Conversation In The Nation: NASCAR’s Smartest Drivers?

by Jim on June 15, 2013 · 6 comments

Edwards at MISMichigan pole-sitter Carl Edwards made recent appearance on the Discovery Channels “Big Brain Theory.” As I understand it, Edwards served as a judge for a competition involving, naturally, cars. It got me to wondering……

Who are (in your opinion) the smartest drivers in NASCAR? I have a top five list (not necessarily in order) of my own to get the conversation flowing…..

1. Carl Edwards- Did you know the one time Missouri Tiger was once a substitute teacher? You don’t need to be licensed for the job, but suffice it to say you can’t be a dummy and teach either. Regardless of whether you think he’s genuine or fake, the Columbia native is always well-spoken and has the manners to shed his shades while doing an interview. If you need further proof…..he’s married to a doctor. Kate works with patients who are recovering from brain injuries.

2. Tony Stewart- I give Smoke the nod for his business acumen. Not only is he of course very involved with the racing team (Stewart Haas) that bears his name, he is also owner of the famous dirt track at Eldora. Not much is said about any formal post-high school education, but there’s ample evidence to suggest Tony has good “people sense.” He’s hired well for his organization, and the way he plays the media is the stuff of legend.

3. Ryan Newman- How many drivers can actually boast of possessing a college degree. “Rocket” can, and we’re not talking Underwater Basket Weaving from Inebriated State. The Indiana native matriculated at Purdue and earned a B.S. degree in Engineering. As I‘ve heard it told, his emphasis had to do with automobile chassis. Whether or not Newman has ever put the knowledge to use, only his crew would know, but still, getting a degree like that says something good about his gray matter.

4. Jeff Burton- He’s called “The Mayor.” As far as we know, Burton has never sat behind a desk at South Boston City Hall, but he’s been known for years as one of NASCAR’s most outspoken drivers of issues of safety. Persisting rumors have it that one day the Virginia Republican may throw his hat in the ring. Hopefully, he enjoys greater success than Richard Petty did when he ran for North Carolina Secretary of State.

5. Mark Martin- Huh? Think about it, the man is in his mid-50s and he still races. Most fans know the Flying Wrinkle is a fitness fiend, having sworn off beer and cheeseburgers years ago. Martin’s proclivity for weight lifting has become contagious, as you hear of more and more drivers developing a workout routine and competing in sports outside of NASCAR. He may not top the list for book smarts, but for being smart enough to live a well-balanced life and take care of himself, Mark Martin makes my list.

The list by no means ends here. Kurt Busch once considered a career in pharmacy. Kurt’s brother Kyle had a 4-plus point GPA while he was doing his high school studies at home as he was trying to get his racing career started. You can also make an argument for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his business IQ.

What say you? By no means is this to be taken all that seriously. All these guys may really be that smart or as dumb as a bag of doughnuts, who really knows?

It makes for a fun discussion though.

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1 Kyle June 15, 2013 at 10:19 pm

Jr? He has stated more than once his sister makes all his business decisions…who knows? And of course Kyle had a 4.0 because his wife Sam or his mother graded his papers. Carl as a sub means…nothing. Remember your subs? LOL.

2 Jim June 15, 2013 at 10:50 pm

@Kyle. LOL! Only they REALLY know. Sometimes the smartest people are the ones who realize they aren’t the resident genius in the room, and they defer to the ones who are. Personally, I think pride is a greater stupidity than ignorance.
Yeah- I’m not recalling any real brilliant subs at the moment, though I still maintain, based on what I observe, that Mr. Ed is still a pretty smart guy.

3 Vicki Williams June 16, 2013 at 5:51 am

My vote goes to Jimmie (not that I’m biased, of course), not necessarily because I think he has a genius i.q. but because he seems so balanced and content with what he has. He hardly ever loses it and if he does, he gets over it quickly and focuses on the future. I think he loves racing but he also sees it as a job with family being of equal or more importance so he doesn’t race in all the other series but does what he does in Sprint, then goes home to enjoy life with his girls. He’s very smart about analyzing his car and the track and what risks are worth taking.

4 Jim June 16, 2013 at 6:34 am

@Vicki. IMHO Jimmie is a smart guy and a quality guy. I’m not even a Jimmie fan (it’s that not rooting for Goliath thing). Some call him plastic, I just call him mature.

5 The Mad Man June 16, 2013 at 3:51 pm

I have to give the nod to some old timers. Smokey Yunick for not only his innovations in racing but also his contributions to the auto industry. Tiger Tom Pistone pioneered several innovations. One was the window net to keep drivers from being thrown from the car. Tom also designed several racing spindles and A-arm designs to make cars turn easier. He also pioneered some seat designs to help keep drivers in their seat. 1960 Grand National Champion Rex White pioneered the use of jack bolts for adjusting the suspension ans also using toe-in and camber to help turn a car. These innovations are still being used in today’s race cars & trucks. You won’t find many in the garage that can match these three’s mechanical genius.

6 Jim June 16, 2013 at 9:11 pm

@The Mad Man. I’ll to a variation on Bum Phillips concerning Smokey Yunick “I don’t know if he’s in a class by himself, but the roll call is mighty short.” All should be Hall of Famers.

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