Thursday, May 23, 2013


Racing at "The Action Track"

As long as there's been racing, there's been nicknames--some colorful, some unimaginative, some bizarre.  You can easily find lists of dozens of nicknames online, but its a little harder to find out WHY certain drivers/teams have certain aliases.

Well, its a little harder no more, thanks to this list!

Any blatantly obvious nicknames (Jamie Mac, Double A, etc.) are being skipped, but everything else is fair game.

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All writing and logos are copyright Mack of Spades (2013).


(in order of 2013 car number)
Brad Keselowski

Brad KeselowskiBrash/Bad Brad--comes from his outspoken personality.
Crashlowski--came from his tendency to wreck/drive rough early in his career.

Kasey KahnePorcelain Doll/Baby Face--refers to Kasey's "delicate" features (and popularity with the ladies).

Marcos AmbroseTasmanian Devil, Devil Racer--a reference to the cartoon character the Tasmanian Devil (Marcos is a native of Tasmania, Australia).

Tony Stewart:  Smoke--originally referred to his tendency to "smoke" (slip) the right rear tire of his sprint car.  Later referred to his IndyCar team's tendency to blow engines.  Can also refer to his fiery disposition.
The Columbus Comet--Tony grew up in Columbus, Indiana.
The Rushville Rocket--Tony first raced out of (read: was billed from) Rushville, Indiana.

Later version of the "Rowdy" Truck
Kyle BuschRowdy--while it applies to his aggressive driving style, the true origin is a bit more complicated.  When Kyle returned to the Truck Series, it was with Billy Ballew Motorsports, who fielded the #51 truck.  At that time, Bobby Hamilton Sr. was sidelined battling cancer, so as a tribute to him, Ballew & Busch painted the truck as a replica of the #51 Exxon car from "Days of Thunder".  Bobby's first Cup experiences were driving the movie car, which had "Rowdy" above the driver-side window, in reference to character Rowdy Burns.  The truck also had "Rowdy" above the driver-side window, and the nickname stuck.
Wild Thing--also refers to Kyle's aggressive driving style (popularized by Mike Joy).
Shrub--because he is the younger Busch brother, and a "shrub" is a "little bus(c)h".

Joey Logano (left)
Joey LoganoSliced Bread--given to him early in his career (either by Mark Martin, Randy LaJoie, or both) due to his sky-high potential ("…he's the greatest thing since SLICED BREAD").
Burnt Toast--a derogatory nickname given after a long winless stretch in Cup.

Jeff GordonThe Rainbow Warrior (old)--Jeff's first paint scheme was rainbow-colored to advertise Dupont's automotive finishes.
Wonderboy (old)--a sarcastic moniker applied by veteran Dale Earnhardt at the height of Jeff's dominance.
Ol' Four Time--Jeff currently has four Cup championships.

Paul MenardMenardburns/Nardburns--a comment on Paul's defining physical feature--his pointy sideburns.

Kevin HarvickHappy--given to him early in his career for his omnipresent smile, though a bit ironic based on his fiery attitude on and off the track.  A smiley-face is used for his pit-board.
The Bakersfield Basher--refers both to Kevin's hometown of Bakersfield, California, and his willingness to "throw down" in the pits (Kevin, for the record, was a wrestler in high school).
Mr. Where Did He Come From--bestowed by Mike Joy for Kevin's tendency to come on strong late in the race.
The Closer--see above.
2.9--When Kevin made it to Cup, it was under very difficult circumstances, "replacing" the legendary Dale Earnhardt Sr.  In fact, it was by mutual decision that the famous 3 car was renumbered as 29 for Harvick.  Frequently, a small piece of tape was placed between the 2 and 9, reading "2.9" as in "close to the 3".  Later, it came to summarize Harvick's job stepping into Dale Sr.'s old ride--he isn't the 3, but he's pretty darn close.

Jeff Burton
Jeff BurtonThe Mayor--Jeff is well-respected (and well-spoken) in the garage, and is frequently said to be a natural for future public office.

Terry LabonteTexas Terry--The Labontes hail from Corpus Christi, Texas.
The Ice Man--as a publicity stunt, Humpy Wheeler trucked in a huge block of ice for an open testing session at Charlotte Motor Speedway on a blisteringly hot day.  Terry was photographed sitting on it, and the name stuck.  In later years, it came to also represent his coolness under pressure.

