Check out our list of the greatest kings of the racetrack:
Mario Andretti is truly a racing legend. He boasts a long and illustrious racing career filled with a mind-boggling number of championships and other related accomplishments like no one else has.
The Italian-American racer is one of the only race car drivers to have won championships at Formula One, Indy Car, NASCAR, and World Sportscar Championship.
At the peak of his racing career, Andretti won the Formula One (F1) World championship in 1978, as well as four Indy Car championships. So far, Andretti remains the only race car driver to win the Daytona 500, Indy 500, and the Formula One World Championship. To date, he is the sole winner of the Formula One, the Indy 500, and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Andretti is also the last pro racer from the USA to have won the Dutch Grand Prix (in 1978).
And they’re not all! He is the only race car driver to be named United States Driver of the Year thrice. Andretti also lorded over races in midget cars, sprint cars, road courses, dirt tracks, and oval track racing. Little wonder critics and fans consider him to be the ultimate race car driver in the world!
The retired German race car driver, Michael Schumacher, is also known as one of the greatest auto racing figures in the modern era. In particular, Schumacher almost dominated Formula One where he scored a lot of accomplishments — including the fastest laps and the most number of victories in a single season. Of course, we can’t finish this item without mentioning Schumacher’s seven F1 championships, making him the winningest F1 driver ever.
Unfortunately, in late 2013 Schumacher suffered a serious head injury from skiing. He was placed in a medically induced coma due to a traumatic brain injury. He was in a coma for nearly seven months until June 2014. He was then moved to his home where he continues receiving treatment and rehabilitation.
One of the greatest NASCAR figures during his time, Dale Earnhardt made his debut in 1975 World 600, a part of the Winston Cup Series. And it seemed the American racing superstar never looked back from there, winning a total of 76 Winston Cup competitions, including his triumph at the Daytona 500 in 1998. He tied with Richard Petty for the most victories at the NASCAR Winston Cup with seven championships. Earnhardt’s aggressive and sometimes dangerous driving style earned him the moniker “The Intimidator.”
Tragically, Earnhardt was killed instantly in an accident while competing at the Daytona 500, on February 18, 2001.
Ayrton Senna is regarded as one of the greatest race car drivers of his era. Starting his pro career in the early 1980s, the Brazilian racing driver soon went on to dominate the world of racing. He won three F1 championships in 1988, 1990 and 1991. He was accidentally killed while leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
Richard Petty isn’t be called “The King” for nothing — he clearly lorded over NASCAR like no one else could. He ties with Dale Earnhardt for the most wins at the NASCAR Championship with seven, and still holds the all-time NASCAR wins with 200. Petty also won the Daytona 500 seven times, a record which still holds up to this day. His impressive statistics make Petty one of the most accomplished and revered NASCAR drivers of all time.
Nigel Mansell won the Formula One championship and the CART Indy World Series in 1993, making him the only racing driver to win both prestigious titles simultaneously. The British former racer enjoyed a 15-year career as an F1 driver, and he spent his last two full seasons in the CART series.
Alain Prost may be retired today, but what he left behind is a colorful racing career marked by several accomplishments. This Frenchman won the Formula One championships four times, making him the second winningest driver in F1 history. But more than the victories, Prost’s career was made even more interesting by his legendary on-and-off-track rivalries with other race car drivers, most famously with Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna. Prost’s racing style and tactics are more intellectual, earning him the nickname “The Professor.”
A.J. Foyt is regarded as a one of the legendary American racing drivers who has raced in several different genres of motor sports. Known as “Super Tex” to fans and critics, Foyt’s illustrious racing career includes participation in Automobile Club Champ cars as well as midget cars. He also lorded over in stock car racing, having scorched the tracks in NASCAR and USAC where he won several championships. Additionally, Foyt won the Indy 500 four times, as well as the Daytona 500, the 24 Hours of Daytona, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, making him the only race car driver to win such achievements. Foyt also emerged victorious at the International Race of Champions all-star racing series (1976, 1977). In NASCAR, Foyt won the 1964 Firecracker 400 as well as the 1972 Daytona 500.
His amazing racing career was only interrupted by three major crashes that left him with serious injuries. No wonder, Foyt and his achievements made him a shoo-in to several halls of fame in the world of motor sports.
The British retired race car driver has captured some victories on the Formula One racing circuit. Known as “The Flying Scot,” Jackie Stewart won three World Drivers’ Championships; in 2009 he was ranked as one of the 50 greatest drivers in Formula One history. He also sped on the Can-Am race tracks.
His own horrific racing accident at Spa-Francorchamps in 1966 inspired him to become an advocate for racing safety. Despite facing opposition from fellow drivers, organizers, team owners, and other figures involved in the sport, Stewart defied them and steadfastly campaigned for better safety on the racetrack, as well as for the improvement of emergency services.
The retired F1 driver won three World Drivers’ Champion in 1975, 1977 and 1984. Up to this day, the Austrian racing legend remains the only driver to have won championships for Ferrari and McLaren.
Known as “The Rat” or “King Rat,” Niki Lauda almost burned to death during the 1976 German Grand Prix in Nurburging, when his Ferrari crashed and burst into flames. Amazingly, he survived, and just six weeks later he was back on track (also literally, of course). Lauda even went on to win his third (and final) F1 title.