poles and 18 victories in 45 races.  His 18 victories record was broken in 1967 by Richard Petty, but his 19 poles record still stands today.

    Flock also competed in several races in 1953 with a racing partner, Jocko Flocko, who was a rhesus monkey.  Yes, Tim Flock would ride around in several races with a small monkey in his car.  They  finished sixth, fifth, fourth, second and even recorded a victory together. Two weeks after their victory though, Flocko would break free from his seat during a race and tug on a cable the drivers used to check the tire wear.

    A rock flew up and hit Jocko in the head, making him go crazy while in the car.  He jumped on Tim's neck and forced him to make a pit stop to take the monkey out.

    The Flock gang were early pioneers of NASCAR. 

    And the only family to be associated with winning a race with a monkey in the car.

5. The Waltrip Brothers

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    The Waltrip brothers are one of the most legendary families in NASCAR.  Darrell Waltrip raced against some of the best drivers ever in NASCAR and beat them all.  Michael Waltrip might not have had the success of his older brother, but his racing team has turned out to be a top competitor this year.  Both brothers have great personalities and have helped put more of a spotlight on NASCAR.

    Darrell Waltrip has raced against some of the best to ever enter NASCAR.  Starting in the 1970's, Darrell would find himself competing again drivers like Richard Petty, David Pearson, Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough.

    When Waltrip started racing in NASCAR, he was booed by the fans who didn't care for his reckless, aggressive driving.  He had some success in the '70's, but wouldn't really start to dominate the NASCAR scene until the 1980's.

    In 1981, Waltrip joined forces with Junior Johnson and his career took off.  He won his first Winston Cup championship that year, beating out Bobby Allison.  Waltrip won 12 races and finished in the top five 21 times that season.

    Waltrip would repeat in 1982, again beating Bobby Allison for the championship.  He finished the season with another 12 wins and 17 top-five finishes.

    Darrell Waltrip earned his third Winston Cup championship in 1985, beating Bill Elliot.  Waltrip only won three races that season and finished with 18 top-five finishes. 

    Waltrip continued to be disliked by fans until the late '80s. 

    His last win would be in 1992, and his last race for the Sprint Cup series was in 2000.  Waltrip recorded 84 wins in his massive career and has been recognized as one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers.  Waltrip is still involved with the sport, serving as both an announcer and an analyst.

    Darrell's younger brother Michael entered NASCAR in 1985.  While Michael Waltrip was not as successful as his brother—his best finish in the standings was 12th in 1994 and 1995—he was still a respected and competitive driver.

    Michael Waltrip has been successful in other areas where his brother hasn't.  Recently, his Sprint Cup team has begun to really take shape, with two drivers making the 2012 chase. Michael, like his brother, is also an announcer, and still drives in limited races today.

    Both Waltrip brothers played a big role in shaping the future of NASCAR, which is why the Waltrips are such a legendary family.

4. The Allison Family

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    Bobby and Donnie Allison played a big role in the NASCAR scene during the 1960's to the 1980's.  While Bobby raced a full-time schedule more than Donnie would, both brothers were involved in what was arguably one of the biggest moments in NASCAR history.

    Bobby Allison won one championship in 1983 and has the third-most wins in NASCAR history at 85.  He was a title contender throughout the 1970's and the 1980's.  Bobby is also considered one of NASCAR's top 50 greatest drivers.

    Donnie Allison wouldn't be as successful as Bobby.  He only recorded 10 wins, and his best finish in the points was 16th in 1967.

    Both brothers, though, were involved in the famous last lap crash during the 1979 Daytona 500 race.

    As Cale Yarborough and the Allison brothers began to fight on the infield after the race was over, NASCAR began to gain a whole new audience.  People all over the country were watching that race, and when they saw the action of the Daytona 500, NASCAR gained a lot of popularity.

    Bobby's son Davey was a young up-and-coming driver in the late '80s and early '90s.  His best finish was third in the standings in 1991 and '92.  Davey died in a helicopter crash in 1993, tragically ending the career of one of NASCAR's young rising stars at the time.  Davey more than likely would have been a champion at some point and would have continued the Allison name in NASCAR.

    Prior to Davey's death, Bobby's other son Clifford was killed practicing for the Busch series.

    Both of Bobby's sons had the potential to be as great as their father. Their tragic deaths took away two rising stars in NASCAR.

    The Allisons are a legendary family in NASCAR.  Both Bobby and Donnie were great drivers, and their involvement in the 1979 Daytona 500 helped put NASCAR on the map.