J.J. Yeley:  contrary to popular belief, "J.J." is NOT Mr. Yeley's first name--its Christopher.  J.J. comes as a tribute to his father Jimmy and uncle Jack.

Ryan NewmanRocket Man/Flyin' Ryan/Mr. Friday--all refer to Newman's early career mastery of qualifying, frequently winning poles and setting track records (qualifying is frequently held on Fridays).

Aric AlmirolaThe Cuban Missle--Aric is of Cuban ancestry (is a play on the phrase, "Cuban Missile Crisis").

Jimmie JohnsonOl' Five Time (old)--believed to have been coined by Darrell Waltrip, in honor of Jimmie's five straight Cup championships.

Mark Martin
Mark MartinIronman--a tribute to Mark's physique (Mark was one of the first drivers to openly embrace fitness training).
Mr. Consistency (old)--earned in his prime for rarely having a bad finish, even if with a sub-par car.

Kurt BuschThe Outlaw--self-ascribed for his "rebel" nature (first popularized in the Speed Channel documentary "Kurt Busch: The Outlaw").
Rubberhead--comes from Kurt's early sponsor, Rubbermaid.

David ReutimannBeak--in reference to his pointed nose, David's pit-board reads "STOP BEAK".

Joe NemechekFront Row Joe--earned during a mid-90's streak of first or second-place starting positions, believed to have been coined by then-teammate Wally Dallenbach Jr.
Need-a-check--derogatory nickname given after Joe frequently started-and-parked his cars in the late 00's.

Carl EdwardsCousin Carl--Carl's "in" with Nascar early in his career was his relation to Ken Schrader, hence he was frequently introduced as "Ken's cousin, Carl".
Concrete Carl--refers to Carl's mastery of Nascar's two concrete tracks, Dover and Bristol (as well as a former Nascar track paved in concrete, Nashville Superspeedway).


(drivers not listed with Cup)

The M&Ms car
Elliott SadlerCandyman (old)--Elliott's most-successful Cup run was in the M&M's Ford.

Sam Hornish JrSideways Sam--derogatory nickname referring to Sam's tendency to spin-out and crash, especially at the Cup level.  His name is also occasionally used as a synonym for "crash", most-famously by Tony Stewart: "Did we get Hornished there?".

Justin AllgaierThe Little Gator--refers both to his short stature and his last name's pronunciation ("gaier" sounding similar to "gator").  Justin's teams frequently have an inflatable or stuffed alligator in their transporters.

Chad HackenbrachHacken-something--self-ascribed nickname (occasionally seen over the driver-side window) in reference to his difficult-to-spell last name.

Kenny & Kim Wallace
Darrell Wallace JrBubba--UNKNOWN, though Bubba is a common nickname for southern men.

Kenny WallaceHerman--given by a local track promoter, alluding to Kenny's resemblance and similarities (especially in mischievous behavior) to comic-strip character Herman The German.  Also goes by "The Herminator", a portmanteau of "Herman" and "The Terminator".

Ron Hornaday JrThe Restart King--earned for his mastery of green-flag restarts in the Truck Series.

Todd BodineThe Onion--possibly self-ascribed, refers to his bald head, which loosely resembles an onion.  Was also called a "Cueball-Headed Fool" by Dale Earnhardt Jr.


(in order of career wins)

Richard Petty in his driving days
Richard PettyThe King--in honor of Petty's late-60's dominance, 200 career Cup wins (easily an all-time record) and "regal bearing" with fans everywhere.
Squirrel Jr. (old)--UNKNOWN (frequently seen in old pictures, particularly when Richard was racing against his father Lee).

David PearsonThe Silver Fox--both for his masterful on-track strategy and gray/white hair.

Darrell WaltripJaws--self-ascribed meaning was for his ability to "swim" through traffic like a shark, while the original meaning (from Cale Yarborough) was for his constant talking.

Dale Earnhardt SrThe Intimidator--given for his take-no-prisoners style of racing, which, it was said, could make a driver wreck without even touching him.
The Man in Black--comes from Dale's most-famous paint scheme, the all-black GM Goodwrench look.
One Tough Customer (old)--comes from Dale's second-most-famous sponsor, Wrangler Jeans, who used "One Tough Customer" as a marketing slogan at the time.  Also fit Dale's hard-edged public persona.
Iron Head (old)--while Dale's father, Ralph Earnhardt, was nicknamed Iron HEART (see below), Dale was given the derogatory nickname Iron HEAD early in his career for his refusal to conform to the racing standards of the day.  Dale Sr. soon adopted this nickname personally.

