Richard Petty  |  Dale Earnhardt

Jimmie Johnson  |  Jeff Gordon

The long and the short of it: The fourth spot in NASCAR, like many other Rushmores, is the tough one. Petty, Earnhardt and Johnson are no-brainers -- because seven titles each. But when you fill that fourth spot on the mountain, do you go for wins? Then it's Pearson. Titles? Gordon. Insane popularity? Dale Jr. At the end of the day we give the nod to Gordon because not only did he win four titles, but also because he's still won more races than Johnson (for now) in NASCAR's most competitive era. And, he bridged several eras together: not only is he the only four-time champion, but he's also the only driver to compete against all three of his cohorts on Mount Rushmore. So, in Petty and Gordon, you have a period of excellence running from 1958 until 2016.

  • Richard Petty: His own son still calls him the King. Most prolific driver in terms of wins (200, a record that may never be broken) and championships (7, tied with a certain driver of the No. 3.) Bridged NASCAR's formative years with the modern era. (His last race was Jeff Gordon's first.)
  • Dale Earnhardt: The Intimidator -- who was really just a good ol' boy at heart. Equaled the King with 7 titles. Became nothing less than a cult hero to his fans. We can't say anything about his death in the 2001 Daytona 500 that has not already been said. By then, he already had more than earned his place on this mountain.
  • Jimmie Johnson: Perhaps the most under-appreciated six-time (oops, seven-time) champion in any sport, ever. His dominance in an era otherwise marked by a lack of dominance is a remarkable feat.
  • Jeff Gordon: Four championships. A key player in broadening NASCAR's appeal from a regional novelty to a national powerhouse. Might have won more titles if he hadn't discovered Jimmie Johnson and given him an opportunity to drive for Hendrick Motorsports.

Bertho RF1/Creative Commons

Bertho RF1/Creative Commons

Others in the conversation:

David Pearson

Cale Yarborough
Junior Johnson
Darrell Waltrip
Lee Petty
Curtis Turner
Fireball Roberts
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Tony Stewart

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