3. The France Family

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    When talking about legendary families in NASCAR history, one family that should always be on a list is the France family.

    Starting back in the late 1940's with "Big Bill" France, the France family is the reason why NASCAR exists today.

    Bill France moved to Florida in 1934, and by 1936, he was racing on the sands of Daytona beach.  He stopped racing in the '40's, and by 1947, he had developed the National Championship Stock Car Circuit, with the idea of organizing stock car racing.

    In 1948, France created the NASCAR organization, which guaranteed prize money would be paid to the drivers and introduced a point standings system for the drivers.  He opened the Daytona International Speedway in 1959 and got racing on TV as early as 1960.

    Big Bill France created NASCAR and pushed it in the right direction.

    Eventually, Bill's sons, Jim and Bill Jr., would take over.  Bill Jr. moved NASCAR into the future and got the sport involved in TV even more.

    Bill Jr.'s son Brian would be next to take over as CEO.  NASCAR has continued to grow under Brian France.  He has implemented more environmentally-friendly aspects into NASCAR such as cleaner burning fuel, which was introduced in 2011.

    The France family established NASCAR and continue to take the sport to new heights.  If not for them, NASCAR and these other legendary families wouldn't be known about today.

2. The Petty Family

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    The Petty family has spanned almost the entire history of NASCAR.

    Starting with Lee Petty, who came into NASCAR in 1949, the Pettys quickly became a familiar name within NASCAR.

    Lee Petty would win three Grand National championships.  His first would come in 1954, where Lee won seven races and had 24 top five finishes.  He won again in 1958 and '59.  By the time his career was over in 1964, Lee Petty had won 54 races and finished in the top 10 332 times out of 427 starts.

    Lee was a dominate driver through the 1950's and would pass the torch to his son Richard.

    Richard Petty became known as The King for a reason.  In his lengthy career, which spanned from 1958 to 1992, he won 200 races, started in 1,184, had 555 top five finishes and won seven Grand National championships. He dominated racing mostly through the 1970's, but would still be a threat to the championship through the 1980's.

    Richard Petty is clearly one of the top, if not the top driver in NASCAR history.  He helped bring media attention to the sport, as he appeared in magazines like Sports Illustrated and Life magazine.

    Richard's son Kyle continued the Petty name after Richard retired.

    Kyle raced in NASCAR from 1979 to 2008.  While he wouldn't win a championship and only won eight races, he continued the Petty name into the turn of the century.  He continues to have an impact on NASCAR today as a television personality on several different NASCAR programs.

    The Petty name ended with Kyle, as Kyle's son Adam died in a tragic accident while practicing for the Nationwide series in 2000.  He was only 20 year's old.

    Petty still has a racing team, but when Kyle retired in 2008, he was the last Petty to race in NASCAR.

    The Pettys are a name that will always be associated with NASCAR.  From the achievements of Lee Petty, then Richard Petty becoming the King and even Kyle Petty carrying on the name the Pettys are one of the top legendary families of NASCAR.

1. The Earnhardt Family

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    What can really be said about Dale Earnhardt, Sr. and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. that most NASCAR fans don't already know?

    Of course the Earnhardts are ranked No. 1 on this list.  Only one other family could be considered for the No. 1 spot, and that is the Pettys.

    What Earnhardt Sr. was able to do for NASCAR is probably something which can never be done again. He brought more attention to the sport and made it even bigger than it was.

    Did I mention he was one of the sport's top drivers too?

    Earnhardt's first race happened in 1975 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.  He began his first full season in 1979, and a year later, he would win his first Winston Cup championship.  He ended up winning six more championships and was a dominant driver from his first full season in 1979 to his death in 2001.

    Even after his death, though, Earnhardt continued changing NASCAR.  The HANS device became mandatory for all race cars, playing a huge role in the safety of the drivers today.

    In his massive career, The Intimidator amassed 76 wins along with his seven championships.  Dale Earnhardt, Sr. is legendary in his own right, but the Earnhardt name carries on today with his son.

    Dale Earnhardt, Jr. might not have as many wins as his father and has yet to win a championship, but he is easily the top fan favorite driver.

    Jr. is one of the better drivers in the Sprint Cup series today and also has a team in the Nationwide Series.  He continues the Earnhardt name as NASCAR moves into the future.

    The Earnhardt name is one name even non-NASCAR fans can recognize and the biggest family name of all the legendary families involved in NASCAR's history.

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