NASCAR is a lot like wrestling, it becomes much more entertaining with a heel. As NASCAR continuously declines in popularity, the most popular drivers continue to retire. In 2006, the Daytona 500 attracting nearly 20 million viewers, directly competing with the NFL. Since then, the sport has lost more than 45% of its audience and a large portion of the most popular drivers including, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and Danica Patrick. This list also includes some of the most hated NASCAR drivers, so replacing that hatred is as important to NASCAR’s future success as it is to replace popular drivers. Thankfully, there still seems to be quite a bit of hatred directed at current drivers as well as newly formed hatred happening rapidly. Here is the list for the top 8 most hated NASCAR drivers of 2018.
8. Matt Kenseth
Ironically, with a lot of these drivers, they receive almost as much love and support as they do hate. The hate for Matt Kenseth mostly stems from the love Joey Logano gets from his supportive fans. It all started a year ago, during the 2015 race in Kansas, where Logano spun Kenseth with only five laps to go. Logano fans claim it was merely hard racing but Kenseth immediately commented from his car, “it wasn’t the first-time Joey spun me out.” The conflict was further escalated as the two collided the very next race in Talladega. Harsh words were spoken as they continued to feud. Kenseth has had feuds with other drivers as well, most notably when he attacked Keselowski after a race in 2014. Due to his fueds with other, more popular drivers, he has amassed a large portion of NASCAR fans that will actively cheer against him. If nothing else, it’s a bold move on his part.
7. Brad Keselowski
Brad is the type of guy most NASCAR fans should like. He speaks his mind and is a great driver that wins a lot. Unfortunately for him, all the reasons he is likable is why Jeff Gordon was one of the most loved drivers of all time. Brad made a fatal error towards the end of Gordon’s career, which was race the veteran a little too hard. His push resulted in taking Gordon out of the Texas AAA 500 in 2014. Immediately after the race, Gordon asked Brad,
“Are you that stupid?”
This led to an all-out brawl between both crews as Gordon swung furiously at Brad’s big head. Oddly enough, Harvick actually started the brawl by pushing Brad in the back. While Brad’s popularity has steadily increased due to his impressive career, many old-school NASCAR fans have not forgotten that day.
6. Austin Dillon
The youngest driver on this list, AD has only been a full-time Monster Cup Series driver since 2014 but has managed to gain quite an impressive amount of hate. Oddly enough, his hatred can be traced back to comments Harvick made about his younger brother Ty after a collision they had during a World Truck Series race in 2013. Immediately after the collision they shared during the race, Harvick made the claim,
“exactly the reason I’m leaving RCR because you got those kids coming up and they have no respect for what they do in this sport and they had everything fed to them with a spoon… It’s a shame you got to be taken out some rich kid like that.”
Harvick was referring to the fact that the Dillon brothers are the grandchildren of the owner of the RCR team and children of team manager and former NASCAR driver, Mike Dillon. Two years later at the Texas Motor Speedway, Harvick and AD had a collision as AD’s crew mentioned, “he flat out wrecked you.” Clearly, Austin had not forgotten the statements Harvick previously made about his family because AD mentioned in the post-race interview, “silver spoon kid was out running him tonight,” turning the insult into a cocky new nickname.
The real hatred for AD however, came during his 2018 Daytona 500 win. During the final lap in overtime, AD dumped Aric Almirola and people were pissed. AD claimed, “I went low, 43 went up and I just had more momentum when he was trying to block me and it turned him. I hate that for him but it’s the Daytona 500.” Through the beef with Harvick, a spoiled childhood, presumably dirty driving and using Dale’s number 3, AD has accumulated an impressive amount of hate in his short career.
