Most racing fans know that the NASCAR Sprint Cup vehicles used by their favorite drivers on the track are not street-legal cars. Race cars do not have headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signals, doors, or speedometers. There is no heater or A/C, even though it can exceed 110° F inside the cars. Most have no tread on the tires and they have only one seat.
Race cars are also extremely loud. They have straight-tuned Headers with no mufflers or silencers and sound more like a fighter jet than a commuter car. Put forty of them together in a pack traveling at high speed and the pressure generated can rattle a spectator’s insides.
Although the personal street-legal cars used by race car drivers are similar to what the rest of us drive, they are also an indication of the style (and pocketbook) of their owners. Many of these cars fall into one of two categories: Beater or Sleeper. According to Cash Money Life, a Beater is an older car, generally more than ten years old, and one that typically has a low market value. It is a car used for daily transport to avoid damage or wear on a nicer car (on the back of a worn-out VW, a bumper sticker reads: My Other Car Is A Ferrari).
According to Quora, a Sleeper is a car with better than average performance but an unassuming exterior. It looks similar or identical to a standard or economy-class vehicle, and it seems slow but when put to the test, demonstrates respectable acceleration and handling. The following are ten NASCAR drivers who have a Beater in their garage and ten who drive Sleepers.
20 Beater: Kyle Busch, 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air
Kyle Busch is active in all three of the top NASCAR series: the Monster Energy Cup Series, Xfinity Series, and Camping World Truck Series. Named Rookie of the Year in the Busch Series in 2004 and Nextel Cup Series in 2005, he holds several records, including 139 wins in the three series (including 70 in the Xfinity) and 24 victories across the three disciplines in 2010.
Busch loves to drive fast, not only on the race track but on city streets, as well. While test-driving a Lexus LFA, he was caught speeding at 128 mph. To help keep his speed down, Kyle now drives an old school, two-tone 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air. The original 265ci V8 has been upgraded with modern running gear but it’s speed still lags well behind the Lexus.
19 Beater: Jeff Gordon, 1952 Oldsmobile Super 88 Convertible
Before Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson arrived on the scene, Jeff Gordon dominated stock-car racing. He placed in the top ten 454 times and earned 77 pole positions. His 92 Sprint Cup wins, mostly in his No. 24 Chevrolet SS, earned him a place on the NASCAR 50 Greatest Drivers list.
Now semi-retired, Jeff Gordon has accumulated a fleet of personal cars, the envy of any car collector. Although he owns a 1933 Ford Three-Window Coupe and a Jaguar XK8, he often drives his 332-horsepower Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid. However, the pride of his collection may be his 1952 Oldsmobile Super 88 Convertible.
18 Beater: Joey Logano, 1939 GMC Pickup Truck
Joey Logan achieved more success in NASCAR racing before he turned 20 than many drivers only dream about. In 2008, he was the youngest driver to win a Nationwide Series race at just 18 years, 21 days. When he took the checkered flag at the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 the following year, he became the youngest to win a Sprint Cup Series race.
While Logano has an eclectic assortment of cars, perhaps his “personal favorite” vehicle off the track is his Rat Rod, a modified 1939 GMC pickup truck. The cab has been chopped and extended, and it is powered by a 327 carbureted small-block suitable for a race car driver.
17 Beater: Jimmie Johnson, 1949 Stepside Chevy Pickup Truck
The only driver in NASCAR history to win five consecutive Sprint Cup Series championships and six overall, Jimmie Johnson loves to drive fast on the track in a car made for speed. On the street, he still enjoys the fast lane but in a vehicle built for anything but speed.
His daily vehicle is a 1949 Stepside Chevy pickup truck which he describes: “It sounds good and hauls...it’s got a Corvette engine under the hood.” The truck is also equipped with a few modern conveniences like air conditioning and SiriusXM Radio. Johnson says, “It looks old, but it’s very comfortable to drive around...”
16 Beater: Danica Patrick, Ford Expedition SUV
In 2010 Danica Patrick began racing stock cars in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and became the most successful woman in the history of US open-wheel racing. She also has the only win by a woman in an IndyCar Series race, her victory in the 2008 Indy Japan 300.
In January 2019, Patrick sold her 2004 Lamborghini Gallardo that had been sitting in storage for years. She told The Street that she now drives a Ford Expedition SUV that the automaker loaned to her as a member of its racing team, saying, “I’m not really a car person.” Later, she said she seldom drove the Gallardo because it didn’t have a cupholder and that she preferred practical cars to sporty ones.
15 Beater: Ryan Newman, 1949 Buick Roadmaster Convertible Coupe
Ryan "Rocket Man" Newman is a professional stock car racing driver competing full-time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. He drives the No. 6 Ford Mustang for Roush Fenway Racing. Newman’s wife Krissie gave him a 1949 Buick Roadmaster Convertible Coupe for his 30th birthday. It is one of four cars used in the making of the 1988 Barry Levinson-directed movie, Rain Man, which is Ryan’s favorite movie.
