NASCAR

NASCAR’s 75 Greatest Drivers: Generation X

NASCAR will celebrate its 75th anniversary throughout the 2023 season.

In 1998, NASCAR had a panel select a list of its 50 greatest drivers for its golden anniversary.

Likewise, we have Front stretch decided to compile our own list of the 75 Greatest NASCAR Drivers in honor of this year’s milestone. Seventeen of our writers weighed in to select the 75 drivers, and we’ll be releasing four to seven drivers from that list every weekday for the next three weeks.

Similar to the one in 1998, this list is not a ranking of the top-75 drivers. Instead, we’ve divided the list into categories, with a new category released each day (see the full list below). Within these categories, the drivers are listed in alphabetical order.

Next: the stars of Generation X.

Greg Biffle

Trifectas of many ilk exist in NASCAR, but Greg Biffle may have one of the most unique: he claimed a championship, Most Popular Driver and Rookie of the Year in the NASCAR Xfinity and Craftsman Truck series as he rose through the ranks of the sport.

Arriving in the NASCAR Cup Series, Biffle drove full-time for 13 seasons and scored 19 wins for Roush Racing at NASCAR’s top level. In lower series, his stats are undeniable: 20 Xfinity wins, 17 truck wins and enviable top-10 stats: 149 top 10s in 244 appearances in the former, 55 top 10s in 83 starts in the latter.

Biffle won two Southern 500s, claiming the duo of crown jewel victories in back-to-back years; the former of which came in a six-win, 21-top-10 effort in 2005 that propelled the No. 16 to second in the standings.

Additionally, as former Roush driver and action sports legend Travis Pastrana prepares to return to NASCAR, Biffle has made his own ventures in the opposite direction: IROC, 24 Hours of Daytona, Stadium Super Trucks and the Camping World SRX Series are all him. Resume.

Recently, a much heralded return to the Truck Series came in 2019 with Kyle Busch Motorsports at Texas Motor Speedway. Biffle led twice in 18 laps and won the damn thing. Age is not an injury for the now 53-year-old. -Adam Cheek

Carl Edwards

A former substitute teacher from Columbia, Mo., Carl Edwards took the competition to school during a NASCAR career that spanned 15 years and included 72 wins across NASCAR’s three national championship series, 28 of which came in the NASCAR Cup Series, 38 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and six in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

Edwards started in 2002 with Roush, making seven truck starts with a top-
10 at his home track at Kansas Speedway. When Roush parted ways with Jeff Burton midway through 2004, the then 25-year-old Edwards suddenly found himself in the Cup Series and acquitted himself well with a third-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway and five top 10s in 13 Cup races in 2004.

Edwards broke through in his first full-time season in 2005, overtaking Jimmie Johnson for his first career win at Atlanta, one of four wins en route to a third-place finish. Edwards’ winningest season came in 2008, when he led the Cup Series with a staggering nine trips to victory lane, placing second in the standings to Johnson.

Edwards is considered one of the greatest drivers never to win a Cup championship, finishing in the top five in points six times in his 12 full-time seasons (2005, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2015 and 2016). The closest of those calls came in 2011 when he tied for points with Tony Stewart but lost via a tiebreaker for most season wins, winning just once to Stewart’s five.

In January 2017, Edwards shocked the NASCAR world by retiring from NASCAR competition seemingly in his prime, just two months removed from a three-win season and Championship 4 appearance in 2016. He has not returned since. -Andrew Stoddard

Denny Hamlin

A Cup veteran entering his 18th full-time season, Denny Hamlin has become the
figurehead driver of Joe Gibbs Racing, the same team with which he has competed throughout his Cup career.

Hamlin began racing cars at the age of 16 and won both his first pole and race in his debut start at his home track of Langley Speedway. After winning over 30 combined late model races in 2002 and 2003, Hamlin was signed by JGR as a development driver in 2004.

The Chesterfield, Va., racer impressed early by earning a top 10 in his first NASCAR Xfinity Series start at Darlington Raceway in 2004. The following year, Hamlin not only raced full-time in the second row, earning 11 top 10s and Da he finished fifth in the standings, he also participated in seven Cup races for JGR after Jason Leffler was let go near the end of the season. During that time he has
earned three top 10s and a pole at Phoenix Raceway in the No. 11 FedEx car — the same ride he drives to this day.

In his rookie Cup year in 2006, Hamlin won both Pocono Raceway victories and finished third in points, earning him Rookie of the Year honors.

Four years later, Hamlin had a breakout season. With a career-best eight wins in a year, he entered the final race with a 15-point lead over Jimmie Johnson, only to lose the title after an early spin cost him the chance.

With a whopping 48 victories, including three Daytona 500 wins, 312 top 10s and eight top-five championship finishes, Hamlin is statistically one of the best drivers not to win a Cup title.

At least not yet. -Dalton Hopkins

Casey Kahn

Drafted to replace Bill Elliott in the Cup Series in 2004, Kasey Kahne entered NASCAR’s premier stage relatively unknown. However, it didn’t take long for fans to become familiar with him.

Enumclaw, Wash,. native spent time with Evernham Motorsports, Richard Petty Motorsports, Red Bull Racing, Hendrick Motorsports and Leavine Family Racing over 15 seasons.

