Most Clutch Drivers in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Circuit

Michael Guadalupe@The_GuadaFeatured ColumnistOctober 25, 2012

Most Clutch Drivers in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Circuit

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    Being a clutch driver means being able to deliver when everything is on the line.  They have to prove they can take all of the pressure of needing to win a race and not let it get to them as they cross the checkered finish line.

    Clutch in NASCAR also means how well a driver can perform and save their car as they spin out at over 170 mph. 

    It's extremely stressful when a driver spins out of control, but only a certain few know how to handle that pressure and save not only their own cars, but they manage to avoid wrecking other drivers as well.  Then they go on to win the race.

    The ability to be clutch in NASCAR is something only a handful of drivers have.

    There is no exact definition to the word clutch.  The best explanation of the word comes from Wikipedia.

    "A 'clutch' athlete is one who performs well in pivotal or high pressure situations."

    With that definition in mind, here are five of the most clutch drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit.

5. Jeff Gordon

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    Jeff Gordon might not be doing anything so far in the chase, but toward the end of the regular season this year, Gordon proved how clutch he is.

    Gordon seemed to have a mix of bad luck and other issues as he couldn't get going throughout the season.  He managed to win a rain-delayed Pocono race, but seemed to be struggling throughout the entire year.

    Richmond was a true test of how good Gordon is, as he was battling Kyle Busch and other drivers just to make it into the chase.  At one point in the Richmond race, Gordon would be a lap down, and stuck in a rain delay.

    He would rally back, and managed to drive his car all the way up to second place.  He made it into the chase by three points.

    What other driver could pull off a comeback like Gordon did at Richmond?  With everything on the line at Richmond, Gordon was able to step up and deliver the exact performance that he needed in order to make it into the chase.

    Rarely will a driver show the determination and clutch performance Gordon showed this year at Richmond.

    He might not be as dominant as he was several years ago, but he is still one driver who can get the job done when everything is on the line.

4. Kyle Busch

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    Kyle Busch tends to let his anger get the best of him sometimes, but that doesn't mean he isn't clutch.

    Busch is, in fact, one of the most clutch drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.  Sure, he's had a rough year and might not exactly be a fan favorite, but he can drive the wheels off a car.

    Throughout the year, Busch has shown how clutch he can be.  From his win during the Budweiser Shootout at the beginning of the season to last week's race at Kansas, when his car spins out, Kyle is one of the only drivers who can pull off the save and still race to the front.

    Just looking at this save alone from the Budweiser shootout, what other driver could successfully recover from a spin like that and still manage, not only to avoid other cars, but keep his own car in one piece?  He would even go on to win the Shootout with a banged up car.

    Even more recently at Kansas, Busch would spin out but still hang on to his car.  Ryan Newman would later on get into the back of Kyle's 18 car and end his day, but if there is one driver who knows how to get out of a spin and avoid a wreck, it's Kyle Busch.

    Besides for being able to pull off amazing saves, Busch is one driver who always seems to find his way to the front.  He has managed to win on every type of track, from road courses to superspeedways.

    Sure, Busch might get frustrated when his engine blows or he gets wrecked by another driver, but if you need someone to come back from a spin or bad positioning, look no further than Kyle Busch.

3. Jimmie Johnson

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    When it comes to clutch driving, one name should always stand out.

    Jimmie Johnson has been the king of clutch over the recent years, winning five consecutive Sprint Cup championships.

    This season has been no different.  Sure, Johnson hasn't managed to win a race yet in the chase, but as the season comes to a close, he is sitting only seven points behind the leader, Brad Keselowski.

    This past weekend at Kansas was another example of why Johnson is so clutch.  After spinning out and taking some major damage, Johnson would head to the pits, get his car taped up, and finish the race only one place behind Keselowski.

    His damaged car could have easily taken him out of the race, but instead Johnson remained calm and finished the race while preventing Keselowski from gaining any ground on him as they head to Martinsville.

    Johnson is one driver that seems to let nothing bother him.  Last season for example, even with Kurt Busch trying to get into Johnson's head, the five-time champ remained calm.  He didn't win the chase last year, but he didn't let Busch rattle him either.

    With only four races left in the chase this season, don't be surprised to see just how clutch Johnson is.  Winning five championships in a row takes a whole new level of concentration that no other driver on the current Sprint Cup circuit has been able to show.

    Johnson, like Kyle Busch, has also managed to win on every type of track.

    He's seems like he is waiting for the right moment to strike and take the lead in the chase, and because Johnson is so clutch, he can do it on any track at any time.

2. Matt Kenseth

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    Matt Kenseth is another driver who has been clutch throughout the season.

    Kenseth is usually always cool, calm and collected.  This season has been no different.

    Looking back at the Bristol race for example, Kenseth and Tony Stewart would eventually get into each other racing for the lead. While Tony let his temper get the best of him, throwing his helmet at Kenseth's car, Matt drove away and did nothing to retaliate.

    Kenseth was quoted over at AOL Sports as saying:

    "Tony is probably the greatest race-car driver in the garage. I don’t really have anything bad to say about Tony. On the racetrack, basically, for years and years and years and years, we’ve had tons of respect for each other."

    It takes a lot to get to Kenseth, and to say that about the driver who basically ran him off the track and took him out of the Bristol race says a lot about a driver.  He remained calm, even when the situation around him was boiling up.

    Talladega was another example this year of how clutch Kenseth is.  At one point in the race he was up front but spun out and still managed to save his car.  He would regroup and charge to the front, eventually winning the race.

    Kenseth wasn't done showing how clutch he is with a Talladega win.  With everything going on with his departure from Roush Fenway and Kenseth joining Joe Gibbs next year, he still managed to pull off a win at Kansas.

    He still manages to pull off wins, even though he knows his last season with Roush Fenway is almost over.

    Kenseth has been the definition of clutch this season. His ability to stay cool, calm and collected with everything going on around him and managing to still win races, regardless of how far down in the standings he is, proves that Kenseth is one of the most clutch drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit.

1. Tony Stewart

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    If you want clutch, look no further than Tony Stewart.

    Last season Smoke's back was against the wall.  He entered the chase dead last with no wins from the regular season.  He seemed like a long shot to win the chase.

    As it turns out, Smoke is extremely clutch in high-pressure seasons.  Tony managed five wins in the chase, and two of them came from a starting position of 20th and 26th.

    It might sound easy for a driver like Smoke to turn around and win the chase, but Stewart was also in his first season as a team owner and had a lot to deliver.

    If coming back from 12th in the chase and winning the championship isn't enough to prove just how clutch Smoke is, look at how he performed in the last three races.

    He might have caused the huge wreck at Talladega, but Smoke managed to run through the pack at the end of the race. During the last lap he was actually in the lead before he tried blocking Michael Waltrip and then wiped out half the field.

    Charlotte was another example of Stewart's clutch ability.  He would start back in 32nd position, and to make matters worse, he would damage his car and need to get it taped up during a caution flag.  Stewart then managed to drive up to the top 10 and eventually settled for 13th place.

    This past weekend at Kansas, Stewart once again showed his dominance.  He started further in the back, made it up to 16th place and had to go to the back again because of a mistake made by his pit crew.

    Smoke also spun out at one point, saved his car and regrouped to finish the race in fifth place.

    Stewart is one of the kings of clutch and has shown it throughout the last two Sprint Cup seasons.