Few sports have such deep roots in one state like NASCAR does in North Carolina. The Tar Heel State is home to almost every driver and team in the sport. With the Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series set to return to the Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend, here is a look at some of the top drivers to call North Carolina home.
10. Austin Dillon: The Lewisville native and grandson of team owner Richard Childress, Austin made his name by winning the 2011 Truck Series (7 career wins) and 2013 (then) Nationwide Series title (5 career wins). Dillon also started his first full-time Cup Series season by winning the pole in the 2014 Daytona 500.
9. Brian Vickers: The Thomasville native burst onto the scene in 2003 by winning the (then) Busch Series title). Vickers would move up to Cup and capture three wins, but has been sidelined by blood clots since March.
8. Harry Gant: “Handsome Harry” started in the Cup Series in 1973 as a 33 year-old rookie from Taylorsville. It would be nine years before he won his first race. In 1991, Gant earned the nickname “Mister September” winning four consecutive races in the month, including the Southern 500 at Darlington. A year later, Gant earned the last of his 18 career Cup wins.
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: The Kannapolis-born driver won two Xfinity Series titles in 1998 and 99 and has become one of the biggest stars in the sport since. Earnhardt Jr. has won 25 races, including the Daytona 500 in 2004 and 2014.
6. Dale Jarrett: The Conover product racked up 32 wins and 16 poles in his career, as well as the 1999 Cup Series championship. Dale now works for NBC as an analyst.
5. Ned Jarrett: Conover’s Ned Jarrett has built a legacy as one of the most popular figures in the sport. During his driving career, Ned won 50 races and 35 poles in 352 starts, along with two championships. Ned would later go on to be a broadcaster for ESPN and CBS.
4. Junior Johnson: One of the early pioneers of the sport, Johnson, who hails from Wilkesboro became an icon for the early years of NASCAR. Johnson won 50 races as a driver, including the 1960 Daytona 500, where he helped introduce drafting into the sport.
3. Lee Petty: The patriarch of the Petty family, Randleman’s Lee racked up 54 wins and three championships on his way to become one of the sport’s first stars. Petty also won the inaugural Daytona 500 in 1959.
2. Dale Earnhardt: One of several second-generation drivers on this list, Earnhardt (a native of Kannapolis) won his first championship during just his second season in 1980. Over the next 20 years, he would accumulate 76 wins and six more titles before his untimely death on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.
- Richard Petty: Originally from Level Cross, “The King” followed in his father Lee’s footsteps and went on to become the greatest driver in the sport’s history. Petty racked up 200 wins, seven championships and became one of the original superstars in the Modern Era.