Unlike in other sports, NASCAR drivers are athletes who can compete well into their 60s and even into their 70s. It is also not uncommon for NASCAR drivers to compete at a high level beyond age 40. Knowing this, you may wonder who the oldest NASCAR drivers of all time are.
The 10 oldest NASCAR drivers ever are:
- Morgan Shepherd
- Mark Thompson
- Hershel McGriff
- Derrike Cope
- Dick Trickle
- Dave Marcis
- James Hylton
- Joe Ruttman
- Ken Schrader
- Terry Labonte
Below, we will reveal who the oldest NASCAR driver is in the Cup Series today. We will also check out who the oldest NASCAR champions of all-time are, and explore the oldest drivers to win a race. Finally, we will discuss whether a maximum age limit exists in NASCAR.
Who Is The Oldest Active NASCAR Driver?
The oldest active NASCAR Cup Series driver is Kevin Harvick, who is 47 years old. He was born on the 8th of December 1975, and started his Cup Series career in 2001 for Richard Childress. He has a total of 60 Cup Series wins to his name, along with a championship that he won in 2014.
In today’s NASCAR Cup Series, it is rare to see drivers race into their fifties. Thirty years ago, this was a common practice, as drivers like Richard Petty, Harry Gant, and Darrell Waltrip raced for decades on end and were well past age 50 when they retired. These days, it isn’t uncommon to see drivers retire before age 40.
NASCAR Drivers Are Getting Younger
One big reason for this is that drivers typically start their Cup Series careers earlier. Before, if a driver snagged a full-time ride in the Cup Series while they were in their 20s, that was considered an impressive feat. As time wore on and NASCAR’s ways started to resemble that of other major pro sports in North America, so did the ages of their drivers.
Now it’s common to see drivers get into the Cup Series in their 20s, often in their early 20s. 2022 NASCAR Rookie of the Year Austin Cindric was just 23 when he stepped into the #2 car. William Byron was even younger, taking over the famed #24 car at age 21. And the oldest full-time active driver in the NASCAR Cup Series today took a similar route.
That driver is Kevin Harvick, who is 47 years old. Harvick currently races for Stewart-Haas Racing, and he is in his 23rd season in the Cup Series.
Kevin Harvick’s career got off to perhaps the most undesirable start in NASCAR Cup Series history. Following the death of Dale Earnhardt, Harvick was thrust into action the very next week at the 2001 Spring Rockingham Race, operating the same car, but with an inverse paint scheme and a new number.
He scored his first of 60 NASCAR victories just two weeks later at the Spring Atlanta Race in an almost perfect photo finish, winning by just 0.006 seconds. Harvick also won Rookie of the Year that season, and he finished in the top 10 in the points in 17 of his first 22 seasons. Harvick won the NASCAR Cup Series Championship in 2014 as a member of Stewart-Haas Racing.
Who Is The Oldest NASCAR Driver Of All Time?
Morgan Shepherd is the oldest NASCAR Cup Series driver of all time. He achieved this at age 72 on the 13th of July 2014 when he started the Summer New Hampshire Race. It was Shepherd’s 45th season at the Cup Series level, as his career began in 1970, a year before it became known as the Winston Cup.
Shepherd raced for a plethora of different race teams during the first 19 years of his career, and it wasn’t until 1989 that he found much-needed career stability, something he enjoyed until 1997. During that timeframe, he had the best run of his career, finishing no lower than 14th in the points standings in all but one season, while achieving a career best fifth-place finish in 1990.
Moving Between Teams
Following the 1997 season, Shepherd once again became a journeyman driver, racing for six different race teams in 1998, before bouncing around with five different teams in 1999. When the 21st century rolled around, Shepherd became a field-filler driver and he remained in that role for the remainder of his career.
While never a great driver, Shepherd notched four wins during his career, including three wins at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. And while he started his final Cup Series race in 2014, Shepherd continued to race in NASCAR’s lower divisions until 2019.
Who Is The Oldest NASCAR Driver That’s Still Alive?
Hershel McGriff is the oldest NASCAR driver alive today, as he was born on December 14th, 1927. A member of the 2023 NASCAR Hall of Fame Class, McGriff competed in NASCAR-sanctioned events until he was 90 years old. His last NASCAR Cup Series race was the 1993 race at Sonoma when he was 65.
