Picking NASCAR's Mount Rushmore
These four men have left an indelible mark on NASCAR, and deserve to be honored on a hypothetical “Mount Rushmore” of the sport.
He wasn’t called "The King" for nothing.
Richard Petty won an unbelievable 200 races over his career, 95 more than David Pearson in second place. He also won 27 races (including 10 in a row) in the 1967 season, a record equally unlikely to be broken.
Petty took the checkered flag at the Daytona 500 seven times, yet another NASCAR record, and is tied with Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Sr. for most year-end championships, with seven.
Dale Earnhardt Sr.
Dale Earnhardt’s success combined with his aggressive driving style earned him the nickname "The Intimidator" in his time in NASCAR.
He was involved in a couple of famous rough-racing moments, including the "Pass in the Grass" after spinning Bill Elliott out in the final segment of The Winston, now known as the All-Star Race, in 1987. He also came out ahead in the infamous "Rattle His Cage" result at the 1999 Bristol night race, when he spun out Terry Labonte during the final lap.
But Earnhardt was far from a talentless thug – he won a record-tying seven NASCAR Championships and 76 total races, good for eighth all-time. He died tragically in the 2001 Daytona 500 in a last-lap crash.
NASCAR went to a playoff format in 2004 in order to encourage parity, but Jimmie Johnson would have none of it.
Johnson won a remarkable seven championships from 2006 to 2016, including an unmatched five straight from 2006 to 2010. His 83 career victories are tied for sixth all-time with Cale Yarborough. Johnson announced that 2020 would be his swan song, marking the end of an era of dominance not seen since Richard Petty’s day.
Bill France Sr.
NASCAR might not be what it is today without the innovative Bill France Sr., who founded the organization in 1948.
He was directly responsible for the construction of Daytona International Speedway, which has held the annual Daytona 500 since 1959. He also built Talladega Superspeedway in 1969.
In 1971, France brought in R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company as a title sponsor, and the NASCAR series became known as the Winston Cup. In turn, Reynolds convinced France to drop all dirt tracks and races under 100 miles from the schedule in 1972, paving the way for the "modern era" to begin.
France passed away in 1992, but the company is still controlled by his family.