Bobby AllisonThe Matador--Bobby was by far the most-successful driver of the AMC Matador during its brief run in Nascar.

Rusty's Championship-winning car
Rusty WallaceKing of the Short Tracks--bestowed for his mastery of Nascar's three active short-tracks:  Bristol,
Martinsville, and Richmond.
Rubberhead--came from Rusty's ability to "bounce back" from a near-fatal wreck in 1988 to race the next day.  Could also refer to his "white-guy fro" from his younger days.

Ned JarrettGentleman Ned--Ned was seen as one of the first "polished" drivers by the media, as well as being friendly to competitors and fans alike.

Junior Johnson:  actual full name is Robert Glen Johnson Jr.  Ironically, Junior has said that he actually dislikes his commonly-known nickname.
The Last American Hero--comes from a Tom Wolfe magazine profile of Johnson, titled "Junior Johnson is The Last American Hero--YES!"--it was later used as the title of a movie loosely based on Johnson's life.

Buck Baker:  though born Elzie Wylie Baker, he was given his nickname early in life by his mother, who named him after a bull the family owned (who was said to be just as uncontrollable as her son).

Bill ElliottAwesome Bill from Dawsonville--Bill hails from Dawsonville, Georgia, and is fond of using the word "Awesome" in conversation.
Million Dollar Bill--Bill was the first driver to win the "Winston Million" $1,000,000 bonus for winning three of Nascar's Crown-Jewel races (Daytona 500, Spring Talladega, Coca-Cola 600, Southern 500).

Fireball Roberts:  Edward Glenn Roberts Jr. got his nickname in high school for his "blazing" fastball on the baseball diamond.  In a tragic case of irony, Roberts was killed in a fiery wreck.

Fred LorenzenThe Golden Boy--said to come from his combination of good looks, good manner-of-speaking, and on-track ability.
The Elmhurst Express--Fred was born in Elmhurst, Illinois.

Joe Weatherly: The Clown Prince of Racing--coming from Joe's light-hearted pranks at the track, as a tribute to the frequently-used sobriquet "The Clown Prince of ____" (which comes from the phrase "Crown Prince").

Ricky Rudd
Ricky RuddIronman--Ricky holds the Cup record for most-consecutive starts.
Rooster--beyond alliteration, alludes to Ricky's proud and no-nonsense personality.

Benny ParsonsThe Professor--earned in Benny's broadcasting career for his on-air insights.

Speedy Thompson:  Alfred was Speedy's real first-name (and Speedy's a pretty self-explanatory nickname for a driver).

Buddy Baker:  Elzie Wylie Baker Jr.'s better-known nickname's origin is UNKNOWN, though he was well-known for his likable public persona.
Leadfoot--another pretty obvious nickname for a racer, likely referring to his mastery of Nascar's fastest tracks.
The Gentle Giant--alludes both to Buddy's affable nature with fans and his large frame.

Fonty Flock:  Truman Flock got his nickname as a reference to his middle name, Fontello.

Harry GantHandsome Harry--a tribute to his good looks, especially for his age.
High Line/Groove Harry--a reference to Harry's tendency to take the racing line closest to the wall.
The Bandit--comes from Harry's long-time sponsor, Skoal, and their Bandit line of chewing tobacco.
Mr. September--a play on Reggie Jackson's "Mr. October" nickname, it came to be in 1991, when he won four straight Cup races (in addition to two Busch Series races) in the month of September.  Could also refer to his success in the "autumn" of his career.
The Answer to Every Trivia Question--given to Harry post-retirement by Darrell Waltrip for his tendency to use Gant as a standard answer to trivia questions.

Curtis TurnerPops--double meaning on this one:  it was said that Turner's standard term-of-endearment for any man was "Pops".  Conversely, it was said that he had a tendency to tap, or "pop" drivers on the track.
The Blond Blizzard of Virginia--comes from his hair-color and home state.

Ernie IrvanSwervin' Irvan--a derogatory term for his aggressive racing style, especially early in his career.

Cotton Owens:  Everett Owens' better-known nickname came from his white hair.
King of the Modifieds--in honor of Cotton's early-domination of Nascar's Modified racing series.

