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NASCAR Nicknames from the Intimidator to Jaws

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Josh Mull

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By Dustin Albino

While NASCAR drivers are among the most fearless people in the world, many racers have nicknames that add to their on-track persona. Over the last 75 years, there have been some dandies, with no discrimination among success.

Here are some of the best nicknames in the sport’s history:

The King: Between 1967 and 1971, Richard Petty won double-digit races every year. With his dominance, he was coined “The King.” It’s a moniker that he still rocks today, with his Charlie 1 Horse cowboy hat.

The Intimidator: Undeniably, Dale Earnhardt is among the greats in NASCAR history. And he didn’t shy away from his aggressive nature on the track. At times, it was move out of the way or get moved, but his nickname came to life with his “pass in the grass” of Bill Elliott during The Winston at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1987.

The Silver Fox: With a winning percentage of 18.3, David Pearson, to many, is NASCAR’s GOAT. Though he never ran a full season, Pearson would often hang low in the opening stint of races before leaping to the front of the pack toward the end.

Jaws: No driver in NASCAR history was a better smack-talker than Darrell Waltrip. Cale Yarborough took notice early in DW’s career and gave him the “Jaws” nickname. Waltrip put it to good use in rivalries with Yarborough, Earnhardt and Rusty Wallace.

Fireball: In high school, Glenn Roberts was a standout baseball player who knew how to throw heat. Roberts is known as one of the best drivers to never claim a NASCAR Cup Series championship, despite winning 33 of his 206 starts.

Smoke: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and Tony Stewart knew how to burn the tires off his car. The nickname “Smoke” predates his NASCAR driving days and reportedly goes back to when he ran sprint cars; when he would spin his tires off the corners so much that smoke would billow from his rear tires.

The Iceman For 37 years, Terry Labonte was NASCAR’s “Iceman.” Labonte was known to be calm, cool and collective under pressure, which resulted in two Cup Series championships and 22 race wins.

Wonder Boy: In the 1990s, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt had a classic rivalry, where they combined to win seven of the 10 championships that decade. Earnhardt took notice of Gordon’s relevancy and referred to him as “Wonder Boy” in 1995, when Gordon was just 23 years old.

The Mayor: Throughout the Cup Series garage in the 1990s and 2000s, Jeff Burton was among the most respected drivers in his effort to grow the sport. He often had a different – and insightful – perspective on many issues affecting the safety of NASCAR.

Rowdy: Love him or hate him, Kyle Busch has been among the most polarizing figures in the history of NASCAR. His “Rowdy” nickname came from his aggressive style on the track and his ruthless attitude. The Rowdy tagline has been associated with him since the mid-2000s, and he eventually created an energy drink, named Rowdy.

Sliced Bread: High expectations were put on Joey Logano, when he jumped to the Cup Series full time at the ripe age of 18. Two-time Xfinity Series champion Randy LaJoie gave the nod to Logano, now a two-time Cup Series champion, as the “greatest thing since sliced bread,” before he was even racing in NASCAR. Logano enters NASCAR’s 75th season as one of two full-time active drivers in the field with multiple titles.

Awesome Bill from Dawsonville: The Elliotts have a long lineage in NASCAR, and have always stuck to their Dawsonville, Georgia, roots. Bill Elliott won 28 races in the back half of the 1980s, en route to the 1988 Cup Series title.

The Rocketman: In the 2000s, Ryan Newman was fun to watch in qualifying. He won a career-high 11 poles during his sophomore 2003 season, and finished his career with 51 total – 43 of which came for Team Penske. Between 2003 and 2005, the Indiana native started from the pole in six straight races at Atlanta Motor Speedway – a track record.

Mr. Excitement: Before his NASCAR career began, Jimmy Spencer was anointed with the nickname “Mr. Excitement” for his aggressive nature in modifieds. Spencer was relevant through the 1990s and early 2000s, before becoming an analyst for SPEED. There, he was known for never holding back his bold opinions and beliefs.

The Cat in the Hat: Jack Roush’s impact on auto racing earned him a spot in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. He’s never seen at the track without his signature fedora, and was entitled “The Cat in the Hat.” Entering NASCAR’s 75th season, Roush’s team ranks fourth on the list of all-time wins with 138, behind only Hendrick Motorsports, Petty Enterprises and Joe Gibbs Racing.

The Captain: Right behind Roush on the list of all-time winners is Team Penske. With Logano claiming the 2022 Cup Series title, team owner Roger Penske now has a remarkable 43 national championships. Because of his innovative leadership skills and his manifested success, Penske became known as “The Captain.”

Alabama Gang: In the 1960s and 1970s, Bobby Allison, Donnie Allison and Red Farmer spearheaded the Alabama Gang. Bobby looked for racing opportunities outside of Florida and settled in Hueytown, Alabama, because the prize money was greater at local short tracks. The three drivers all eventually found success in NASCAR, including Bobby winning the 1983 Cup Series championship.

Rainbow Warriors: With a rainbow wrapped DuPont Chevrolet, Jeff Gordon and his No. 24 team quickly became known as the “Rainbow Warriors” in the 1990s. Gordon won three championships in the decade and double-digit races in three straight years (1996-1998).

The Gentle Giant: Standing at a whopping 6-foot-6, Buddy Baker was given “The Gentle Giant” nickname. He was also known as one of the nicest people in the garage. Baker finished his driving career with 19 victories, which includes the 1980 Daytona 500.

Iron Man: The NASCAR schedule is grueling, but Ricky Rudd made 788 consecutive Cup Series starts between 1981 and 2005. That was a record that remained intact until Jeff Gordon snapped it in 2015.

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