What makes the best,well, the best? Are championships paramount? Is it sustained performance over a period of time? Is it the ability to compete at a high level at a variety of different tracks types? It makes for an interesting discussion, so to start the conversation, with opinions that are strictly my own, I present you…..
THE 10 BEST NASCAR DRIVERS OF TODAY
10. Kasey Kahne– Tossed to and fro throughout much of his career, the Enumclaw, Washington native has always found a way to win. Short tracks, intermediates and road courses, Kahne has won ’em all.
9. Kurt Busch– All you have to do is look at how the champion of NASCAR’s first Chase raised the profile for Furniture Row Motorsports to see how good he is. The last couple of years dinged his numbers a little, but brighter days lie ahead at Stewart-Haas Racing.
8. Brad Keselowski– Anyone who thinks the 2012 champion is a one-year wonder better think again. Though he missed the 2013, Keselowski’s numbers aren’t that far off from when he finished fifth in 2011. He’ll be back; you can bet on it.
7. Denny Hamlin– You can say of the 2010 runner-up what you can say of his JGR teammate Kyle Busch: at worst, all he does is win races. For all that went wrong in 2013, Hambone still managed to keep his streak alive of eight straight seasons with a win when he cruised to victory lane at Homestead- Miami in the season finale.
6. Kevin Harvick– Check this out: In six out of the last seven seasons, Happy has finished 10th or better at season’s end. After a disastrous 2009 run that suggested Harvick’s days at RCR were over, he rebounded to win 12 victories over the last four seasons. He’s also finished third in the final points three out of the last four years.
5. Matt Kenseth– The argument can be made that the 2013 runner-up can be ranked higher. Consistency is always a word associated with the last non-Chase champion (2003.) Some say Kenseth can’t replicate another year like this one. I wouldn’t bet against him.
4. Kyle Busch– Remember what I said about Denny Hamlin? It’s even more so the case for Busch. He’ll go through stretches where his head doesn’t seem right, but 28 career victories at the Cup level doesn’t lie. An average of four DNFs a season over the last three seasons hurts his case (not to mention the lack of a top level title), but you know a championship run is coming soon.
3. Jeff Gordon– This ranking may be more of a nod to career achievement, but think about this: since 1994, the four-time Cup champion has missed the top ten ONCE. Gordon may not be a dominator any more, but keep in mind he broke in at about the same time as Jeff Burton and Bobby Labonte- two fine drivers in their own right. Look where they are now, and where he is.
2. Tony Stewart– Indy cars, midgets,sprints, dirt tracks, road courses, superspeedways, you name it- the three-time champion has done it. Here’s something else to think about: Smoke has NEVER had a winless season in the Cup series, not even his abbreviated 2013 campaign. Stewart’s versatility brings to mind his idol: four-time Indy 500 winner and winnner of seven NASCAR Cup races A.J. Foyt.
1. Jimmie Johnson– Could there be anyone else? Since his first full season of 2002, Johnson has never gone winless for a season, he’s never missed a Chase, he’s won 66 races, and oh, by the way, he owns six series championships. His worst season finish? Sixth, in 2011. Whatever logic you use, the story ends the same.