The car had cameras mounted all over it and was used for audio purposes only. Once the movie filming was finished, the car was professionally restored to its original condition. Newman calls the classic car as his beater car, meaning he could be seen driving the antique on his way to the grocery store.
14 Beater: Kevin Harvick, Classic 1955 Chevy
Kevin Harvick won the Daytona 500 in 2007, the Coca-Cola 600 in 2011 and 2013, and his first Sprint Cup Series championship in 2014, edging out Ryan Newman by one point. Harvick said about his favorite 1955 Chevy, “When I turned 16, my dad tried to pull a fast one on me. He bought a 1955 Chevy to restore and put it in a garage with a late-model stock car that we bought, and he said, ‘We can’t afford both of these, so if you really want to race, you need to let me know now or we’ll spend the next several years restoring this car.’ I decided we needed to sell the '55, and it all worked out. My wife bought one for me seven or eight years ago for my birthday.”
13 Beater: Dale Earnhardt Jr, 1967 Camaro
Following in his father’s footsteps (NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Sr), Dale Earnhardt Jr has had a very successful career in car racing. He won the Daytona 500 in 2004 and 2014, and finished second four times. Earnhardt retired with 26 wins in the NASCAR Cup Series, placing him in the top 40 in NASCAR history.
The third-generation Earnhardt is as passionate about the Chevy Camaro, as were his family predecessors. Although he owns several generations of Chevys, his favorite may be his old-school 1967 Camaro. Rebuilt by Detroit Speed Inc, it features a traditional small-block Chevy V8 with aluminum heads and a carburetor mated to a five-speed manual transmission.
12 Beater: Clint Bowyer, 1934 Chevy Rat Rod
Clint Bowyer is a professional stock car racing driver who competes full-time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. He drives the No. 14 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing. During his career, he has participated in 473 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races over 15 years.
His achievements include 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series Champion, 2002 NASCAR Weekly Racing Series Midwest Division Champion, 2011 UNOH DIRT car Nationals Modified Overall Champion, 2011 Prelude to the Dream Winner, and 2014, 2015, 2017 NASCAR All-Star Race Open Winner. In 2012, Bowyer appeared on A&E's Duck Dynasty, and when he is not racing, he drives his 1934 Chevy Rat Rod.
11 Beater: Mark Martin, 1953 Chevrolet Corvette
Mark Anthony Martin is a retired stock car racing driver and a NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee. In August 2013, he drove his last race at the wheel of the No. 14 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. As of 2014, his 49 wins ranked him second most in what is now the Xfinity Series.
The Mark Martin Museum, now located in Batesville, Arkansas, houses several of his racecars and a 1955 Chevy that marked the beginning of the driver’s life in racing when he was just a teenager. One of his favorites, though, was his 1953 Corvette that he restored in 1990 and displayed at the Mark Martin Klassix Auto Museum in Daytona Beach, Florida, before it closed its doors in 2003.
10 Sleeper: Darrell Waltrip, 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442
Darrell Waltrip is a NASCAR legend. During his 28-year career, he held the record of 22 top-five finishes in 1983 and 21 top-five finishes both in 1981 and 1986. Waltrip won 84 NASCAR Cup Series races, including the 1989 Daytona 500. On the all-time wins list, he is ranked fourth, earning more than $20 million. He was rewarded for his stellar career with an induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Since he retired in 2000, Waltrip spends his time in the broadcast booth as a race commentator. At home in Franklin, Tennessee, he drives a muscle car, the 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442 (four-barrel carburetor, four-speed manual transmission, and dual exhausts).
9 Sleeper: Carl Edwards, Shelby GT500KR
Carl Edwards has a unique way of celebrating a racing victory: He does a backflip off his car. During his NASCAR career, he has performed the gymnastic move 67 times. Edwards won the Busch Series championship in 2007 and he tied Tony Stewart for the Sprint Cup title in 2011.
Edwards was awarded a re-released (2008 version) of the Shelby GT500KR as a reward for winning the 2007 Nationwide Championship. Ford brought back the Shelby to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the original. The revised Mustang is equipped with a supercharged, 5.4-liter V8 and with Ford Racing’s Power Pack upgrade, it generates 540 horsepower. It has a 3.73:1 rear axle ratio, short throw shifter, and enhanced suspension to handle the monster powerplant under the hood.
8 Sleeper: Denny Hamlin, Lexus LFA Nurburgring Edition
Although Denny Hamlin was declared Rookie of the Year for the 2006 NASCAR Sprint Cup series, he has yet to take the title. He finished third in 2006, as the first rookie to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and second in 2010.
