NASCAR Sprint Cup: The Most Old-School Drivers Currently on the Circuit

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IDecember 15, 2011

NASCAR Sprint Cup: The Most Old-School Drivers Currently on the Circuit

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    There is a select group of drivers who wheel a race car in a manner reminiscent of the drivers of another era, who literally man-handled their machines around a track in a no-holds-barred manner to fend off competitors.

    The term "old-school" is often bandied about in reference to the style of driving a particular driver has. Some may not perceive what really differentiates an old-school driver from all the other hard chargers in NASCAR's elite series.

    Some drivers are known to get up on the wheel and drive hard, as if the power steering in the cars used in NASCAR today was non-existent. Such was the case when the term old-school didn't exist, because that was the way drivers drove.

    We have had some great drivers who set the bar high as wheelmen, from Lee Petty, Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson, Dale Earnhardt and many others who we now consider legends.

    Old-school racers can be a little rough around the edges, hardly politically correct, out-spoken and ready to give what they get on a race track, yet they are respected by fellow competitors.

    The modern-era driver has become a sponsor representative who walks a fine line between expressing their true personalities and offending the senses of those who dish out huge sums of money in today's high-dollar NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

    The old-school (or throwback) style drivers that currently compete as Cup drivers meld the style of the drivers who were heroes of the past with the requirements they face in today's instant social media environment, where every move and word is captured.

    Old-school drivers on this list may not be winning races or championships—or perhaps they are, but regardless, they add a spirited factor to Cup racing that fans either love or hate.

1. Brad Keselowski

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    At 27 years of age, Brad Keselowski has wowed NASCAR with his performance in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

    The driver of the famed Blue Deuce for Penske Racing broke his ankle and proved his toughness by coming back to win days later at Pocono Raceway.

    Keselowski won his first Cup race in only his fifth start back in 2009, at Talladega. This year, he finished fifth in the point standings, won a total of three races and had 14 Top-10 finishes.

    Though he only has four career wins, the future looks bright as this throwback-style driver doesn't hesitate to do whatever it takes to gain advantage on the track.

    He says what he thinks despite it sometimes being controversial, and is extremely popular with those who follow social media.

    Keselowski is his own man, as demonstrated at the NMPA luncheon in Las Vegas, when the other Chase drivers showed up in suits and ties while he had jeans and a casual shirt, but he was rockin' his sharp tux at the Awards banquet.

2. Kevin Harvick

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    Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 29 Budweiser car for Richard Childress Racing, was pegged to drive the car driven by the late Dale Earnhardt.

    In many ways, he shares a driving style reminiscent of the "Intimidator." Harvick races hard and won't hesitate to move a driver out of his way.

    His driving style is smooth and often he appears at the front of the pack, seeming to come out of nowhere when it is time for the checkered flag.

    This year, Harvick once again finished third in the point standings. He won four races during the season and his career total is 18 Cup wins. During the 2011 season, he had 19 Top-10 finishes.

    Harvick is a true racer who, along with his wife, built Kevin Harvick Inc., a successful operation fielding machines in the NASCAR Camping World Truck and NASCAR Nationwide series.

    KHI was dissolved at the end of this season to free up Harvick to pursue a Cup title, enjoy more free time and less pressure.

    Harvick is a wheelman, a trait shared by some of the toughest drivers in decades past.

3. Tony Stewart

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    Tony Stewart failed to win a race during the 26-week preseason leading up to the Chase, but won an amazing half of the Chase races to capture this year's NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.

    Stewart drives the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil1 Chevrolet and is the owner of Stewart Haas Racing. His car number is that of his boyhood idol and good friend, A.J. Foyt.

    Stewart is perhaps the most old-school style driver on the circuit today. He gets up on the wheel and gives exactly what he gets on a race track.

    Despite his sometimes fiery personality that can turn a bit sulky, he is respected by his fellow drivers on and off the track.

    This owner/driver is tough on the track, and in his business life. He is steadily building an operation at Stewart Haas Racing that will one day be a major player in NASCAR.

    Stewart has 44 Cup career wins and along with the five wins this season, he finished in the Top 10 19 times. He won titles in NASCAR's top series in 2002 and 2005.

4. Matt Kenseth

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    Matt Kenseth drove the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford for Roush Fenway Racing to a fourth place finish in the points this season. He had three wins and 20 Top-10 finishes.

    Kenseth is a bit of a stealth driver, and he makes a statement with his driving ability. He has 21 Cup career wins.

    His quiet personality is much like that of David Pearson, yet he has a wry humor that makes him very popular with those who know him and follow him.

    Kenseth was the 2003 Cup champion, and his consistent finishes that year triggered the implementation of the Chase to liven up the run for the series title.

5. Kyle Busch

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    Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, has become the wild child of NASCAR who can't seem to avoid trouble (which is usually self-inflicted).

