The 10 Hardest Drivers to Catch in NASCAR

Ryan Papaserge@@RyanPapasergeCorrespondent ISeptember 16, 2011

The 10 Hardest Drivers to Catch in NASCAR

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    When one of these men take the lead, competitors forget about winning a race--it just turns into a race for second.

    They dominate races and win championships, earning their unique place in the halls of NASCAR history.

    Simply put, they are the 10 Hardest Drivers to Catch in all of NASCAR. Here's a look at who they are.

Kyle Busch

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    Getting to 100 wins combined in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series is one heck of an accomplishment in itself, no doubt about that.

    However, it's even more impressive when you consider that he's led at least half the laps en route to victory in 54 of those wins.

    "Rowdy" doesn't just lead laps, he smokes the field. He's also one of the best in the business when it comes to restarts, sealing up several victories by getting a great jump on the field in green-white-checker finishes.

Jimmie Johnson

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    You don't become a five-time defending Sprint Cup champion without the best crew chief in the business, and Chad Knaus definitely fills that void for Jimmie Johnson.

    On the other hand, it's certainly worth noting that Johnson is pretty darn hard to catch when he gets out in front of the pack--especially at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

    How hooked up can the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy be at the 1.5-mile oval in Concord, N.C.? During an extended green-flag run in the 2004 Coca-Cola 600, he legitimately lapped the entire field and led 334 of 363 laps ran without caution.

    Let's put it this way: he would have led an entire race at Texas or Atlanta.

Kasey Kahne

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    Kasey Kahne hasn't been in the proper equipment that would allow him to be hard to catch since, well, Ray Evernham was very hands-on with the No. 9 Dodge for his own team. The Washington product has been winless since taking the Labor Day weekend event at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2009.

    However, the current Red Bull Racing driver and future member of Hendrick Motorsports won six races in 2006 for Evernham Motorsports, "closing" races and taking charge late.

    He led the final 27 laps of the April race at Texas Motor Speedway, the final 30 laps of the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, the final two laps of the Labor Day race at Auto Club Speedway and the final 26 laps of the October race in Charlotte.

    When he takes over the No. 5 Chevy next season, his name could be synonymous with Victory Lane once again.

Kevin Harvick

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    It's pretty easy to make yourself tough to catch if you don't give your competition enough time to catch you.

    In his three wins this season, Kevin Harvick has led a combined total of nine laps.

Ryan Newman

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    They don't call him the "Rocket Man" for nothing, as his qualifying speeds are usually pretty tough to top. Don't let the No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevy's practice times fool you, as the Purdue grad is a constant threat to take the Coors Light Pole Award.

    From 2002-2005, Newman won a whopping 34 poles, 11 of them coming during the 2003 season.

Marcos Ambrose

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    If you want a wheelman who is hard to catch while turning left and right, Marcos Ambrose is your man.

    The Tasmanian has used his V8 Supercar skills to become the best road racer in the Sprint Cup Series, with a win at Watkins Glen last month seemingly confirming that claim.

    In addition, he's usually dominant when he enters a Nationwide race at Montreal or Watkins Glen.

Jeff Gordon

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    During his run as the face of NASCAR in the late 1990s, Jeff Gordon was incredibly hard to catch. With help from crew chiefs like Ray Evernham and Robbie Loomis leading an all-star "Rainbow Warrior" pit crew, Gordon won a record-tying 14 races in 1998.

    While the No. 24 Chevy is nowhere near those levels nowadays, he still can pull off a dominant performance from time to time. Gordon led 139 of 312 laps to snap a lengthy winless streak in Phoenix in February.

Brad Keselowski

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    Whether you think Brad Keselowski is hard to catch is purely a judgment call, as is the list provided in this slideshow.

    However, you can't deny that he's the hottest driver in the sport today, with four straight top-three finishes and a pair of wins in the past quartet of Sprint Cup races.

Tony Stewart

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    You're Tony Stewart, a rookie in the Sprint Cup Series for the 1999 season. You want to make your mark as a driver who is hard to catch. What do you do?

    Here's what you do: you lead 333 of 400 laps at Richmond in September en route to your first career Sprint Cup victory.

    Of course, this is far from the last time "Smoke" would pull off a dominant performance.

Carl Edwards

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    The master of the backflip (known as "Cousin Carl" to most of you)'s closest win at the Sprint Cup level came in his first victory, holding off Jimmie Johnson to win a photo finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March 2005.

    Other than that, he's been known to sail away from his competition and make the rest of his victories look easy by comparison.

    Yes, he can be very hard to catch.

    Thoughts? Comment below.