NASCAR drivers are among the best in stock car racing. To climb into a car and drive at high speeds in a hot car for between three and five hours takes special talent. Yet with other motorsports leagues out there, you may wonder whether NASCAR drivers are good drivers when compared to them.
NASCAR drivers are good drivers, as it takes an immense amount of skill to earn a spot in the Cup, Xfinity, and Truck Series. Driving a NASCAR car at speeds of 180+ mph for 3-5 hours, alongside 39 other incredibly talented drivers, takes a lot of skill, endurance, and racecraft.
Below, we will elaborate on how skilled NASCAR drivers are. We will reveal how hard it is to become a NASCAR driver, and how rare a breed NASCAR drivers are, including those in the Xfinity and Truck Series. We will also answer the question of whether they are better than those in other motorsports.
Are NASCAR Drivers Skilled?
NASCAR drivers are among the most skilled drivers in the world. They are not driving in road cars that have driving assists like ABS and traction control, and they are racing wheel to wheel with up to 39 other drivers at incredibly high speeds for hours on end.
While some non-fans may assume NASCAR drivers only turn left, driving in circles for hours on end, there is clearly much more to it than that. The most obvious thing you’ll notice is the speed at which they drive, often topping 180 mph on the longest straights. They carry a lot of this speed into the banked turns, which strains their bodies.
But this also requires precise driving, as they have up to 39 other drivers on the track with them doing the same thing. They race wheel to wheel, bumper to bumper, for 3-5 hours at a time. This requires both physical and mental endurance, but also a huge degree of racecraft. This is a measure of their racing skills, encompassing things like overtaking, drafting, and safe driving.
They also need to know their cars inside out. This allows them to understand their tire and fuel management, both of which are critical for race strategy. This strategy aspect also requires high levels of concentration and understanding of the race itself, all while they’re travelling at immense speeds.
Experience Is Key
To become professional in any motorsport, you need to have not just heaps of talent, but you also need years of experience. While there are outliers, most NASCAR drivers start off driving go-karts or midgets when they are in grade school or middle school. At such a young age, they need to separate themselves from their peers via their natural talent, which, in turn, attracts sponsorships.
The most talented drivers must eventually move up, and they often move to racing at local dirt or asphalt tracks. Now that the best of the best on those kart and midget circuits are competing against each other, only the best on the local stock car scene will attract enough sponsorship to move up to NASCAR-sanctioned events.
No Free Passes Or Short Cuts
There are no real shortcuts to become a NASCAR driver. Even drivers with connections to NASCAR owners, or if they are sons and daughters of famous drivers, don’t get free passes. Let’s explore some of the more prominent ones who made a name for themselves in NASCAR, and you will notice they all excelled in their quest to the Cup Series.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Xfinity Series Championship (then known as the Busch Series) in 1998 and 1999. Kyle Petty never lived to his father’s status, but he still enjoyed back-to-back fifth-place finishes in the Cup Series in 1992-93. Austin Cindric is the grandson of Roger Penske, but he also won the Xfinity Series Championship in 2020.
Austin Dillon, grandson of Richard Childress, won the series in 2013. And Ty Gibbs, grandson of Joe Gibbs, won nine of his first 40 races in the Xfinity Series with 26 top 10 finishes. So, while younger generations with family ties to NASCAR may have better means to get to NASCAR, they are no less skilled than drivers with no family ties to the sport.
Drivers like Petty, Earnhardt Jr, Dillon, Cindric, and Gibbs still had to work their way into NASCAR’s top three series. And while it may not seem to be the case, there are many Drivers like seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson had no real ties to NASCAR until the team he raced for, Herzog Racing, moved to the NASCAR Xfinity (Busch) Series in 1999.
How Hard Is It To Be A NASCAR Driver?
It is incredibly hard to be a NASCAR driver. There are thousands of hopeful drivers across the country, but the chances of making it to the Cup Series are extremely slim. Once a driver gets to the Cup Series, it’s then no easy task to stay there, as they need to outperform their 39 competitors.
Improving Your Chances Of Getting A Drive In NASCAR
There are ways to increase your chances of making it in NASCAR, and the first thing you need to know is that not only do future NASCAR drivers need to be good at driving, but they also need to have good relations with current and potential sponsors.
It is true that natural talent and mastering driving skills is a must, and there are driving schools that will help you hone your driving skills. Remember, there are thousands of other drivers doing the same thing, so the key is to separate yourself from the rest, and that is where attracting and maintaining those sponsorships become so important.
The reason is that the more sponsors you attract, the better equipment you or your team can afford in those lower levels. With top-end driving skills, experience, and sound sponsorships, you increase your chances to catch the right person’s eye. There are people attending these races who have connections to better sponsors, or even NASCAR teams at the top three levels.
It is those people whose eyes you want to catch. So, while the odds of becoming a NASCAR driver are very much against you, knowing who to talk to and whose attention to try and grab will help increase your chances.
KEY POINTS• NASCAR drivers are incredibly talented
• It’s very difficult to race at the top levels of stock car racing, but it’s also difficult just to get there
• With thousands of other hopeful drivers, the chances of making it to the top are slim
Are NASCAR Drivers The Best In The World?
NASCAR drivers are likely the best stock car drivers in the world, but it’s impossible to compare them to drivers in other motorsports. Each racing discipline requires different skills, and so comparing NASCAR drivers to F1 drivers, or rally drivers, or MotoGP riders, is extremely hard.
Motorsports fans are a passionate bunch, and depending on what motorsport they wish to follow, they will believe their chosen motorsport’s drivers are the best in the world. But it is not really possible to compare any motorsports league with another.
Instead, we can say that NASCAR Cup Series drivers are the best in the world in NASCAR itself, whose top divisions also include the Xfinity and Truck Series. NASCAR also acquired ARCA in 2018, and they serve as NASCAR’s unofficial fourth series, plus the NASCAR Roots divisions, which are local and regional bodies they sanction.
The Cup Series (in its current and previous forms) is the pinnacle of NASCAR, and we know this because, of the 3,200+ drivers who have entered a Cup Series race, just over 200 have ever won a race. Many drivers like Jack Sprague, Mike Skinner, and Ron Hornaday excelled at lower levels like Truck and Xfinity, but faltered when they reached the Cup Series.
When you watch a Cup Series race, you are seeing the best drivers in NASCAR. But you can’t call them the best overall drivers in the world because it is not possible to compare NASCAR to F1, IndyCar, or any other major sanctioning body in motorsports. IndyCar and F1 drivers drive open-wheel cars, and they drive on different tracks with different car setups than what you see in NASCAR.
In the Cup Series, just over 6% of all drivers who have ever competed since its first iteration in 1949 have won at least one race
NASCAR drivers are among the most skilled stock car drivers in the world. While we cannot honestly say NASCAR drivers are the best in the world when compared to F1 or IndyCar, or any other motorsport series, we can say Cup Series drivers are definitely among the best.