We are long past the days of The Intimidator and watching drivers spin out competitors on the last lap purposefully weekly. It still happens though; we still have drivers who attempt to emulate the days of old. Though, we have now entered a more respectful and less hard-nosed era of NASCAR.
Who are the drivers who stray away from the respectful side? Guys who don’t care about making or keeping friends when it comes to wins or even just one position up on the track. I have respect for these types of drivers; within reason atleast.
These are the guys I admire because they’re willing to do whatever it takes to win. They’re aggressive, maybe too aggressive at times, but they get their own goals accomplished. There something to be said for the nice guys who never want to make contact, but in my opinion, NASCAR is for the aggressors.
Stock cars were made to be able to hit each other and something is lost whenever that aggressive side of the sport goes away. All of that being said, there’s also a downside if you have a driver who is too aggressive which I will get into.
5. Ryan Newman
Newman is known for being the type who could care less about friends. He wants to go out and give his team the best finish possible and he doesn’t care who he has to pass or keep from passing him to do it. If this means making some contact, he won’t shy away from it.
He has gained the reputation as the toughest driver to pass. A leader’s worst nightmare is finding themselves at Ryan Newman’s bumper with the second-place car closing in. Newman will fight tooth and nail to keep from going a lap down, and he doesn’t care if your trying to get around him as the leader or the last place car.
4. Ross Chastain
A guy I can’t blame for being aggressive, Chastain has had to fight for everything he’s earned. He doesn’t come from a racing lineage and never signed a long-term development deal when he was young. He’s what NASCAR drivers should be, hardworking and talented individuals who have to earn their spot.
This chip on his shoulder has earned him ire from his competitors and Chastain has the tag of aggressive drivers pinned to the front of his bumper. I’ve seen few instances where Chastain will wreck someone for a win, but he will not shy away from contact. He’s willing to race as hard as he can from the drop of the green. Do people like it? No. Does he seem to care? No, he’s doing what he has to earn a spot in this sport.
3. Joey Logano
Logano earned his rough racer moniker at Martinsville in 2018 when he bumped Martin Truex Jr. up the track on the last turn. This bump lead Truex to give enough space for Logano to shove his way past him and win the race. At the time this was controversial, but in my mind I never understood why. That was a move I would’ve made and I didn’t see it as dirty in any way.
After this, Logano continues to make sure that his bumper gets good use. While he never openly wrecks anyone, he does whatever he has to do in order to put himself in his ideal position. As I said, I respect anyone who is willing to move someone for a win. Where my problem comes with Logano is how he will dish it out, but never take it. If someone puts their bumper to him, he gets out of his car and complains.
2. Kyle Busch
The most known rough driver, and the man that pops into everyone’s mind when they think on this subject. Busch has never argued against the notion that he’s aggressive. He’s been doing it since he was a teenager. He’s wrecked for wins and upset plenty of people on his way to arguably being the best driver in NASCAR.
You don’t have to like him, but you have to acknowledge is prowess as a driver. His willingness to move someone out of the way is the closest thing to Dale Earnhardt this generation has. He’s just not as cool as Earnhardt. Drivers know they’re in trouble if they see Busch coming up behind them on the closing laps.
- Noah Gragson
For those who do not keep up with lower series, this might be an unrecognizable name. Gragson drives the #9-car for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series. This season he has been in the headlines a couple of times for wrecking fellow drivers like Myatt Snyder. So much so that Dale Earnhardt Jr. called his driver out on his podcast. Discussing how he’s requested Gragson to calm it down and stop being a “wild man.”
Driving recklessly has been a part of Gragson’s driving style since his days in trucks where he would take drivers out, or even take himself out with over-aggressive moves. This is where rough driving becomes a problem. Gragson is talented, but he’s trying to emulate drivers like Busch and Earnhardt, but he isn’t the wheelman that those two are. So, when he attempts to get overaggressive he can’t keep his car straight nor can he keep himself in position to win.