The 10 Most Disciplined Drivers in NASCAR
Discipline is one of the most important traits that a NASCAR driver can develop. It's a huge aid when driving at high speeds on the same consistent line to avoid accidents that could end a racer's day.
But for the stars of Sprint Cup, there's far more to it.
There's also off-track discipline, which can involve anything from adhering to a strong workout routine to effectively managing dozens of other interests. Some drivers own race teams while others own race tracks. Other drivers own businesses that have nothing to do with racing.
It's a lot to deal with, and these 10 drivers are the best at it.
10. Kurt Busch
Don't laugh. The king of anger issues has become quite the disciplined driver as of late, not by choice but by necessity.
Now employed by Furniture Row Racing, Busch has calmed himself drastically inside the car compared to his days with Penske Racing. Though the terseness and annoyance in his voice still pokes through during bad days, he's learned to control his anger.
Such a change requires incredible commitment.
9. Jeff Gordon
His temper has gotten him into hot water at the track these past few years, but as one of NASCAR's transcendent personalities, Gordon has learned to keep it together over the course of his long career.
The four-time champion has done everything from establishing charities to hosting Saturday Night Live. He married a supermodel and still manages to challenge for victories year in and year out.
He has as busy of a schedule as anyone in NASCAR, but despite that, you would be hard-pressed to think of a year where Gordon wasn't feared by his competition.
8. Carl Edwards
Edwards is one of NASCAR's premier workout warriors, having made appearances on the cover of Men's Health and ESPN The Magazine. It's that kind of discipline off the track that allows him to be so consistently successful on it, finishing in the top 15 in points every time he's raced the full schedule.
Edwards has also overcome major incidents, including a serious crash at Talladega in 2009. The two-time runner-up has only won four races since, but his best season came two years after the crash. Edwards tied Tony Stewart on points for the championship (losing out on victories) and had 26 top-10 finishes in 36 starts.
7. Jeff Burton
They call him "The Mayor" because he's so popular around the garage area. But part of the reason why Burton is respected by his peers is because he doesn't lose his temper often.
JB races cleanly, giving his opponents room on the track, and masterfully handles delicate situations off of it. Whenever the sport faces any sort of issue, from drivers getting out of hand to unforeseen safety concerns, competitors and fans alike can count on Burton to provide a voice of reason.
6. Mark Martin
Martin is the pioneer of the fitness movement in NASCAR, having become a workout buff over two decades ago and setting a precedent that many have followed since. He even designed a facility for members of the Michael Waltrip Racing pit crew to use for training.
Martin is also a driver who holds fast to his principles. Upon beginning his semi-retirement in 2007, the veteran nearly won the Daytona 500 and led the points coming into the first off-weekend of his season.
Despite calls to continue racing and challenge for the championship, he chose not to abort his plan. That is, until a top-flight ride with Hendrick Motorsports in 2009 brought him the fifth runner-up championship finish of his career.
5. Tony Stewart
He may not have been a voice of reason in his early days, but Stewart has matured into quite the driver and businessman in the second decade of his NASCAR career.
Now the owner of three Sprint Cup teams, a handful of sprint car and midget teams, and the famous Eldora Speedway, Stewart has been juggling numerous responsibilities for the past half decade.
Through the whole process, he still managed to win a Cup title in 2011. It was the third of his career and the first for an owner-driver since the late Alan Kulwicki did so in 1992.
4. Matt Kenseth
Kenseth won his lone Cup championship in 2003 by sheer consistency. He only scored one win, early in the season, and coasted to the championship with 11 top-five finishes.
This year, the 16-year veteran changed teams for the first time in his career. He's easily put the No. 20 team into Chase contention with a series-leading three victories despite briefly losing crew chief Jason Ratcliff to suspension.
With replacement Wally Brown atop the box for the Southern 500, Kenseth spent the entire race up front, inheriting the lead when Kyle Busch lost a tire. Kenseth led for 17 laps (including the final 13) on the way to victory.
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
It may have something to do with the sheer level of Earnhardt Jr.'s celebrity in the NASCAR world, but the truth is he's very difficult to coerce into a serious mistake, whether on the track or off.
The 10-time Most Popular Driver Award winner is a hit with sponsors for his respectable representation, a hit with the fans who once backed his legendary father and a hit with fellow drivers for racing cleanly.
His decision to remove himself from the car last season after suffering his second concussion in six weeks at Talladega also proved that Earnhardt Jr.'s perception is unfailingly accurate. Rather than risk his health to go for a championship, he chose to recover from his injury responsibly by taking two weeks off.
By refusing to put himself or his competitors in danger, he earned a lot of respect from fellow drivers and fans alike.
2. Kasey Kahne
Not many drivers can deal with being wrecked three times over the course of a season by the same driver and not feel the need for revenge.
Kahne's handling of Kyle Busch has been the exception to that rule.
After incidents at both restrictor plate races so far this year, as well as an incident while battling for the lead at Darlington, the 2004 Rookie of the Year admitted to significant frustration with the younger Busch brother.
Despite Busch's concession that Kahne had the right to payback, Kahne has taken the high road and has not tried to wreck his rival.
1. Jimmie Johnson
There's no doubt Johnson is the man when it comes to consistency across the board.
He's won at the majority of the tracks on the schedule over his decade-long career, earning an unprecedented five championships across the way. He's won at every type of track, from short track to road course, and has finished in the top five everywhere he hasn't won.
His first championship in 2006 was a study in resilience, as he came back from seventh in points with five races to go to take the crown. So was his last title in 2010, when he outwitted a shaken Denny Hamlin to regain the points lead at Homestead.
With the steady guidance of Chad Knaus atop the pit box, and a lack of fiery temper that has led some to brand him as "vanilla," Johnson is as disciplined as they come in the sport these days.
For more from Christopher Leone, follow @christopherlion on Twitter.