With the penultimate race of the NASCAR west coast swing this weekend in Fontana, it got me thinking – who are the best drivers to come out of the state of California? There are a lot of drivers to have raced in NASCAR who also hail from the Golden State as well. Then, when you really think about it, and nothing against the other 49 states, but California can make a very valid case to have the best drivers in the sport to have come out of there.
Overall, 40 drivers have called California home. Here are my top five.
5. Ron Hornaday Jr.
He’s won four championships in the Truck Series which made the Palmdale native a NASCAR Hall of Famer. Also, Hornaday’s 51 career Truck Series wins rank him second on the all-time wins list. He’s also won four times in the NASCAR XFINITY Series as well.
4. Marvin Panch
He made 216 NASCAR starts and reached victory lane 17 times. He was the 1961 Daytona 500 winner and in 1998 was named one of NASCAR’s greatest drivers.
3. Kevin Harvick
How can you not have the Bakersfield native on here. Harvick, has won on all three levels of NASCAR. He has 14 Truck Series victories, 47 XFINITY wins and 49 trips to victory lane in the Cup Series. Combined, that’s 110 wins in total.
He’s also won a Cup title (2014) and two XFINITY Series championships (2001, 2006) to go along with a Daytona 500 triumph (2007), two Brickyard 400 wins (2003, 2019), a two-time Coca-Cola 600 winner (2011, 2013) a Southern 500 win (2014) and a win in the All-Star Race (2018).
2. Jeff Gordon
This may be controversial, but I have Gordon as second best. Gordon, brought NASCAR into the mainstream media. But, this isn’t a popularity award, but a list of on track achievements.
He won 93 times on the Cup Series circuit to go along with four championships. Like Harvick, Gordon has won everything. He’s a six time Southern 500 winner, five time Brickyard 400 champion, three time Daytona 500 as well as Coca-Cola 600 and All-Star race winner. He most recently was voted into the Hall of Fame too.
He’s my all-time favorite driver, but I have to rank him second.
- Jimmie Johnson
I can’t overlook a seven time Cup champion. I know many debate his titles, but you can’t debate history. He’s won 83 times in Cup and once in the XFINITY Series. He has 11 Dover wins, nine Martinsville victories, eight wins at Charlotte including four in the ‘600, seven trips to victory lane at Texas, four Brickyard 400’s and two Daytona 500’s. How do you deny him as being the best ever from California?
Ernie Irvan (18 NASCAR wins) *1991 Daytona 500 winner
Dick Rathman (13 NASCAR wins)
Dan Gurney (5 NASCAR wins in just 16 tries)
Parnelli Jones (4 NASCAR wins in only 34 tries)
Mike Skinner (29 NASCAR wins, 28 in the Truck Series)