Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Sports

December 4, 2013

DE LA BASTIDE: Ranking NASCAR's greats

Since Jimmie Johnson captured his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup champion-ship last month, there has been an ongoing debate as to where he ranks among the all-time great NASCAR drivers.

The unfortunate aspect of the discussion is that most of the people putting together rankings of top drivers have only been following sport for less than 25 years. They don’t know the names who started the sport.

At the top of my list is “The King” Richard Petty. His 200 wins alone would put him at the top of the list, but before NASCAR was a household word, sporting fans knew of Petty and his accomplishments in a stock car.

Second on the list is Dale Earnhardt Sr., who joins Petty as NASCAR’s only seven-time champions. As Petty’s star started to wane in the 1980s, it was Earnhardt who kept NASCAR on the nation’s sports pages.

I would place Johnson in the third spot with his six titles in eight years and 66 wins. He has a chance of climbing higher if he secures a seventh and maybe an eighth title.

The “Silver Fox” David Pearson is next on my list with three championships and 105 wins while not competing on a full-time basis. Pearson’s performance was always impressive.

Fifth goes to Cale Yarborough with 83 wins and three championships followed by Mark Martin, no championships but 40 race wins and the reputation as a true sportsman.

I would place Indiana native Tony Stewart and former Indiana resident Jeff Gordon seventh and eighth for their multiple championships and numerous wins.

Ninth would go to Fred Lorenson, a powerhouse driver in the 1960s and 1970s, followed by Fireball Roberts, whose career was cut short in an accident.

Others that I considered included Herb Thomas, the Flock brothers, Lee Petty, Bobby Allison, Bill Elliott, Darrell Waltrip and Rusty Wallace.

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