We’re taking a bit of a detour from the regular winners’ circle chat to explore some NASCAR drivers who, for various reasons, have as many haters out there in the stands as they do fans. Whether due to their on-track antics, off-track personalities, or just plain bad luck, these drivers have earned their spots on our list. Let’s buckle up and dive right in!
The younger Busch brother, Kyle, is a divisive figure on the NASCAR scene. Although his record is impressive with over 200 wins across all NASCAR series, including two Cup championships, his reputation for temper tantrums and unsportsmanlike conduct has made him a target of fans’ ire. Notably, Busch once got so angry at a race official’s call that he purposefully sped through pit road, leading to a hefty fine and probation.
As the only full-time African American driver in the NASCAR Cup Series, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. has faced intense scrutiny throughout his career. He’s an undeniable talent with six Top-5 finishes in the Cup Series and six wins in the Camping World Truck Series. However, Wallace has also faced backlash from some fans due to his outspoken stance on social and racial justice issues, including his successful campaign to have the Confederate flag banned from NASCAR events. Fans will never forget when Bubba tried to cry-victim in 2020 when a supposed ‘noose’ was found in his garage stall, although an FBI investigation determined that he was not the target of a hate crime and it was in fact just a piece of rope used to pull down the garage door and had been there for some time.
Despite the nickname “Happy,” Kevin Harvick is not always sunshine and rainbows on the track. With over 50 Cup Series wins and a 2014 Cup Series title under his belt, his talent is undeniable. Yet, his aggressive driving style has caused many disputes with other drivers. Harvick also sparked controversy when he shoved Brad Keselowski into a post-race fight with Jeff Gordon in 2014.
Joey Logano was touted as “the best thing since sliced bread” when he first entered the Cup Series. The youngest winner in the Cup Series and a champion in 2018, Logano has often found himself at odds with other drivers. His feuds with Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick, among others, have made him a polarizing figure. Additionally, Logano’s on-track aggression has caused several memorable crashes, adding to his notoriety.
Kurt Busch, the elder of the Busch brothers, won the Cup Series championship in 2004. Despite this achievement and over 30 Cup wins, his racing career is often overshadowed by his hot temper and numerous disputes. He was even temporarily suspended in 2012 for verbally abusing a reporter, showcasing his tumultuous relationship with the media.
Brad Keselowski, the 2012 Cup Series champion, is known for his outspokenness, which hasn’t always endeared him to fans. Aside from his conflicts with other drivers, Keselowski once criticized NASCAR’s move to the Car of Tomorrow, raising eyebrows within the NASCAR community. His social media rants have also earned him a reputation as a controversial figure.
Denny Hamlin is a three-time Daytona 500 winner, and he’s not afraid to ruffle feathers. His feuds with Chase Elliott and Joey Logano are well-known. Notably, Hamlin criticized NASCAR fans for booing him after a controversial incident with Elliott, which didn’t sit well with some supporters.
Jimmie Johnson is one of the most successful drivers in NASCAR history, with seven Cup Series titles. But this dominance led to Johnson fatigue among fans who yearned for more variety in their race winners. Interestingly, Johnson is also an accomplished triathlete, participating in events even during his racing season.
Ryan Newman holds an impressive racing record, including the 2008 Daytona 500 win. His aggressive driving style, known to cause big wrecks, earned him the nickname “The Rocket Man” and criticism from fans. Newman’s adamant stance against NASCAR’s adoption of restrictor plates also stirred up controversy.
Clint Bowyer had a successful career with 10 Cup wins. However, his involvement in the 2013 Richmond scandal, where his intentional spin-out caused controversy, left a bad taste in fans’ mouths. Off the track, Bowyer is known for his entertaining personality and is a co-host on a NASCAR radio show.
Of course, everyone has their favorite (and least favorite) drivers, and that’s part of what makes NASCAR such a beloved sport. Controversy, fierce competition, and fiery personalities are all part of the package. As they say, in racing as in life, it’s not just about the destination—it’s about the journey!