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The Coolest Cars in NASCAR

5 minute read

By Katie Ormsby

Key Takeaways

  • Ever since NASCAR debuted in 1948, it’s been synonymous with cool cars.
  • Of course, some cars have stood out more than others over the years.
  • Those cars are either faster or snazzier than their competition — and sometimes, both.

What makes a car one of the coolest set of wheels in NASCAR? Sometimes it’s the paint scheme; other times, it’s the driver or the car itself. Often, it’s a combination of those factors. While every car in NASCAR has an inherent cool factor, some are cooler than others.

We’ve searched through seven decades of NASCAR machines to find the coolest cars to ever hit a race track. Here are 10 that stand out from the pack.

Richard Petty’s 1966 Plymouth Belvedere

Richard Petty earned his nickname “The King” behind the wheel of the Plymouth Belvedere. So, you could say it’s NASCAR royalty. Bleacher Report calls it “one of the meanest, most brutal race cars in NASCAR history.”

In 1967, Petty and his Plymouth Belvedere won 27 races and a championship. A bit of trivia for you: According to Hemmings Motor News, Petty drove a 1966 Plymouth Belvedere that was “updated to look like the 1967 model.”

WikiCommons by Phil Guest

Kyle Petty’s 1997 Pontiac Grand Prix

Kyle Petty may not be as iconic as his dad Richard, but one of his race cars is among the coolest set of wheels we’ve seen over the years. According to Stock Car Racing Wiki, Petty “had two top-five finishes” in 1997 in this vehicle.

But it isn’t racing results that make this Pontiac Grand Prix so awesome — it’s the paint scheme. We mean, does it get more fun than turning a NASCAR machine into a Hot Wheels race car? This playful scheme is everything.

David Taylor/Allsport/Getty Images

Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s 1988 Chevrolet Monte Carlo

The Chevy Monte Carlo is one of the most iconic cars that dominated NASCAR. After all, Autoweek says it earned “24 of Chevy’s 31 manufacturer’s championships and 16 of its 23 driver’s titles.” That makes it NASCAR’s winningest car.

And Earnhardt Sr.’s 1988 model has to be among the coolest. For one thing, Bleacher Report says he earned his nickname “The Intimidator” driving it. Plus, it’s the first time he had his well-known black-and-white paint scheme.

Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images

Kyle Busch’s 2022 Toyota Camry

Perhaps no car walks the line between silly and cool better than Kyle Busch’s sunny M&M’s 2022 Toyota Camry — although its M&M Crunchy Cookie counterpart gives it a run for its money. Both are eye candy through and through.

We do have some bittersweet news for fans of M&M paint schemes: the longtime sponsor is calling it quits and leaving NASCAR at the end of the 2022 season, according to NBC Sports. We’ll certainly miss goofy designs like this.

Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Marshall Teague’s 1951 Hudson Hornet

Let’s head back to the early days of NASCAR for this next one. The Hudson Hornet lapped the competition in the early ’50s. In fact, Motor Sport credits Marshall Teague and his Fabulous Hudson Hornet with putting NASCAR on the map.

So, the Hudson Hornet arguably set the bar for all NASCAR machines that followed. In 2006, Pixar’s Cars introduced the iconic vehicle to a new generation with a Hudson Hornet voiced by the eternally cool Paul Newman.

Photo by ISC Archives/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images

Jeff Gordon’s 1998 Chevrolet Monte Carlo

Since the Chevy Monte Carlo is the winningest car in NASCAR history, it probably doesn’t surprise you that it earns another spot on the list. Unlike Earnhardt Sr.’s black-and-white car, this one’s cool paint scheme is multicolored.

Jeff Gordon’s colorful cars earned him the nickname “The Rainbow Warrior,” according to Sportscasting. And while he drove variations of it over his career, we’re partial to his 1998 model. That’s because, as Bleacher Report notes, Gordon piloted it to “13 wins and his third Winston Cup championship.”

David Taylor/Allsport/Getty Images

Bill Elliott’s 1987 Ford Thunderbird

“Awesome Bill from Dawsonville” made history in his 1987 Ford Thunderbird. At Talladega that year, Autoweek says he established the record for the fastest qualifying lap at 212.809 miles per hour. That record still stands today.

For safety reasons, engine restrictor plates were required shortly after. That change slowed cars down, so the source figures we’re unlikely to see the record broken. As a result, Elliott’s 1987 Ford Thunderbird is likely to remain the fastest car in NASCAR history.

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Buddy Baker’s 1970 Dodge Charger Daytona

This next one combines style and speed. As one of the “Winged Warriors,” the Dodge Charger Daytona briefly dominated NASCAR before getting banned. In 1970, the NASCAR Hall of Fame says Buddy Baker and his Dodge Charger Daytona became the first driver and car to break 200 miles per hour.

In addition to that history-making moment, the Dodge Charger Daytona’s look makes it one of the coolest cars in NASCAR history. Its large wing and sharp nose gave it an aerodynamic advantage and serious style. SnapLap says this design lowered drag and increased downforce.

WikiCommons by PSParrot

Kasey Kahne’s 2011 Toyota Camry

While Team Red Bull didn’t have a ton of success on the track, they did have some super cool paint schemes. Take Kasey Kahne’s 2011 Toyota Camry, for example. Appropriately, its scheme bursts with energy and nods to the brand.

We love how the design and color palette make it feel like a throwback. Additionally, Red Bull says it’s the car Kahne piloted to Team Red Bull’s final victory at the Phoenix International Raceway. So, it was a winner at the end of the day.

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Jimmie Johnson’s 2009 Chevrolet Impala SS

Patriotic paint schemes are a NASCAR mainstay, and we think this 2009 Chevy Impala SS is one of the most vibrant we’ve seen. Jimmie Johnson drove it at the Memorial Day weekend NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event.

After a servicemember told Johnson how much patriotic schemes mean to those who serve, Hendrick Motorsports says Johnson set out to “create an extra-special one” in 2009. In our humble opinion, we think he accomplished that goal with this cool car.

Photo by David Allio/Icon SMI/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Katie Ormsby

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