5. Jimmie Johnson
Jimmie Johnson was the first driver to win five straight championships and tied Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty with seven in 2016, as well as surpassing Earnhardt for all-time NASCAR wins. Just like any outstanding champion that appears to be dismantling a legend’s throne, people seriously hated him for it. If his success on the track wasn’t enough to irritate fans of other drivers, his personality is that of a wet blanket. Strikingly similar to the character, Dayton White, from the film, Logan Lucky. No one likes the seemingly perfect guy that constantly wins, especially in NASCAR. It gives the fans nothing to relate to. Due to this fact, Brad Keslowski has managed to gain seriously large fan support not only because he wins a lot but because he has a relatable personality. There’s not really anything Johnson can do about it either. He seems like a really nice guy and he wins a lot but the fact that he doesn’t have an outspoken opinion on things or doesn’t connect with NASCAR fans by cussing out other drivers actually hurts his likability. Jimmie, if you are reading this here is a suggestion;
Try shot-gunning a beer after your next win. Nothing crafty either, just a plain, watered down, cheap American beer. Watch your likability sky rocket through the roof.
4. Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick is the type of driver that has so many altercations with other drivers that he has been deemed the type of guy you don’t want to mess with. He even has somewhat of an unofficial nickname, “Happy Harvick,” because of the tough guy persona he has put-on. It began back in 2008 when Harvick pushed Carl Edwards onto the hood of his car during a heated argument which then led Edwards to grab Harvick by the throat. As previously mentioned, Harvick also pushed Keselowski in the back to initiate the brawl between Gordon, which Kevin seemingly had no part of. Harvick has also had a long-running feud with Joey Logano that began at Bristol in 2010 when Harvick blatantly dumped Joey. Later that season at Pocno, Harvick took out Logano again, which led to Logano confronting him as well as mentioning,
“His wife wears the fire suit in the family, tells him what to do, so it’s probably not his fault.”
Then in 2015 Harvick and Logano confronted each other after the NSCS Sprint Unlimited race. Due to the fact that Harvick refused to take off his helmet, all we were able to hear was Logano yell, “shut the fuck up,” as he pushed Harvick. Kevin is notorious for this type of behavior like when he punched Kurt Busch through his car window after Talladega in 2016. For a guy that takes on the tough persona, it’s no wonder people hate him for his cowardly behavior during the numerous altercations he’s been involved in, all of which he seems to initiate
3. Joey Logano
Joey Logano came into the league at a young age, when giants still roamed the tracks. Yet, he still managed to succeed. Not only was he winning races against legends at such a young age, he had a cheerful yet goofy attitude about it that made him appear to be as young as he physically looked. The issue however was that he immediately began having serious collisions with fan-favorite drives, which made his childlike persona seem weaselly and annoying. Tony Stewart perfectly summed up a majority of fan’s image of Logano after an altercation in 2013 just after the Auto Club 400 by stating,
“He’s a tough guy on pit road as soon as one of his crew guys gets in the middle of it. Until then, he’s a scared little kid. Then he wants to sit there and throw a water bottle at me. Its time he learns a lesson. He’s run his mouth long enough…he’s nothing but a little rich kid that’s never had to work in his life so he’s going to learn from us working guys, how it works.”
This quote immediately after Joey simply threw a water bottle at the aggressive Stewart, sparked the image in every NASCAR fan’s mind of who Joey Logano was. Put simply, a scared little rich kid that keeps winning. For most NASCAR fans, that is the exact type of person they hate.
Joey was consistently driving dirty and acting like he did nothing wrong which enviably led to him hospitalizing Denny Hamlin and a lot of other drivers hating him for it. It was clear how much hatred there was for Logano when fans erupted in cheers for Matt Kenseth after he purposefully wrecked Logano in Martinsville in 2015. Regardless of the amount of hate Joey has gotten, he also has a huge fan base. Now that he has been in the league for a number of years as a recognizable winner, his driving has appeared to clean up a bit and the once most hated driver has been receiving a little less constant anger. Although he may not be quite as hated as he once was, he may always remain as one of the most hated drivers.