    Busch has immense talent behind the wheel of a race car. Many find him overly aggressive behind the wheel, but he has all the ability necessary to win a Cup title.

    Due to some of the poor judgement calls he made behind the wheel late in the year, he ended 12th in the point standings. This driver did have four wins and 18 Top-10 finishes during the 2011 season.

    Busch has set records with his wins in NASCAR's national series. He has won 23 Cup races in his relatively young career as a Cup driver.

    Busch is like some of the top drivers of the past who tore up equipment, wrecked other drivers, ran their mouth a bit much and then went on to win titles and become very popular NASCAR Hall of Fame drivers.

    It is a trait that, once harnessed, can produce championships. Unfortunately, Busch has dug a hole for himself this year that will require him to work hard to regain respect from fellow drivers and draw fans.

6. Robby Gordon

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    Robby Gordon is a loner who continues to pursue racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with his own team and sponsor, despite his failure to achieve much success in Cup.

    Gordon is much like the rough-and-tumble drivers of days past who wants to do things his way, is known for wrecks and controversy and is not one of the most popular drivers in NASCAR.

    He has been a Cup driver for some 18 years, but only has three wins. Gordon finds success in other series, but does not compete in every race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit.

    Gordon doesn't fit the mold of the new era drivers, who are media savvy and sponsor friendly. For whatever reason, this driver just never attracted top sponsors or owners for any length of time.

    He is the owner/driver of the No. 7 Dodge. Gordon finished 34th in the point standings this season.

7. Ryan Newman

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    Ryan Newman is a calculating racer in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. After all, he is the only driver with an engineering degree.

    Newman races hard, gets up on the wheel, doesn't say much and does his talking with his race car.

    Newman is the driver of the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet for Stewart Haas Racing. His boss and teammate, Tony Stewart, just happened to win the Cup title for the third time this year.

    Newman finished 10th in the point standings this season, with one win and 17 Top-10 finishes. He has 15 career wins in Cup racing.

    Newman is much like some of the drivers of the past who were the strong, silent types and let performance speak for them. He even enjoys automotive history with his hobby of vintage cars.

    Though Newman has not won a title, he is working for an operation that looks to become a potent force in NASCAR, and his personality melds well with that of Stewart. The future looks strong for this driver.

8. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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    Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a history buff who has great respect for the racers who built the sport of NASCAR. His father, the "Intimidator," was a seven-time Cup champion and a first round pick for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

    Junior is a little rough around the edges, and doesn't intend to change into the politically-correct mold that so many drivers try to maintain.

    The driver of the No. 88 Amp Energy/National Guard Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports finished seventh in the point standings this season. It was a considerable leap from his past two seasons.

    Though Earnhardt is quick to jump into modern era I-racing and fantasy football, his respect for days past led him to build a small western-style town on the property near his home.

    This season, Junior continued his winless streak of 129 races, but he did have 12 Top-10 finishes. He has a total of 18 career wins in the Cup series.

    When Earnhardt is on his game during a race, he is up on the wheel and won't hesitate to move someone out of his way. Though he can be an aggressive driver, he is still respected by those he races against.

    Junior seemed to be more comfortable in the older generation of cars prior to the COT, but he does seem to finally be getting a handle on them.

    This is a driver who might have been a champion in a past era when cars had to be driven hard, but despite those who doubt his ability, a championship may well be in his future.

9. Greg Biffle

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    Washington native Greg Biffle drives the No. 16 3M Ford for Roush Fenway Racing. The 2011 season was hardly his best, with a 16th place finish in the point standings.

    Biffle is a tough contender when he has a car under him. He is a wheelman that could easily have been a driver in eras past. He is another driver who is quick to give what he gets on the track.

    This season, Biffle had problems with his crew chief, team and cars, but still managed to get 10 Top-10 finishes.

    Though the "Biff" never won a Cup title, he does have championships in both the the truck series and Busch (Nationwide) series. He does have 16 career wins in Cup racing.

    Biffle has proven he can drive successfully in many series, and he would have likely been a strong competitor back in the day, just as he is now.

10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

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    Ricky Stenhouse Jr. nearly lost his ride with Roush Fenway Racing in 2010 when Jack Roush sent him to the sidelines to rethink his driving style.

    Stenhouse rebounded in 2011 to take his RFR Ford to NASCAR Nationwide Series championship.

    Though this driver is not a regular in Cup racing, it won't be long before he is. This season, he ran only one Cup race and that was the Coca-Cola 600, where he started ninth and finished 11th.

    Sponsorship funds are tight, and though Roush would like to run him in a Cup car at least part time during 2012, it remains to be seen how many races he will run.

    Stenhouse is a throwback-style racer, who was benched because he refused to back off and tore up a lot of equipment.

    He is a fast learner who will easily adapt to Cup racing and no doubt win a championship in the series sometime in the future.

    This driver may be young, but somehow it would not be hard to imagine him wheeling one of those older race cars that needed to really be driven.


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