While he raced in just 85 Cup Series races between the inaugural Southern 500 in 1950 until 1993, McGriff was a decent driver, having notched four career wins, 31 top tens, and five poles. He scored all four of his wins in 1954, a year where he also managed a career-best sixth place in the points standings.
McGriff mainly competed in the K&N Pro Series West, where he logged most of his starts between 1971 and 1972, and between 1981 and 1993.
KEY POINTS• The oldest active NASCAR driver is Kevin Harvick at 47
• The oldest Cup Series driver was Morgan Shepherd, who raced at 72 years old
• The oldest NASCAR driver that’s still alive is 95 year old Hershel McGriff
10 Oldest NASCAR Race Winners
|Driver||Active||Age At Last Race Win||Wins|
In many sports, an athlete can find themselves past their respective primes well before they reach age 40. However, in NASCAR, a driver can continue to compete at a high level into their fifties, and three drivers have won races at or above age 50.
Harry Gant is the oldest driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race at age 52, which he accomplished during the 1992 Michigan Race. While he would place no higher than third since that win, Gant finished a solid fourth place in the points standings that season, and 11th the following season, before concluding his career in 1994.
10 Oldest NASCAR Champions
|Driver||Active||Age At Last Championship Win||Championships|
|Bobby Allison||1961-1988||45||1 (1983)|
|Lee Petty||1949-1964||45||3 (1954, 1955, 1959)|
|Dale Earnhardt||1975-2001||43||7 (1980, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994)|
|Dale Jarrett||1984-2008||42||1 (1999)|
|Richard Petty||1958-1992||42||7 (1964, 1967, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1979)|
|Joe Weatherly||1952-1964||41||2 (1962, 1963)|
|Jimmie Johnson||2002-2020, 2023||41||7 (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2016)|
|Tony Stewart||1999-2016||40||3 (2002, 2005, 2011)|
|Terry Labonte||1978-2014||39||2 (1984, 1996)|
|Kevin Harvick||2001-present||38||1 (2014)|
Oldest NASCAR Cup Series Champion
Bobby Allison enjoyed a storied career, having started his auto racing career in his hometown of Miami, Florida. But with the racing scene more prominent in the Mid-South, he and his brother Donnie Allison packed up and set up shop in Hueytown, Alabama. There, Bobby raced on local short tracks until 1965, when he started racing full time in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Bobby became an immediate contender, and in 1970, he took second in the standings. He finished fourth in 1971, second again in 1972, seventh in 1973, and fourth in 1974. After a lean season in 1975, Bobby came back and finished in the top five in the standings in six of the next eight seasons, finally clinching his first and only championship in 1983.
He accomplished this feat at 45 years and 11 months, becoming the oldest NASCAR Cup Series Champion of all time. Bobby continued to race until midway through the 1988 season, when a severe crash at Pocono forced him into an early retirement.
The 10 Oldest NASCAR Drivers Of All Time
1. Morgan Shepherd
Active: 1970-2014 | Age At Last Race: 72 | Wins: 4 | Championships: 0
Young fans might remember Morgan Shepherd as a part-time field filler who often finished at the back of the pack during the 2000s and 2010s, but Shepherd was a better driver than many give him credit for. He mastered the Atlanta Motor Speedway during his prime and won three of his four wins at the track, and his final race came in 2014.
2. Mark Thompson
Active: 1992-2018 | Age At Last Race: 66 | Wins: 0 | Championships: 0
Mark Thompson only started three NASCAR Cup Series races, but he makes this list because of his performance at the 2018 Daytona 500. He was 66 when he made the start, and finished a respectable 22nd in the 40 car field. As a testament to his age, he even raced with the number 66.
3. Hershel McGriff
Active: 1950-1993 | Age At Last Race: 65 | Wins: 4 | Championships: 0
Hershel McGriff raced in his first Cup Series race in 1950, and he didn’t stop until he was 65 years old, entering his final race at the Sonoma Raceway. Following his final Cup Series event in 1993, McGriff continued to race in regional NASCAR-sanctioned series until he was 90 years old.
4. Derrike Cope
Active: 1982-2021 | Age At Last Race: 62 | Wins: 2 | Championships: 0
Derrike Cope’s most iconic moment came when he won the 1990 Daytona 500. He would win just one more race in his career, which occurred later that season, and he raced full-time until the 1998 season. Cope became a journeyman for the remainder of his Cup Series career, and he competed in his final race in 2021.
