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Superstar NASCAR Drivers: Where Are They Now?

Cameron EittreimJune 3, 2021

Nascar is one of the most popular sporting events in the world and has millions of dedicated fans. Drivers who participate in sporting events not only get fame but also fortunes and a reputation that can last for decades. Jeff Gordon is a prime example of just how popular the sport has gotten over the last 30 years.

Motorsport has grown exponentially, but many people wonder what happens to superstar racers after retirement? We took a look at what the most popular Nascar drivers of all-time are doing nowadays.

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20: Richard Petty

There aren’t a lot of drivers who can top Petty’s driving record. He won a total of seven Daytona 500 races, had 200 wins in his career, and 27 wins in one season (including 10 in a row) in 1967. After his Nascar career came to an end, Petty established the Richard Petty Museum in Level Cross, North Carolina. On top of that, Petty has also been a spokesman for Liberty Medical, Cheerios, and GlaxoSmithKline.

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Upon entering retirement he purchased a large ranch outside of Jackson, Wyoming. Petty has also taken a liking to broadcast and was part of the CBS broadcast team for numerous years. He handed the reigns of Petty Motorsports over to his son Kyle and has since focused on operating his museum.

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19: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt Jr. was just coming into his own when his father passed away in a tragic racing crash. After a decade of perfecting his skills, Earnhardt Jr. became one of the most feared and storied drivers on the track. After 2018, driving took a backseat for Earnhardt and he honed in on his many other business interests. He got into the automotive dealership business, opening both Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Buick-GMC-Cadillac in Tallahassee, Florida.

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Earnhardt Jr. has also done voice acting in the Disney/Pixar movie Cars as Number 8. Currently, he is also a spokesperson for Nationwide Insurance, which he had as a sponsorship deal for his racing team. Few drivers have managed to cultivate as welcoming of a personality as Earnhardt Jr. has over the past 20 years.

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18: Jimmie Johnson

Johnson is one of the longest-reigning NASCAR drivers still on the track, with a career that went from 2002 to 2017. In that timeframe, Johnson recorded 83 career race wins, not a bad feat considering the fierce competition of the era. Nowadays Johnson has remained in the limelight and has expressed interest in racing the Indianapolis 500. When Johnson isn’t burning up the asphalt, he also operates the Jimmie Johnson Foundation, which helps communities and families who are in need.

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Few drivers have the personable appearance that Johnson has, and that has afforded him great popularity. More recently, Johnson has gotten into the commentating booth with his old rival Dale Earnhardt Jr. The two drivers provide unique in-depth perspectives of the next generation of drivers.

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17: Jeff Gordon

There aren’t a lot of names that resonate with racing as much as Gordon’s does. He went from relative obscurity to becoming one of the most popular drivers of all time. After a lengthy career, what’s a NASCAR star to do? Well, for Gordon, it meant becoming a top executive at Hendrick Motorsports and announcing on NASCAR TV. Both career choices have become highly lucrative for the retired stock car racer.

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Gordon was always a people person, and his outgoing personality made him an instant star. Although Gordon misses the limelight and the adrenaline rush, we’re sure he is happy to retire from the grind. Elite racing is intense motorsport with a lot of danger and risk, something that doesn’t equate to pleasant golden years.

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16: Bobby Allison

Allison was part of the infamous “Alabama Gang,” a well-known group of drivers from Alabama who raced short tracks with high purses. Allison’s legendary Miller #12 Monte Carlo was a hallmark and one of the most popular cars on the track. After a long career in racing, Allison is a spokesperson for CSX Transportation.

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Allison has not been as active in the racing community as his peers recently, but he still makes an appearance on television from time to time. The racing of yesteryear was an entirely different sport than it is today, with a lot more risk and less technology. It is interesting to see how drivers have evolved over the past couple of decades.

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15: Ward Burton

Few racers have as short and sweet of a run as Burton did. He logged 82 top 10s and five wins over 13 years. That’s impressive, to say the least. After Burton retired in 2012 he focused on his second love of wildlife conservation. He operates the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation and is the official spokesperson for Virginia’s 34 state parks since 2003.

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You’d think that Burton would have slowed down at the age of 59, but that isn’t the case. The retired racecar driver is more active than ever, even participating as a coach for the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series teams. Burton is one of the unsung heroes of the racing world and has helped shape the sport tremendously.

