NASCAR is in the process of adding 25 names to its “all-time” list as part of its 75th anniversary celebration. It is expected to name five drivers per week—most likely one per weekday—in the five weeks ending with the May 14th Goodyear 400 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
The newest group among the sport’s greatest drivers is being selected by a committee comprised of former drivers, team owners, industry personnel, NASCAR executives, and current and former media members. All 75—the original 50 class named 25 years ago and the new 25—will be recognized during Goodyear 400 pre-race ceremonies.
In 1998, during its 50th anniversary season, NASCAR unveiled what it considered its 50 greatest drivers. The list included most of the stars from the organization’s earliest years, many of whom eventually would find their way into the NASCAR Hall of Fame when it opened in 2010.
As NASCAR celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1998, company president Bill France called that group “the men who define the competition of our sport.” He added, “Their accomplishments are the benchmark that much of our history is identified by. Honoring them in this way, at the beginning of the NASCAR 50th anniversary celebration, is one way of showing our true appreciation for them and the invaluable contribution they have given over the past 50 years. These are the drivers who made and make NASCAR fans stand on their feet and cheer. These are the drivers who are NASCAR history.”
The original “50 Greatest Drivers” were from the Modified, Xfinity Series, and Cup Series. The Craftsman Truck Series was too young to have had any “greatest drivers,” but that’s expected to change with this new group.
Today's Addition: Martin Truex Jr.
Even before winning Monday’s 400-miler at Dover, it was obvious that Martin Truex Jr. would be on the list of NASCAR’s “75 Greatest Drivers.” The fact he was recognized on Tuesday is simply a coincidence: he was going to make it, no matter the timing.
The New Jersey native got his 32nd Cup Series victory on Monday at the 1-mile track where he had three previous victories, including his breakthrough with Dale Earnhardt Inc. in 2007. His Cup resume is undeniably more impressive that some may think: four victories at Dover, three each at Sonoma, Charlotte, Richmond, and Martinsville, two each at Darlington, Pocono, Chicago, Las Vegas, Kentucky, and Kansas, and one each at Watkins Glen, Homestead, Fontana, and Phoenix.
Against all odds, he won the 2017 Cup title with owner Barney Visser, a feat all the more impressive because the single-car team was based in Denver, Col. He’s a cinch to eventually make the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
All told, the second-generation racer has 20 poles and 32 victories spread over 632 starts covering 20 Cup seasons. He has 135 top-5 finishes, 267 top-10 finishes, and seven top-10 points seasons. Before becoming a Cup star, he won 13 races in the Xfinity Series and was its 2004 and 2005 champion for DEI. And just to make things complete, he has one victory in three Craftsman Truck Series starts.
Truex Jr. is one of four active Cup drivers on the “greatest 75” list, joining teammate Denny Hamlin and fellow former champions Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott. He’s also one of six on the list with connections to Joe Gibbs Racing, along with Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Bobby Labonte, Dale Jarrett and Tony Stewart. He’s the 16th driver named to the list with nine more to be announced before the May 14 Goodyear 400 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
NASCAR named its “50 Greatest Drivers” in 1995, its 50th anniversary season. Its newest list recognizes the 25 drivers who have emerged since that 50th anniversary season. All 75 drivers or their representatives will be honored prior to the Goodyear 400.
NASCAR'S 50 Greatest Drivers
Selected in 1998
The Next 25
Selected in 2023
(To be released one per weekday by NASCAR, in no particular order.)
51, Tony Stewart
52, Kasey Kahne
53, Mike Stefanik
54, Randy Lajoie
55, Kyle Larson
56, Greg Biffle
57, Sterling Marlin
58, Ryan Newman
59, Chase Elliott
60, Ron Hornaday
61, Jeff Burton
62, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
63, Bobby Labonte
64, Martin Truex Jr.
65, Expected to be announce May 3