5. Dick Trickle
Active: 1970-2002 | Age At Last Race: 61 | Wins: 0 | Championships: 0
Born in 1941, Dick Trickle didn’t get a full-time ride until 1989. He then became a NASCAR journeyman, rarely lasting more than two seasons with a team. In 1996, he signed with Donlavey Racing, driving the #90 car that most NASCAR fans remember him for. He ran the final race of his career in 2002 with a 42nd place finish at Dover for Marcis Auto Racing (owned by the next man on this list).
6. Dave Marcis
Active: 1968-2002 | Age At Last Race: 60 | Wins: 5 | Championships: 0
Dave Marcis competed in 883 Cup Series races, and although he notched just five career wins and 222 top tens, he took second place in the points standings in 1975. Like a few other drivers on this list, Marcis started his own team later in his career, where he continued to try and make races full time from 1994 until 2000. He ran his final race at the 2002 Daytona 500, where he finished 42nd.
7. James Hylton
Active: 1963-1993 | Age At Last Race: 59 | Wins: 2 | Championships: 0
One of the better NASCAR drivers on this list, James Hylton finished his Cup Series career with 301 top ten finishes. He also finished second in the points in 1966, 1967, and 1971, confirming his career was way better than the two measly times he saw victory lane. Like many drivers on this list, he became a journeyman, before starting his own race team, Hylton Motorsports.
8. Joe Ruttman
Active: 1963-2004 | Age At Last Race: 59 | Wins: 0 | Championships: 0
At age 59, Joe Ruttman returned to the NASCAR Cup Series for Phoenix Racing, and his return was iconic. His team showed up with no pit crew, and it was blatant that they were there to start the race, park, and collect bottom-tier prize money. It served as a catalyst for changes that NASCAR would make regarding start-and-park drivers, changes that eventually led to the charter system.
9. Ken Schrader
Active: 1984-2013 | Age At Last Race: 58 | Wins: 4 | Championships: 0
Ken Schrader is often remembered as a middle-of-the-pack driver, but there was a time in his career that he was one of the best on the circuit. Between 1989 and 1996, he raced for the legendary Hendrick Motorsports, where he finished in the top five in points on five occasions, logging a career-best fourth-place finish in 1994.
10. Terry Labonte
Active: 1978-2014 | Age At Last Race: 57 | Wins: 22 | Championships: 2
Longevity was Terry Labonte’s game, and he raced between 1978 and 2014, racking up five decades behind the wheel. And while he semi-retired following the 2004 season, Labonte continued to race regularly on a part-time basis, driving for teams like Joe Gibbs Racing, Petty Enterprises, and Michael Waltrip Motorsports. He ended his career with Go FAS Racing.
Is There An Age Limit For NASCAR Drivers?
There is no maximum age limit for NASCAR drivers. Instead, all drivers are subjected to maintaining a base level of health and fitness, so if they can pass a physical, keep their NASCAR license up to date, and have a car that can qualify for a race, they can race regardless of their age.
Not that there hasn’t been controversy, as in 2014, an annoyed Joey Logano panned Morgan Shepherd after the latter wrecked him at the New Hampshire race. Logano was in second place at the time, with only then-teammate Brad Keselowski leading him. Following the incident, Logano stated his willingness to see every driver pass a test before they were allowed to race.
Shepherd, 72 at the time, was 16 laps down when the incident occurred. Shepherd also went on record to say his age was not the reason he was one of the slower cars on the track, but he instead chalked it up to a handling issue. NASCAR even confirmed Shepherd’s speed hit NASCAR’s minimum requirement.
A Minimum Age Limit Exists
While there is no upper age limit to race in NASCAR, all Xfinity and Cup Series drivers must be at least 18 years old. They must also be 18 to compete with a full-time schedule in all of the top three series. However, you can compete part-time in the Truck Series at age 16 on tracks that are 1.25 miles (2 km) long or less.
Drivers as young as 15 may compete in NASCAR’s regional touring series, like the Whelen Modified Tour and Southern Modified Tour, Canadian Tire Series, plus the K&N Pro Series East and West. Before 2007, the minimum age for these series was 18, before they lowered it to 16 that season, and finally to 15 in 2022.
Morgan Shepherd is the oldest driver to start a NASCAR Cup Series race, which occurred in 2014 when he was 72 at the New Hampshire Speedway. At age 45, Bobby Allison was the oldest driver to win a Cup Series Championship, while Harry Gant became the oldest driver to win a Cup Series race at 52 years. Kevin Harvick is the oldest active full-time driver in the Cup Series.
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