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14: Elliott Sadler

For the longest time, Sadler was the face of racing’s younger generation. While he never achieved the heights of Tony Stewart or Kyle Busch, he managed to carve out a significant niche for himself. Thanks to his personable appearance and attitude, Sadler appeared on the cover of the NASCAR ’07 video game in addition to numerous other forms of media.

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After finishing his last race of the 2019 season, Sadler has been heavily involved with the Autism Speaks Foundation. In addition to that accolade, Sadler is also an advocate for college basketball, having played himself and earned a scholarship before a debilitating knee injury. There aren’t a lot of drivers who can compete with Sadler and even to this day his skill is undeniable.

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13: Kurt Busch

Being the older brother of Kyle Busch has its advantages, and Busch has carved quite the reputation for himself. Busch was a veteran force on the track and boasts a stellar record of wins as opposed to losses. More recently, Busch has become a mentor for new drivers in the sport, mentoring his younger brother Kyle as well as Bubba Wallace, who’s had an up and down few seasons.

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Busch has long been sponsored by Monster Energy Drink and spends a great deal of time doing press. Even when he isn’t on the track, Busch is either involved with racing through the iRacing simulator or starring on the cover of video games. The Busch last name has become synonymous with racing, and Kurt was the original superstar.

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12: Ryan Newman

When it comes to NASCAR, Ryan Newman is a go-to driver teams depend on. Nicknamed “Rocketman,” Newman has been at the forefront of winning and losing over his 20-year career. Although Newman’s career is nearing its end, there are outside activities Newman is involved in as well.

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Newman and his wife Krissie operate Rescue Ranch. The venture is an animal rescue foundation that focuses on rehoming companion animals in shelters. Newman also has an officially licensed clothing line, dividing his time between racing and figuring out what his next business move is going to be.

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11: Geoff Bodine

Bodine was well respected in the pro racing circuit. He was most well-known for his fierce rivalry with Dale Earnhardt Sr., which went on until Earnhardt’s death in 2001. Bodine was one of the longest-tenured drivers in the sport, actively driving for a team well into his 60s.

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After racing, Bodine did the next most common thing for retired drivers and opened a Honda Power Sports dealership in West Melbourne, Florida. In addition to operating his Powersports dealership, Bodine has also provided commentary on televised NASCAR events.

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10: Mark Martin

Another popular name in NASCAR for two decades was Mark Martin, who had the most wins in the Xfinity Series with an impressive 49. Martin was always a major proponent of driver health and fitness, which enabled him to drive well into his fifties. Martin also opened up four car dealerships in his hometown of Batesville, Arkansas. Toward the end of his career, the driver was focused on mentoring the next generation of drivers.

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More recently, Martin and his wife left Arkansas and moved to Montana, where he enjoys spending the summers. There have been a few instances where Martin will pop up on NASCAR TV, but for the most part, he is enjoying the quietness of retirement. Martin was one of those drivers who never made it to a superstar level but still managed to do well for himself.

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9: Sterling Marlin

Marlin is another driver that had a fair amount of success in a short period. Named the 1983 Rookie of the Year he was hired by Roger Hamby to drive the No. 17 Hesco Exhaust-sponsored Chevrolet. His career spanned throughout the 1990s with a series of decent finishes and wins, and there were also some strong finishes in the 2006 season.

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Marlin followed the same path as a lot of drivers do and owned both a Chevrolet dealership and a Dodge dealership. However, Marlin was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2010 and had to begin treatments for this condition. These days Marlin is seldom seen in the limelight and has faded into a quiet retirement.

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8: Johnny Benson Jr.

Some drivers didn’t need a long career to establish dominance, and Benson Jr. is one of them. Benson Jr. is one of only three drivers who have managed to win a championship in two different racing categories, the Busch Series and the Craftsman Truck Series. He cut his career short in 2010 and faded into a quiet retirement ven though he still appears on NASCAR TV from time to time.

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Benson works for the National Motorsports Appeals Panel, which deals with driver complaints. He is also still actively driving at the ISMA tour, operating a super-modified car that’s owned by Brad Lichty. There aren’t a lot of drivers who had the short but meaningful success Benson Jr. had.

