The Ford Motor Company has been successful in auto racing since the sport’s earliest inception, but this is especially true when it comes to NASCAR, America’s longest-running motorsports league.

 

Since the manufacturer’s first NASCAR Cup Series Championship was brought home by Buck Baker  in 1956, a Ford race car has won NASCAR’s most prestigious award 13 times. That number extends to 22 when you consider other Ford-affiliated brands throughout history such as Mercury and Lincoln.

 

Even now, Ford continues to dominate the NASCAR Cup Circuit with drivers such as Kevin Harvick, who scored the brand’s 699th victory as recently as this past weekend.

 

But Ford’s rich legacy in American auto racing wouldn’t be where it is today without some of the most talented drivers in the history of motorsports. Without further ado, here are five of the most iconic Ford drivers in NASCAR history.

Ned Jarrett 

 

Known for his quiet demeanor that earned him the nickname “Gentleman Ned,” Jarrett is perhaps best known for his incredible 1965 Grand National season. 

 

During this year, Ned Jarrett piloted his bright blue and white No. 11 Ford Galaxie to 13 victories over 54 starts, and finished in the top-five a whopping 42 times. 

 

The most impressive win that season came at that year’s running of the Southern 500 at the historic Darlington Raceway, which saw Jarrett win by a ridiculous 14-lap margin over second place, a NASCAR record that is likely to stand the test of time forever.

 

Jarrett said the ’65 Galaxie, one of the most successful in Ford Performance history, got a boost from the arrival of coil springs.

 

“They seemed to make the car handle better,” he said. “There was more you could do with the car as far as handling. The leaf springs we had used before weren’t as strong, and the coils were easy to change. And the 1965 was more aerodynamic than the 1964 model was. We didn’t know a lot about aerodynamics then, but you could tell the difference.”

 

Ned Jarrett is also the father of fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett, who also drove for Ford at various points in his illustrious career.


Cale Yarborough

 

Cale Yarborough is not only one of the most lauded racers in NASCAR history, but in Ford Performance history as well. He is one of only two drivers in NASCAR history to win three consecutive Cup Series championships.

 

Yarborough’s No. 21 1968 Mercury Cyclone, owned by long-time Ford Performance team Wood Brothers Racing, carried him to six victories that year, including the prestigious Daytona 500.

 

The ‘68 Cyclone, painted in a sparkling white with red striping, became one of the most popular Ford race cars of all-time. So much so in fact, that the company launched a limited edition production version of the car to match. 

 

Fewer than 100 models were produced, and today it remains a highly-sought-after vehicle in the eyes of many collectors.

 

 
Bill Elliott 

 

Slow-talking but fast-driving and hailing from the small Georgia mountain town of Dawsonville, Bill Elliott is one of the most beloved drivers in NASCAR history. Upon entering the racing world in 1976, Elliott’s die-hard style changed the face of American motorsports forever.

 

Upon climbing behind the wheel of his now-iconic No. 9 Ford Thunderbird, Elliott earned a national championship in 1988. The man known as “Million Dollar Bill” eventually went on to pilot several other Ford vehicles to victory lane 44 times over the years, and he is now synonymous with Blue Oval power.

 

Elliott’s humble nature and immense success eventually won him NASCAR’s most popular driver award an incredible 16 times, a streak that ended only when he decided to remove himself from contention for the honor.

 

Today, that impressive fandom has been transferred to Bill’s son Chase Elliott, who currently drives the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports in honor of his old man. While it’s still early in Chase’s career, he already owns seven Cup Series wins and has won the most popular driver award twice in a row so far.

 

 
Junior Johnson 

 

Very few drivers in NASCAR history have so proudly carried the role of villain like Junior Johnson. Infamous throughout the sport for his innovative rule-bending race car modifications, Johnson piloted his No. 26 Ford Galaxie to 50 wins, 186 top-fives, and 46 pole awards.

 

While Johnson’s tenure as a driver is no doubt impressive, he is perhaps best known for his various roles in the world of race team ownership.

 

Johnson can also be credited for much of the success achieved by some of NASCAR’s most impressive Ford Performance drivers such as Bill Elliott, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Neil Bonnet, Terry LaBonte, and Jimmy Spencer.

 

Junior Johnson honed his driving skills hauling moonshine as a teenager in North Carolina (a conviction for which he was given a presidential pardon by Ronald Reagan in 1986), and his fearless, hard-nosed demeanor was always apparent on and off the track. 

 

“I’m not bragging or anything, but I just had the advantage on them,” Johnson once said. “I had been hauling liquor 20 years. Just had a lot of experience. I knew how to set my car up. I was 100 percent, and everybody else was 80 or 90 percent. I just had the advantage.”


David Pearson

 

Aside from long-time rival “The King” Richard Petty, perhaps no NASCAR driver has ever experienced the type of dominance that David Pearson did throughout the early 1970s.

 

When legendary Ford Performance team Wood Brothers Racing etched the image of their No. 21 Mercury into the annals of American auto racing history, David Pearson was the man behind the wheel.

 

Pearson raced for the Woods brothers from 1972 to 1979, achieving 43 wins in a variety of major big-name races. At first, this number may not seem as impressive as some of the others on this list, until you consider the fact that at this time, Pearson wasn’t even running a full-time schedule.

 

In fact, in the 1973 season, Pearson and the Wood Brothers entered only 18 races. They went on to win 11 of those events a still-unheard-of 61 percent win ratio.

 

“Pearson is one of the best there’s ever been,” said Leonard Wood, his crew chief during the glory years. “He took care of his car. If you think about it, you’re driving it wide open as hard as you can go and floating the valves and all that -- that thing is not going to be too good at the end of the race. He’d take care of it...I loved racing with him in our car.”

 

These days, the Ford Motor Company continues to impress on NASCAR’s biggest stage, but modern Ford Performance drivers like Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, and Joey Logano do so behind the wheel of the incredible Ford Mustang.

 

To get behind the wheel of the all-new Ford Mustang and experience the unmatched power yourself, stop into Haldeman Ford in Hamilton, New Jersey today. It’s time to burn some rubber!


Check out our current 2020 Ford Mustang inventory right here, or contact us online with any questions you may have.
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