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NASCAR Names

Tuesday, March 27, 2012
It's not surprsing a guy named "Jimmie Johnson" won so many titles. Photo: Getty Images

Awesome!  I'm excited that "NASCAR" and "names" both begin with the letter "n."  The reoccurance of alliteration (two words that start with the same letter for those that don't remember their middle school grammar classes) is going to be the main focus of this article.

We get a lot of questions from supporters about how to get their kids into auto racing.  My first recommendation: make sure you give them an appropriate name.

If you name your kid something like Jonathan Stallsmith, like parents chose, chances are that your kid is not going to make it as a driver.  Football player?  Maybe.  You see plenty of names that drag on in that sport: Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer, Charles Woodson, Robert Griffin, to name some recent Heisman Trophy winners that are now in the NFL.

It doesn't work that way in NASCAR.

In fact, of the drivers currently in the top-30 of the Sprint Cup standings, only three have first names with more than five letters: Martin (Truex Jr.), Jimmie (Johnson) and Marcos (Ambrose).  All three have fair enough excuses that we'll go over.

Aside from a strict five letter maximum, the first and major key to the NASCAR name is the alliteration.  Think about it?  If my parents had named me Stevie Stallsmith, I'd probably be working my way up in the Camping World Truck Series right now!  The alliteration has existed since the start of NASCAR with one of its first legends, Junior Johnson.  Buck Baker (1956-57) and Jimmie Johnson (2006-10) are the only two alliterations to have claimed Cup titles, but that hasn't stopped the name style from running rampant in NASCAR.

Just look at today's field: Kasey Kahne, AJ Allmendinger, Mark Martin, Aric Almirola and Michael McDowell all make regular starts alongside Johnson.  (Ok, so McDowell rarely starts alongside Johnson, but you know what I meant!)  Ricky Rudd, Buddy Baker and Fonty Flock are other prominent drivers to have recorded more than 15 career Cup wins.

Step two in naming the perfect NASCAR driver is making sure the name ends in an "e" sound.  Tony (Stewart), Denny (Hamlin), Jimmie (again, you can see why he does so well!), Joey (Logano), Bobby (Labonte), Jamie (McMurray), Kasey (Kahne) and Casey (Mears) all sit in the top-30 this year.  Theree of them have won Cup championships and the three retired drivers I mentioned in the previous paragraph all have names ending in "y."

This aspect might help include "The King," Richard Petty, as a NASCAR name.  For the most part, Richard falls as an outlier when it comes to the short name ending in an "e" sound.  Of course, Petty himself was an outlier, as it's unlikely anyone will ever approach his 200 wins.  But, at least, "Petty" falls in line with the rules of NASCAR names.

Lastly, if you're not into adding an "ie" or "y" to make your child's name NASCAR-y (or is it "NASCAR-ie"?), you can always make him a Junior.  Junior's aren't quite as popular when it comes to quantity, but there's little debate that the legacy of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. emphasizes how popular a "Junior" tag can be.

Other current Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series drivers include the afore mentioned Martin Truex, Jr., Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Sam Hornish, Jr., and Robert Richardson, Jr.  Bobby Hillin, Jr. won the the 1986 Talladega 500 and Al Unser, Jr. is a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner in INDYCAR.

While we're discussing INDYCAR, perhaps you're more a fan of open-wheel racing than the paint-trading of NASCAR.  In that case, you should really focus on a unique first name: Dario (Franchitti), Helio (Castroneves), Simona (de Silvestro) and the recently departed Danica (Patrick).  Seriously, people wonder what the hardest transition will be for Danica from INDYCAR to NASCAR.  How about trying to carry over a name that better suited her former series!?

Of course, if you've completely run out of options, you can always name your kid "David."  You might not catch lightning in a bottle like the Pearson parents did in 1934.  But, the lower part of the Sprint Cup standings is cluttered with Davids that at least find ways to finish races: Blaney, Gilliland, Ragan, Reutimann and Stremme.

You might be wondering what happened to Marcos Ambrose's excuse.  He was born and raised in Australia, so he gets a free pass as one of the few foreigners in the Cup Series.  Aside from a cultural difference, he currently drives for a team whose afore mentioned owner once made the NASCAR world bow down to the name Richard, so being the exception to a rule is not unusual for him or his team.