2. Denny Hamlin
While Austin Dillon has been slowly gaining hatred from fans throughout his short career, Denny Hamlin is definitely the newest addition to this list. It all started in Martinsville in 2017 when Hamlin spun out Chase Elliot, a fan favorite, ruining Elliot’s chance of getting his first win. The immediate disdain for Hamlin was clear as the two got out of their cars on the track to argue and the crowd erupted in support for Elliot. It also didn’t help Hamlin’s case that his actions lead to Kyle Busch winning the face. After pissing off most of NASCAR for his feud with Elliot, #Hate4Hamlin remained steady throughout the 2017 season with his driving. His hatred then bled over to the new year during Hamlin’s interview on Pardon My Take. While most listeners of the podcast probably heard no issues in his interview with Big Cat and PFT, NASCAR fans were livid. When asked if drivers take Adderall, he claimed, roughly “70 percent.” This allegation irritated other drivers and he later told ESPN that it was merely a joke because it was on a comedy podcast but the damage was already done.
Hamlin then continued to fuel his slowly burning hatred by cussing out a new fan-favorite, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, after the 2018 Daytona 500. During the last lap of the race, Bubba was attempting to side draft off Hamlin to finish second. In return, Hamlin decided to aggressively take Bubba into the wall and ended up finishing third because of it. Although finishing second in his first Monster Cup Series race, Bubba voiced the frustration of the other drivers, for Hamlin’s remarks on the podcast months prior, during an interview after their altercation, stating,
“He might need some Adderall for that one.”
Denny Hamlin seems to have recently had a knack for picking feuds with drivers the fans really like rather than anyone else on this list. A once relatively liked driver, Hamlin has managed to skyrocket up through the hatred rankings and has even been recently mentioned as the most hated driver currently in NASCAR.
1. Kyle Busch
No matter who you love or who you hate, most NASCAR fans have to admit that Kyle Busch is the most hated driver in the sport. Even his fans acknowledge his role as the NASCAR heel. The hatred for Kyle started early as he was a clear competitive talent that didn’t mind driving dirty if it meant a win, or even just payback. From his early fame of great success in the truck series, Kyle managed to make a name for himself as an asshole. In the 2011 WinStar World Casino truck race, Kyle Busch had a run-in with championship contender, Ron Hornaday, and decided to purposefully put him into the wall. Due to this obvious act of aggression, NASCAR chose to suspend Kyle from the rest of the weekend’s races. To make matters worse, his smug demeanor in the post-wreck interview outraged fans even more.
Throughout Kyle’s extremely successful career, he has managed to feud with just about every driver as he continued to drive overly aggressive and dirty. One of the more infamous feuds Kyle has had has been the one between Joey Logano. During the 2017 Las Vegas race, Joey unintentionally turned Kyle when his car got loose. Kyle then decided to charge Joey after the race in an attempt to punch him. Somehow Kyle ended up walking away as the only one bleeding however. While attacking Joey Logano would earn cheers for nearly any other driver, it seemed to somehow continue to fuel the hate for Kyle Busch. The very next week in Phoenix, when asked about the altercation, Kyle pulled the ultimate Marshawn Lynch move by answering every question with, “everything’s great, really looking forward to getting back in my car and being here in Phoenix.”
His entire attitude is geared towards embracing the heel role he as earned that only a professional wrestler could truly appreciate. In 2017, Kyle impressively performed a complete sweep in Bristol with a win in the truck series, XFINITY Series and the Monster Cup Series. If his haters weren’t already triggered enough, Kyle stood on top of his car after he completely the sweep and literally swept the top with a broom. As the track erupted in a cloud of boos, Kyle waved three fingers in the air to further mock the crowed of his three wins that weekend. When asked about his actions, Kyle responded,
“I don’t care. All noise is good noise.”
Kyle Busch performs antics that even Vince McMahon has surely admired. The only way a person like that could accumulate so much hate from people, is if he wins and Kyle does, a lot. He is among the top 20 drivers for all-time wins and number two behind Jimmie Johnson for individuals still driving. When he wins, he rubs it in and when he loses, he has a shitty attitude. Some could chalk that behavior up to being overly competitive but most NASCAR fans just see him as a poor-sport or cry baby. Whether you love, or more likely, hate Kyle Busch, you have to admit that he has definitely made a name for himself that will forever live in the world of NASCAR. If he ever decides to leave racing, I’m sure a spot in professional wrestling will be open for him.
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