After winning the 2004 Rookie of the Year award in Evernham’s No. 9 Dodge, Kahne finally broke through for his first victory at Richmond Raceway in 2005 after scoring six second-place finishes. That carried over into a 2006 season where he won a streak leading six races. During that season, he won his first Coca-Cola 600, a race he captured three times to give him the third most 600 wins. In 2008, he became the first and only driver to date to win after transferring to fans.

His first season with Hendrick saw him immediately compete for a championship, finishing a career-high fourth. Kahne’s run at Hendrick saw him win six races and make the playoffs four times, including a brilliant final victory in a chaotic 2017 Brickyard 400.

Kahne’s success also extended beyond the Cup level. He won eight races in the Xfinity Series and had a near-perfect record in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, winning five of his six starts.

Kahne was forced to retire at the Cup level during the 2018 season due to dehydration issues. But that and his under-the-radar persona shouldn’t overshadow his success, recording 18 Cup wins, 93 top fives, 176 top 10s, 27 poles and 4,678 laps led.

The 42-year-old continues to oversee and drive for Kasey Kahne Racing in the World of Outlaws, a five-time championship organization. – Luke Glover

Ryan Newman

Known as Rocket Man for his engineering background and qualifying prowess, Ryan Newman stood as one of the great Cup drivers of the 2000s.

In 20 full-time Cup seasons, Newman visited victory lane 18 times with 117 top fives and 268 top 10s in 725 career starts. His 51 career pins rank him ninth all-time in Cup history.

A native of Rushville, Ind., Newman’s career peaked during his first seven seasons with Team Penske, piloting the No. 12 ALLTEL Ford. He finished in the top 10 in points in each of his first three seasons.

During his rookie campaign in 2002, Newman took his first career win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and tied future seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson for the title of Cup Rookie of the Year.

Newman’s highest win total came in 2003, when he claimed eight checkered flags and placed sixth. He followed that up with a two-win season in 2004 and became one of the 10 drivers in the inaugural series playoff.

In 2008, Newman began his final season with Penske by adding one
Daytona 500 win to his racing resume.

After his Penske years, Newman went on to drive for three other teams. From 2009-2013, Newman teamed up with Tony Stewart in the newly established Stewart-Haas Racing, where he had one victory per race. season from 2010-2013, notably scoring the 2013 Brickyard 400.

From 2014-2018, Newman was behind the wheel of the No. 31 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. In 2014, despite going winless, Newman earned a spot in the first ever Championship 4, finishing a close second to Kevin Harvick. His one win with RCR came at Phoenix Raceway in 2017.

In 2019, Newman moved to the No. 6 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing and spent his final three seasons there. He went winless with Roush, and his most memorable moment with the team was being injured in a last-lap wreck at the 2020 Daytona 500, missing the next four races.

Newman will always be remembered for his longevity in the sport and for being one of the best ever in qualifying. -AS

Front stretch‘s 75 Greatest NASCAR Drivers

THE GOATS
Dale Earnhardt
Jeff Gordon
Jimmy Johnson
David Pearson
Richard Petty

The legends
Bobby Allison
Ned Jarrett
Rusty Wallace
Darrell Waltrip
Cale Yarborough

Generation X
Greg Biffle
Carl Edwards
Denny Hamlin
Casey Kahn
Ryan Newman

Champions of the 2010’s & Beyond
??? (January 26)

The next generation
??? (January 27)

The pioneers
??? (January 30th)

Brotherly love
??? (January 31)

Masters of the Modifieds
??? (February 1)

Lower series livre
??? (February 2)

Exceptional longevity
??? (February 3)

Gone too early
??? (February 6)

Stars from the 60s and 70s
??? (February 7)

Stars from the 80s and 90s
??? (February 8)

Stars from 1949-1960
??? (February 9)

Boys of all trades
??? (10th February)



Adam Cheek joined Frontstretch as a contributing writer in January 2019. He graduated from VCU in 2020 and works as a producer and talent for Audacy Richmond’s radio stations. In addition to motorsports journalism, Adam also covered and broadcast numerous VCU athletics for the campus newspaper and radio station during his four years there. A racing fan since he was three years old, he inherited the passion from his grandfather, who raced in amateur events up and down the East Coast in the 1950s.

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Andrew Stoddard joined Frontstretch in May 2022 as an iRacing contributor. He is a graduate of Hampden-Sydney College and the University of Richmond. He is a high school history teacher and a cross country/athletic coach for his day job.

Dalton Hopkins began writing for Frontstretch in April 2021 after a staff writing position at IMSA. A racing fan since he was three years old, he began freelance writing in 2018 and graduated with a BS in Communications from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 2019. At the same time, he also serves as a first lieutenant in the US Army.

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Luken Glover arrived on the Frontstretch scene in 2020. He has been an avid NASCAR fan for most of his life, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who used to help former team owner Junie Donlavey in his garage. Glover covers news for the site and took over “The Underdog House” column in 2021. In addition to being a college junior, his hobbies include volunteering at church, playing basketball and tennis, driving go-karts, and helping out at his high school alma mater.

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