Alan KulwickiUnderbird--first-used in the famous 1992 Cup series finale, the "T" in "Thunderbird" on the front of Alan's car was removed to reference the team's "Underdog" status.

Tiny Lund:  DeWayne Louis Lund got his nickname as an ironic nod to his physical size (6'5'', 270 lbs.).

Pete HamiltonThe Gentleman Racer--a tribute to Pete's gentlemanly nature both on and off the track, as well as his mostly part-time career (drivers who had a primary source of income outside of racing were known as "Gentleman Racers").

Red Byron:  Robert Byron's nickname was likely a reference to his hair color.

Tiger Tom Pistone:  the rare driver who was almost always referred to by his nickname AND first-name.  The nickname was likely a comment on his hard-charging racing style.

Jimmy SpencerMr. Excitement--earned in his modified racing days, but stayed relevant through his career for his aggressive driving style.

Johnny BensonFour-Eyes (old)--Johnny was one of the only drivers to wear glasses while racing (until he had Lasik surgery).

Greg Sacks subbing for Robby Gordon
Greg SacksSuper-Sub--while he only earned one Cup win in his long career, Greg was well-respected as a substitute
for injured drivers.

Wendell ScottGive 'Em Hell Wendell--came both from his position as a fan-favorite and the local pronunciation of his first name (rhymes with "Hell").

Jimmy MeansSmut--early in his career, Means built an engine according to a guide published by the legendary Smokey Yunick.  Means bragged to competitor Bobby Allison that the engine would make him "…another Smokey", to which Allison replied that he wouldn't even be "smut", with smut referring to dirt or grease.  Smut's OTHER meaning explains why Jimmy does not like this nickname.

Hut Stricklin:  Waymond Lane Stricklin Jr. got his nickname from his father--but oddly enough, he claims to have no idea where it came from.

Ted MusgraveMad Dog--self-ascribed moniker that came after he felt he was robbed of a championship in the Truck series, referring to his new "no holds barred" approach to racing.

Mike SkinnerAngie's Bus Driver--self-ascribed self-effacing nickname, given post-retirement.  Mike's wife Angie is a well-known radio personality, and Mike had joked that he is now best known for being Angie's husband/bus-driver.

Herman BeamTurtle--this came from Beam's record-setting streak of races without a DNF, which infamously came about through EXTREMELY cautious (aka slow) driving.

Banjo Matthews:  Edwin Matthews was originally called "Banjo Eyes" as a boy for his large eyeglasses.


(in order of career wins)

Jack IngramThe Iron Man--originally referred to his busy schedule running in the old Sportsman Division (running up to 60 races a year).  Could also apply to his staying power in the early days of the Busch Series.
Tommy Ellis in his race car

Terrible Tommy Ellis:  another driver whose nickname and first name were usually used together, his nickname came from his rough racing style.

Mike McLaughlinMagic Shoes--one of the more mysterious origin stories in Nascar history.  Mike himself has admitted he has no idea WHY he was nicknamed "Magic Shoes", though it seems to have been granted by short-track announcer Joe Marotta.


Rick Carelli

Rick CarelliThe High Plains Drifter--Rick hails from the high-altitude of Colorado.

Coo Coo Marlin:  Clifton Marlin's better-known name was self-ascribed at a young age--as a toddler, he constantly mispronounced his first name as "Coo Coo".

Kelly Girl Sutton:  refers to the famous "Kelly Girls" of Kelly Service.

Richie EvansThe Rapid Roman--Richie came from Rome, New York.

Ray HendrickMr. Modified--comes from his lengthy career in Nascar's Modified series.

Ralph EarnhardtIronheart--the Sportsman series driver (a forerunner of the Busch/Nationwide series) earned his nickname for his never-give-up attitude, finding success despite limited resources.


Roger PenskeThe Captain--a term of respect, frequently used by his pit-crew during races, for the former racer and current "captain" of industry.
Joe Gibbs coaching the Redskins

Joe GibbsCoach--Joe Gibbs was the three-time Super Bowl winning coach of the Washington Redskins.

Joe FalkLittle Joe--a combination reference to Joe's small stature, and tribute to Bonanza character "Little" Joe Cartwright.

Chip Ganassi:  Floyd Ganassi's commonly-used nickname's origin is UNKNOWN.

Jack Roush:  The Cat in the Hall--Mr. Roush is rarely seen outdoors without his signature panama-style hat.