When he is not racing, Hamlin likes to drive his yellow Lexus LFA Nurburgring Edition, the sleek and flashy version of the Lexus seen every day that an upper-middle-class family might use for shopping. Only 50 of the limited-edition models were sold worldwide and a mere 15 are driven in the U.S. The LFA is powered by a 4.8-liter V10 engine and carries a sticker price of $375,000. However, Hamlin added a few options that drove the price of his car up to $500,000.
7 Sleeper: Tony Stewart, 1984 Cadillac Hearse
Although the 19-year racing career of Tony Stewart has been marked with some controversy, it has also seen much success. Stewart has reached the top of the champion’s circle 64 times and is the only driver to win a championship in NASCAR (2002, 2005, 2011) and IndyCar (1997).
Stewart’s choice of personal ride is a 1984 Cadillac hearse, which he nicknamed the “Smoke DeVille.” He converted the hearse into a party vehicle from its original purpose by adding custom bodywork, paint, and wheels. The interior was entirely replaced with an entertainment system that includes a liquor cabinet, 32-inch television, and a sound system that broadcasts Stewart’s arrival from miles away.
6 Sleeper: Matt Kenseth, Lincoln Navigator
Success came early to Matt Kenseth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, winning Rookie of the Year in 2000. In 2003, he won his only Winston Cup Series (now Sprint Cup) championship. Kenseth has no full-time ride lined up for 2019, and while he has been vague about his plans, he was clear about one thing: “I’ve never one time ever said the 'retire' word.”
He also stated, “I was listening to some things, but for right now I don’t see myself at the racetrack." Kenseth will most likely focus on being a father to his three young daughters with his wife, Katie, and will drive them around town in his Lincoln Navigator.
5 Sleeper: Brad Keselowski, Army Tank
Brad Keselowski claimed he would buy an army tank if he won a racing championship. He has more than 30 victories in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and in 2014, he became the 25th driver to post victories in all three major NASCAR series. He won the overall Sprint Cup title in 2012 but is still shopping for his tank.
Keselowski said, “The Hellcat, believe it or not, is the fastest tank of World War II. It’s lightweight, and I feel like I should be able to get out on the road and drive to work one day.” He says another benefit to purchasing a military tank, “It’s actually cheaper than a real supercar.”
4 Sleeper: Greg Biffle, Mustang Shelby GT500KR
NASCAR drivers Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, and Matt Kenseth selected the 2008 Shelby GT500KR to drive when they are not on the race track. While Edwards received his vehicle for winning the 2007 Nationwide Championship, Kenseth and Biffle had to purchase their cars.
Greg Biffle is in an elite group of only four drivers to win championships in two of the top three NASCAR series. In 2005, he nearly became the only driver in history to win all three series when he finished second in Sprint Cup. When he is not racing or driving his GT500KR, Biffle, a private pilot, flies one of his three airplanes or his helicopter.
3 Sleeper: Kasey Kahne, Dodge Charger SRT8
In 2018, Kasey Kahne—owner of 17 victories, 146 top-ten finishes, and 26 pole positions—was forced to retire before the end of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for health reasons. He failed the medical exam due to severe dehydration and trouble regulating his heart rate and body temperature while racing.
The 38-year-old explained on his social media, “Out of the race car I am perfectly healthy, I feel great, and the doctors have determined that I have no underlying health problems. My body just can’t handle extended periods of time in the race car and we weren’t able to control the sweat ratio to keep me hydrated enough to prevent any permanent damage to my body.” However, at home, he can still drive his Dodge Charger SRT8.
2 Sleeper: Kurt Busch, Ford Expedition
Daytona 500 and NASCAR Champion, Kurt Busch has some unique Fords his collection that were inspired in part by his dad's love of 1932 Fords.
He says that each Ford offers something different. "One's a roadster, one is traditional, non-chop top, one is an extreme chop top, and one's a side window. They all have their own distinct level of rebuild as well as traditional items left onto the car. My dad's just very indecisive when it comes to his '32 Fords. So, I figured he'd top out at seven one day because there's only seven days a week."
Although Busch purchased a Mercedes-AMG GLE63 with a twin-turbo for his wife, his own daily driver is a 2017 Ford Expedition.
1 Sleeper: Jamie McMurray, 1969 Chevrolet Impala SS
Former professional stock car racing driver James Christopher McMurray is currently a part-time driver and an analyst for Fox NASCAR. He won the 2010 Daytona 500 for Chip Ganassi Racing and is one of only three drivers to win both the Brickyard 400 and Daytona 500 in the same year.
Other racing achievements include winning at the 2010 Brickyard 400, 2013 Sprint Showdown, 2014 Sprint All-Star Race, and being the overall winner in the 2015 Rolex 24 at Daytona. While McMurray owns several Chevrolet cars for his personal use, including a Chevrolet SS and a Chevy Camaro, his personal favorite is a 1969 Chevy Impala SS427.
Sources: The Sports Drop, MSN, CNBC, ESPN, and Autoweek.