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NASCAR top-50 list a head-scratcher

DARLINGTON, SC – MARCH 19: Dale Earnhardt looks on from atop his hauler alongside car owner Richard Childress as he prepares to drive the #3 Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet in the Mall.com 400 at Darlington Raceway on March 19, 2000 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

According to a list compiled by a vote of 21 contributors of FOX’s “NASCAR Race Hub” show, including current and former drivers and crew chiefs, Richard Petty is NASCAR’s all-time greatest drivers and Jimmie Johnson is second, followed by David Pearson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt in the top-five.

The NASCAR news/talk show compiled its list as an ongoing feature during the recent NASCAR off-week, inspired by, perhaps, 2018 being the 70th anniversary of NASCAR and a list compiled by NASCAR to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 1998. The difference — the 1998 list didn’t rank the drivers, instead just listing the 50th best in some random order. For the Race Hub list, though, contributors went the extra mile by ranking them.

Of course, such lists are subjective. Still, this one is a head-scratcher, and apparently, I’m not the only person who feels that way, judging by some of the commentary I’ve heard on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio today. I’m not as angered by the results as Danny “Chocolate” Myers of “Trading Paint,” but a review of the list has me thinking in terms of that 1990s pop hit, “Things That Make You Go Hmmm.” Now, try to get that song out of your head. You’re welcome.

I agree with the drivers that make-up the top five but not their order, and here’s why. Earnhardt in fifth!?! We’re talking about one of the three drivers with a Cup Series-leading seven championships. Based on titles, the top three would be Petty, Johnson and Earnhardt in whatever order you choose. Okay, Pearson had 105 wins, second only to Petty and the only driver other than Petty to surpass 100 wins in the top series, so I could see, possibly, putting Pearson among the three seven-time champs. Even ranking Earnhardt last among the seven-time champions and throwing Pearson in the mix would bump Earnhardt to no lower than fourth, and it’s a struggle for me to even consider him that low on the list. But fifth!?!

Brad Keselowski was among the current drivers who had input in this list. Get this — Keselowski considers “The Intimidator” NASCAR’s eighth-greatest driver of all-time. Yep, you read that correctly — eighth. Really, Brad!?!

Something else about this list that has me baffled is the representation of current drivers on this list. Eight drivers competing full-time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2018 are among NASCAR’s all-time 50 greatest drivers, according to the folks at “Race Hub.” Do the math; according to these folks, we are watching 16 percent of the 50 greatest drivers over the sport’s 70-year history. I get that NASCAR is the most competitive it has ever been with more drivers capable of winning week-in and week-out, but come on.

Sure, a few current drivers should be on the list. Johnson is a given, and including Kyle Busch makes sense. Heck, one or two other current drivers on this list would make sense, but eight out of the 36 or 37 racing full-time in 2018? That’s saying that a quarter of the drivers starting each race this season are among the 50 all-time best drivers in NASCAR. Nah, I don’t think so.

Add drivers that have retired since 2015, and the tally jumps to 14 recent drivers on this top-50 list; that’s 24 percent of the list, nearly a quarter. So, “Race Hub” is telling me that, since 2015, we’ve watched a quarter of NASCAR’s 50 best drivers of all-time? I’m not convinced.

Reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. is on the list at 36th. Truex has an amazing 2017 season, winning a series-leading eight races and dominating the new stage format on his way to the title. Truex also had a good 2016 season with four trips to victory lane. The last two seasons, though, have been Truex’s only multi-win seasons in the Cup Series. I don’t think two really good seasons warrant consideration for such a list.

Okay, so this list isn’t limited to Cup drivers; the inclusion of Richie Evans and Sam Ard show us that. Truex does have two Xfinity (then-Busch) Series championships on his racing resume, but so does Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Okay, so Stenhouse doesn’t have the Cup title Truex has, but still, I’m not sure Truex should be on this list, yet. Several years down the road after more seasons like the last couple of years, maybe. But now? No, not yet.

I’m not picking on Truex, here. He’s not the only current driver I don’t think should be on this list, yet. He’s just the one I picked for making my case.

Again, I realize these lists are subjective. Still, I can’t help but scratch my head at this one, and my head doesn’t even itch.

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Posted by on April 4, 2018. Filed under Blog by Amanda Vincent,Featured,Monster Energy NASCAR Cup,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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