Who#039;s #1? Not ESPN in list-making

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 29, 2007

On a recent edition of ESPN's hit show &#8220Who's #1,” the all-sports network counted down the 20 greatest drivers of all time, yet they were not even close to getting it right.

The network that has broadcast all forms of racing over the years dropped the ball in its racing list in more ways than it got it right.

Here is ESPN's list:

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1) Richard Petty; 2) Mario Andretti; 3) Dale Earnhardt; 4) A.J. Foyt; 5) Al Unser Sr.; 6) Bobby Unser; 7) Junior Johnson; 8) Jeff Gordon; 9) Cale Yarborough; 10) Emerson Fitapaldi; 11) Michael Schumacher; 12) Don Garlits; 13) Jackie Stewart; 14) Rick Mears; 15) David Pearson; 16) Juan Manuel Fangio; 17) Bill Vukovich; 18) Darrell Waltrip; 19) Bobby Allison and 20) Tony Stewart.

Now, if you are like me, you looked at this list and exclaimed, &#8220WHAT?!?!”

Several of these drivers I had never heard of and several others were badly misplaced.

After researching each driver and his accomplishments, I have come up with my own &#8220Who's #1” list of the greatest drivers and, this time, it's correct.

Being a Hueytown native, I must point out that NASCAR drivers are represented more in my poll than in ESPN's. But then again, aren't NASCAR drivers the best drivers in the world?

20) Juan Pablo Montoya; 19) Alan Kulwicki; 18) Mark Martin; 17) Davey Allison; 16) Michael Schumacher; 15) Junior Johnson; 14) Emerson Fitapaldi; 13) Rick Mears; 12) Bobby Unser; 11) Darrell Waltrip.

10) Tony Stewart- If you can race it, Smoke can win in it. After dominating the Indy series, Stewart felt NASCAR could be a challenge. It wasn't. Smoke has dominated in the Cup series, capturing two championships.

9) Al Unser Jr.- The brother of Bobby Unser won four Indy 500 and two championships. He also produced a son with his name and his knack for driving open wheels.

8) Cale Yarborough- He might have been short in stature, but he was big in a racecar. Yarborough was one of the toughest competitors the Cup series has ever seen.

7) David Pearson- Pearson has the second-most wins in Cup history with 105. He was also always a threat in NASCAR's biggest race: the Daytona 500.

6) Bobby Allison- Allison won his last race at the age of 50 and was still going strong before an accident at Pocono ended his career. Had it not been for that accident, Allison would have been competitive until 60, if not longer.

5) Jeff Gordon- Love him or hate him, the man can race. Nobody has succeeded quicker than Gordon and that doesn't appear to be changing anytime soon.

4) Mario Andretti- Not too many people can say they won the Indy 500 and the Daytona 500, but Andretti can. Some argue he is the best of all time.

3) A.J. Foyt- Like Andretti, Foyt won the biggest two races in racing. He was a superb driver, but like Junior Johnson, he may be a better owner than driver.

2) Richard Petty- You can't deny the dominance of 200 wins, but Petty won all those races during a different time period. Nonetheless, Petty is as good as they come.

1) Dale Earnhardt- Simply the best. The Intimidator could win races just by his sheer presence. The seven-time champion changed the face of racing forever. Just imagine how much fun NASCAR would be today if Earnhardt was still around.

Austin Phillips is The Greenville Advocate sports editor and can be reached by phone at 334-382-3111 ext. 122, by fax at 334-382-7104 or by e-mail at austin.phillips@greenvilleadvocate.com