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7: Bill Elliott

Elliott had a storied run in NASCAR over the last 30 years, doing everything from winning the Budweiser 500 to competing in various cups. His driving style was unique and netted him the moniker “Million Dollar Bill”, which is a name Elliott carries to this day. Other than the fact that Elliott is a storied racecar driver, he’s also a skilled planner. His expertise has been used by various racing teams and Elliott is still a commentator for NASCAR to this day.

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Another interesting fact about Bill Elliott is the fact that he was one of the first mainstream NASCAR drivers to be the face of a video game. Bill Elliott’s NASCAR Challenge for MS-DOS being the first officially licensed game by NASCAR, influencing the popularity of these games fans have to this day.

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6: Ricky Craven

Craven managed to carve out a niche for yourself in the highly competitive world of NASCAR. It is certainly not easy, but somehow Craven did it. Throughout the ’90s, Craven managed to score highly and drive with the precision you’d expect out of a more seasoned driver. Craven famously had a crash with Kurt Busch at the 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400.

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After his retirement, he was a NASCAR analyst for ESPN where he worked for 12 years, eventually moving onto FOX Sports. Craven retired from commentary in 2020 to open a new venture, Ricky Craven Motorsports. He followed the path of most retired NASCAR drivers who go onto open a car or motorcycle dealership of some type.

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5: Dale Jarrett

Jarrett was one of the originals in NASCAR racing, and when many think of the sport, his name comes up first. Winning numerous championships throughout the 1980s and 1990s, his career was long and varied. Upon entering retirement, Jarrett took on the role of being a NASCAR commentator for a few different networks, something he still does today.

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Jarrett is also an avid golfer and has won quite a few tournaments in his time, boasting a two handicap. Today Jarrett has also dabbled in other types of competitions, he is a championship shooter and was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2014. He had quite the career for someone who started with humble roots and made a great name for himself.

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4: Rusty Wallace

The super-popular Wallace started his NASCAR career back in 1980 and has been a mainstay in the sport ever since. Wallace had a close rivalry with Dale Earnhardt Sr. which lasted until Earnhardt’s death, although both drivers had mutual respect for each other. Wallace has managed racing teams as well as kept his name in the sport by commentating and mentoring.

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The driver operated Rusty Wallace Racing until 2012m when he moved onto full-time commentating. There aren’t a lot of celebrities that have been able to cultivate the career that Wallace has done for himself. With the determination and fortitude to win you can bet that Wallace will be a part of NASCAR for the foreseeable future.

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3: Terry Labonte

Labonte is another star driver whose NASCAR career stretches way back. Initially racing for his father, Labonte won the coveted NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year. Labonte won this award alongside other greats from his generation such as Dale Earnhardt and Harry Gant. His racing style was calm and collected, which lead him to become a NASCAR advisor in his later years.

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Nowadays Labonte shares his expertise with various racing teams, most notably Petty Racing. The famed driver was also inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2015, a prestigious honor that was bestowed on him at a young age (still in his sixties). NASCAR racing has changed a lot over the years and Terry Labonte will remain a part of it.

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2: Tony Stewart

Stewart was among one of the major celebrity drivers that propelled NASCAR to unfathomable heights. At the height of his popularity, Stewart was featured in a Three Doors Down music video and on the cover of numerous NASCAR video games. His reputation for risk-taking and speed helped to secure the driver a fair amount of championships over his career. Stewart is also heavily involved in dirt track racing and still participates to this day.

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After he quietly retired from racing, Stewart carved out a reputation of knowledge and dependability. His NASCAR career is unparalleled and the dream of many is to achieve the same level of popularity. Stewart will undoubtedly go down as one of the most popular drivers.

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1: Ricky Rudd

Entering NASCAR at the ripe old age of 18 is a dream for many aspiring fans, but Rudd pulled it off. Entering the racing world in 1975, Rudd managed to carve quite the reputation for himself early on as a steady hand at the wheel. Rudd was part of an elite group of drivers who took NASCAR to new heights of popularity, including Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. Rudd has a whopping 374 top 10s under his belt, a feat many drivers can only aspire to.

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He was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 2007 and still races Go-Karts in the Charlotte area at the GoPro Motorplex. Ricky Rudd has also been a television personality hosting SPEED Center and a series of other sportscast. Rudd eventually worked his way up to being a part-time analyst for NASCAR events.

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