Top 10 Tuesday: California Drivers

Spencer Neff
Twitter: @NeffOnSports11

With the IndyCar Series in Fontana and the Sprint Cup Series in Sonoma this weekend, here is a look at the best drivers who call the Golden State home.

10. Ron Hornaday Jr.- The Palmdale driver rounds out the list. Hornaday has been a dominant force in the 20-year history of the Truck Series, winning the championship a record four times and accumulating a record 50 career wins. In addition to his outstanding success in the Truck Series, Hornaday added four victories in what is now the Xfinity Series.

9. Robby Gordon- Like many other drivers who call California home, Gordon, (who hails from Cerritos, Ca.) got his start off-road racing, where he won eight championships and scored three victories in the famed Baja 1000.
In the early 90s, Gordon switched his focus to NASCAR and open wheel, winning multiple times in the Cup and (current) Xfinity series, as well as IndyCar. Right now, Gordon has returned to his roots, starting the Stadium Super Truck Series, which has become a huge success and even landed a spot in the X Games.

8. Gary Scelzi- The second Fresno-born driver and third drag racer on the list, Scelzi began in the sport in 1997 after a tragic accident in the 1996 US Nationals claimed the life of Blaine Johnson. Scelzi went onto win three of the next four championships in Top Fuel. In 2001, Scelzi switched over to Funny Car and earned the 2005 series championship. Scelzi ended his career with 37 National Event wins in addition to the four championships.

7. Kevin Harvick- After winning his first career Cup Series championship last year, the Bakersfield-born driver has etched his place as one of NASCAR’s dominating drivers. In addition to his title, Harvick has also notched 30 Cup Series wins, two titles in what is now the Xfinity series and is one of 26 drivers to amass wins in all three of NASCAR’s top divisions (Cup, Xfinity and Truck).

6. Don Prudhomme- A driver hailing from San Fernando, Prudhomme’s resume is highlighted by 49 National Event wins (35 Funny Car, 14 Top Fuel) and he is also one of three drivers (Force and Kenny Bernstein) to win four consecutive championships in Funny Car since 1974, a feat he accomplished from 1975 to 1978.

5. Bill Vukovich- One of the biggest names from Indy’s “Roadster Era”, Vukovich got his start racing midget cars, where he won three championships from 1945-1946. Vukovich’s greatest success came at the Indianapolis 500, where dominated the event, leading the most laps every year from 1952 to 1954, winning in 1953 and 1954. Vukovich’s bid for a record three straight 500 titles came to a tragic end, when he was killed in a crash while leading in 1955.

4. Jimmie Johnson- Similar to Rick Mears, Johnson (a native of El Cajon) got his start in off-road racing. After a quiet start to his NASCAR career, he was signed by Hendrick Motorsports and began his Cup Series career in 2002. Since then, Johnson has amassed 72 wins and six championships (including a record five straight from 2006-2010), becoming the sport’s greatest dominator since teammate and fellow Californian Jeff Gordon.

3. John Force- The Bell Gardens-born driver’s name has become intertwined with drag racing over the last four decades. With 16 Funny Car titles and 143 National Event wins, Force has been one of the dominant figures in the sport and has helped bring the NHRA into the mainstream motorsports focus.

2. Rick Mears- The Bakersfield, California- born racer got his start on the off-road circuits. However, in a career that spanned from the late 1970s to the early 90s, Mears became one of the legends of IndyCar racing. Mears’ resume boasts three series titles and a record-tying four Indianapolis 500 victories. Despite having his career somewhat shortened, Mears’ accomplishments cement him as one of the greatest drivers of all-time.

1. Jeff Gordon- Perhaps the best stock car driver of the last 20 years, the Vallejo, California native made his way on to the big stage in 1992. 23 years, 92 wins and four Cup Series championships later, Gordon is less than five months away from calling it a career. His on-track accomplishments and overall impact on NASCAR have helped make him one of the most recognizable athletes in any sport.


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