The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series has lost multiple superstars and consistent contributors over the last two seasons to retirement (Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, soon to be Dale Earnhardt Jr.). This has led to a necessity for fans to re-evaluate the sport’s top talent.
Cup racing is a revolving door. Drivers are constantly switching teams, taking breaks from the sport or retiring, while new talent waves enter in every year.
I created a system to evaluate and rank the 2017 full-time cup series drivers based on overall career merit through a points system. Points were award as follows:
Each driver received 10 points for each Championship won.
5 points for each race won.
3 points for each top-ten finish.
1 point for every Pole award won.
Points were tallied and then ranked, as the following list details.
Notable Exclusions: Kasey Kahne, Jamie McMurray, Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson.
10. Joey Logano- 546 pts.
No. 22 Team Penske Ford | 0 Championships, 18 wins, 146 top ten’s, 18 poles.
Logano has impressed since his inaugural run in the cup series as a mere 20 year-old. He’s established himself as a consistent threat to win, and at just 27 years old, is an integral piece of NASCAR’s cup racing future.
9. Brad Keslowski- 565 pts.
No. 2 Team Penske Ford| 1 championship, 138 top ten’s, 13 poles
Aside Logano, Keselowski has turned Team Penske into one of NASCAR’s most consistent teams. Keselowski started his career off with a bang, winning his first race at Talladega in memorable fashion in 2009, and winning a championship three seasons later. He consitently runs at the front of the pack and figures to win even more down the stretch.
8. Denny Hamlin- 789 pts.
No. 11 Joe Gibbs Toyota|0 championships, 30 wins, 205 top ten’s, 24 poles
Hamlin has been a revolution in NASCAR for the past decade, starting with his Rookie of the Year award in 2006. He has been a consistent force for Joe Gibbs Racing, and I wouldn’t bet against him winning a championship in the near future.
7. Ryan Newman- 831 pts.
No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet | 0 championships, 18 wins, 230 top ten’s, 51 poles
Today, Newman is often the subject of criticism because of ‘average performance,’ but after evaluating his stats, personally I believe he’s pretty underrated. ‘Rocket man’ is the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup series active leaders in pole awards with 51, which is fourteen more than any other competitor. At age 39, it’s unlikely that he’ll ever win a championship, but he does have a win this season to add on to an impressive career resumé.
6. Kyle Busch- 909 pts.
No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota| 1 championship, 38 wins, 229 top ten’s, 21 poles
Given his dominance from 2013-16, I found it hard to believe that Kyle Busch was even this low on the list. They 32-year-old Busch has already racked up an impressive 38 wins, tied for second-most among active drivers, and has been the most dominant driver on the track at times. Despite zero race wins in 2017, Busch’s career culminated with his 2015 title, and by the looks of it, that might not be the last one.
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.- 912 pts.
No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet| 0 championships, 26 wins, 256 top ten’s, 14 poles
NASCAR’s most popular driver gets a bad rap for what some state as ‘undeserved fame,’ but his career resumé refutes that claim. Despite never winning a championship, Junior has been a successful driver overall and a great ambassador for the sport. In March, Earnhardt Jr. announced the 2017 season would be his last. It would be poetic to see him go out with a championship, but if that doesn’t happen, Junior can undoubtedly be content with his cup career.
4. Kurt Busch- 922 pts.
No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet| 1 championship, 29 wins, 252 top ten’s, 21 poles
Kurt’s career has been a series of extremes, marked by a championship early in his career with Roush Racing, a pitfall of mediocrity and a personal battle with anger that led to unemployment in the middle of his career, and flourishing while driving for Tony Stewart in the later stages of his career. A Daytona 500 victory this season showed that he’s still got what it takes to contribute, and is certainly in contention for a championship this season.
3. Kevin Harvick- 1095 pts.
No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet| 1 championship, 36 wins, 295 top ten’s, 20 poles
‘The Closer’ has been one of NASCAR’s premier winners since joining the series full time in 2001. Harvick is known for his consistency, and after several successful years at Richard Chldress Racing, won a championship in his first season driving for Tony Stewart in 2014. He’s a guy who always figures into the championship picture one way or another, and this year is no different.
2. Matt Kenseth- 1167 pts.
No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota| 1 championship, 38 wins, 316 top ten’s, 19 poles
Despite a weak 2017 season, Kenseth has had one of the most impressive overall careers in NASCAR cup series racing ever. He has consistently found himself contending, no matter who he’s driving for. With the announcement that prodigy Erik Jones will be behind the wheel of the 20 car next season, Kenseth’s future is uncertain, but he can without a doubt hang his hat on an elite racing career.
1. Jimmie Johnson- 1531 pts.
No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet| 7 championships, 83 wins, 337 top ten’s, 35 poles
Was there even a doubt? Jimmie Johnson has been the picture of dominance since entering the cup series full-time in 2003. He leads all active drivers in championships with seven (tied with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for most all time), wins with 83 (sixth all-time), and top ten’s with 337. Johnson’s performance hasn’t just been transcendent for NASCAR, but for sports in general. His dominance has been opposed by some, but true NASCAR fans can appreciate how special what we’re seeing is.
Already recording three wins in 2017, he continues to establish himself as a championship force, and will more than likely win another championship. I wouldn’t bet against him passing Richard Petty’s 100 win mark, either.
(Detailed Table with Driver stats
Driver Championships x10 Wins x5 Top 10’s x3 Poles x1 TOTAL
48 Johnson 7 (70) 83 (415) 337 (1,011) 35 1531
20 Kenseth 1 (10) 38 (190) 316 (948) 19 1167
4 Harvick 1 (10) 36 (180) 295 (885) 20 1095
41 Ku. Busch 1 (10) 29 (145) 252 (756) 21 922
88 Dale Jr. 0 26 (130) 256 (768) 14 912
18Ky. Busch 1 (10) 38 (190) 229 (687) 22 909
31 Newman 0 18 (90) 230 (690) 51 831
11 Hamlin 0 30 (150) 205 (615) 24 789
2 Keselowski 1 (10) 23 (115) 138 (414) 13 565
22 Logano 0 18 (90) 146 (438) 18 546