One morning on sports radio I heard a healthy debate on who should be on the Mount Rushmore of Professional Basketball. It got me thinking as to who I would select to represent NASCAR on that sports Mount Rushmore.
Picking four of the greatest NASCAR drivers of all-time is surely difficult, and some all-time greats will be left off our mountain. Just the same, I decided to go ahead and chose Jim’s NASCAR Mount Rushmore. Here they are:
Dale Earnhardt: The 7-time Champion driver played a huge roll in growing the sport. His 76 victories and 428 top 10’s only tell part of the story. Earnhardt’s legion of fans was the largest the sport has ever seen. Even today, after his tragic death in 2001, his followers still display the #3 flag at NASCAR events. His intensity on the track earned him the nickname “The Intimidator” for a very good reason. In his 27 years of racing, Earnhardt helped NASCAR gain in popularity. In 2010, Earnhardt was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. His untimely death on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 remains NASCAR’s saddest moment.
Richard Petty: Earnhardt was the Intimidator and Petty was the King, and they both accomplished much on the track. Petty won seven Championships and along with Earnhardt, are the two drivers with the most Championships. Petty’s 200 wins and 712 top 10’s along with an amazing 123 poles, further substantiates his standing on our mountain. In 2010 he was elected into the first class of NASCAR’s Hall of Fame. Petty can still be found hanging with fans at many NASCAR races with his signature cowboy hat and ear-to-ear smile. He seems to enjoy meeting the fans as much as they enjoy meeting him. His #43 STP Ford is easily one of the most recognized cars in all of auto racing.
Jeff Gordon: Jeff Gordon currently leads active drivers with 88 victories along with four Sprint Cup Championships. His 436 top 10’s and 74 poles are further proof of his on track success and his dominance in NASCAR during his prime. While we give Petty and Earnhardt much of the credit for giving NASCAR a strong foundation on which to build upon, it was Jeff Gordon who grew the sport outside of its Southern roots. Gordon along with the Rainbow Warriors were the most polarizing figure in NASCAR. There is no doubt about the number of fans who supported the driver of the #24 car, but there seemed to be an equal number of race fans who rooted hard against him. All of this led to a tremendous growth era in the sport.
Jimmie Johnson: Six times Johnson has been crowned the NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion winning five in a row from 2006 thru 2010. Talk about total dominance! His on-track performance and success is unprecedented in all sports. Johnson has collected 66 victories and 276 top 10’s in his 13-year racing career. Before all is said and done it’s quite possible that Johnson will go down as NASCAR’s greatest driver. Like Gordon before him, Johnson has brought a new segment of fans to NASCAR. He also has many who attend races rooting against him as well. The only question that remains is how many Championships Johnson will collect before he calls it quits.
So that’s my four NASCAR stars that would be on my Mount Rushmore. Of course what I would really like is to have an eight-headed Mount Rushmore which would included NASCAR stars such as David Pearson (105 wins), Bobby Allison (84 wins), Daryl Waltrip (84 wins), and Carl Yarborough (83 wins) but there’s only room for four.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on which drivers you’d put on your Mount Rushmore of NASCAR. Feel free to leave your comments below.
On to the track too tough to tame at Darlington Raceway. My picks for the Bojangles’ Southern 500:
1) Greg Biffle
2) Jimmie Johnson
3) Matt Kenseth
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