Watching Greg Biffle win the truck race really made me think. How many drivers since 2000 have we as younger NASCAR fans watched, but under appreciated. Yes, we unfortunately did not get the opportunity to see drivers like Tim Richmond, or Alan Kulwicki in their prime. As far as I am concerned and can remember though I have been able to watch some down right awesome and solid drivers. Each and every one of these drivers had solid fan bases yes, but I don’t think any of them were ever really noticed for what they did for the sport as a whole. This is going to be a list of drivers who are no longer driving full time in the cup series.
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Like it mentioned above, each and every one of these drivers had huge fan bases. So while I know he was the fifteen time most popular driver. Dale landed his spot on this list due to the lack of appreciation people give him for his performance, not to mention how he helped a whole fan base recover after the loss of an icon his dad. The young Earnhardt started full time racing in 2000 for his dads race team. After starting he really never looked back winning at least one race for the next six seasons. He was able to have his best season in 2003 with three wins, and over one thousand laps led.
Dale left what was left of his dads company to join Hendrick Motorsports in 2008. Like another driver higher up on this list many thought this was the move for him to finally get him a championship. Unfortunately, Dale would not get that championship with HMS. His best season points wise being 2013 with a third place finish in final standings. However Dale was able to due to unfortunate circumstances open the motor sports world up to a glaring health issue. After multiple concussions Dale’s openness in the media resulted in huge leaps for health evaluations on drivers. Dale never won a championship, but opened up the eyes to tons of people in the motor sports community. The lack of championship leads to people greatly under appreciating Dale.
4. Greg Biffle
Friday nights truck series winner: Greg Biffle. The “Biff” as people call him started full time in the cup series in 2003 after a couple solid years in the truck series and what is now Xfinity series. Greg was able to win the truck series championship in 2000, and then followed it up in 2001 with an Xfinity championship. Greg came into the cup series hot, and looking to take the series by storm. He had his best year overall in 2005 winning six races and finishing second in the final points standings. Greg went onto to race for only one owner Jack Roush and left full time from the sport in 2016 after three consecutive win less seasons. While Greg never was able to capture that elusive cup series championship man was his career and driving ability greatly under appreciated.
3. Dale Jarrett
Dale Jarrett unlike the last two drivers does have a championship to notch on his belt in 1999. He was able to compete again for a championship in 2001 and traded the lead with Jeff Gordon. After winning three of the first eight races he only winded up winning one more race and faded back to fifth in the standings. Dale was also an intricate part in helping bring Toyota into the NASCAR with then Michael Waltrip Racing, and helping build a championship organization for Robert Yates Racing. Dale Jarrett greatly under appreciated for his ways of racing, even though he always seemed to be the sneaky good driver especially on the super speedways.
2. Mark Martin
One of the more iconic Roush drivers Mark Martin started racing full time in 1988. While a lot of us didn’t get to witness his prime runs against Dale Earnhardt, or even Jeff Gordon. We did get to see this man compete for a championship twice after the year 2000. In 2002 Mark was able to win one race and lead a total of 363 laps on the year. Once again though he fell short of that cup title to Tony Stewart a youngster winning his first championship. Most thought the savvy veteran Martin wouldn’t have another chance to contend for a championship.
Mark was able to join a proven championship winning team in Hendrick Motorsports in 2009. Rick Hendrick was giving Mark one last chance at that championship he had been oh so close to winning. He didn’t disappoint either. Mark would go onto have the second most successful season in his career with five wins, seven pole awards and led eight hundred and five laps. That was the most win’s Mark had gotten since the 1998 season. Sadly though it wouldn’t be enough. Mark would go on to finish second once again this time to his teammate Jimmie Johnson who claimed his fourth consecutive championship. He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2017. Mark made an impact of the sport not many could with his driving style, and to some is greatly under appreciated.
1. Matt Kenseth
Really in all seriousness there could be another driver here. The 2003 series champion has always for some reason been greatly under appreciated for his accomplishments. Matt was thrown in as a substitute for “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville” in 1998 and was able to finish sixth. His first full time ride though would come in 2000 with Roush much like a few other drivers below him on this list. Matt was able in his stent with the Hall of fame owner win one championship, and win twenty four of his career thirty nine wins. His best year points wise being 2003 winning the championship, and 2002 with five wins.
Once again though teams change and Matt did just that making the jump to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013. Right off the bat he was able to reap the rewards. The veteran driver notched seven wins, and was looking to get that second championship. Unfortunately for Matt he would come up short to long time competitor Jimmie Johnson for the championship. Matt’s decision to move was a smart one in his time with JGR. Kenseth was able to win fifteen races to help cement his legacy as a future Hall of Fame resident. Matt’s quiet persona, and unique ability to stay consistent is what made him the awesome, but sadly under appreciated driver he was in his career.
All five of these drivers contributed to the sport in ways not matched by any other driver. While a few never won their own championship, and some may have been forced out of rides too soon. One thing is for sure each and every one of these drivers helped take the sport we as NASCAR fans have grown to love. Even if they all where under appreciated while on the track.