Legends of the Track: Iconic Race Cars

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National Motorsports Awareness Month is wrapping up, so we thought we’d send it off with a bang. The racing world has seen some truly legendary drivers, teams, and cars over the years. Some rides represent the crowning achievement for one of the all-time greats, while others were some of the most dominant cars seen in motorsports. Check out our list of the most iconic race cars in history.

1988 McLaren MP4/4 (Formula 1)

Image: 1988 McLaren MP4/4 Formula 1 car/Image Credit: McLaren Racing

McLaren’s 1988 Formula 1 season was as good as any team could ever dream of. The team won 15 of 16 races that year with their two drivers, Aryton Senna and Alain Prost. Senna won 8 races himself, and claimed the World Championship, even after being disqualified in one race. The battle between the teammates was intense and has become legendary in its own right, further cementing the MP4/4 in the history books.

No. 43 Plymouth (NASCAR)

1964 Plymouth Belvedere stock car/Image Credit: NASCAR Hall of Fame

When your nickname is “The King,” you know you’ve done a few things right. Richard Petty is considered by many to be the greatest NASCAR driver of all time, with a record-tying seven championships and the most wins in NASCAR Cup Series history. His “Petty Blue” No. 43, most often a Plymouth Belvedere or Superbird, is as iconic as the man himself. And if you’re a fan of Disney Pixar’s Cars, you might recognize The King from there, too.

1969 Brawner Hawk (USAC/IndyCar)

1969 Brawner Hawk USAC car/Image Credit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Mario Andretti’s name is synonymous with speed. But despite a long career in American open-wheel racing, Andretti only won the prestigious Indianapolis 500 once, in 1969. He managed this feat in his backup car, a Ford-powered Brawner Hawk, after crashing his primary car in practice. Despite mechanical issues and running the entire race on one set of tires, Andretti and the Brawner Hawk completed a dominant victory. This iconic car now resides at the Smithsonian.

No. 3 Chevrolet Monte Carlo (NASCAR)

Dale Earnhardt’s No. 3 Chevy Monte Carlo after the 1998 Daytona 500/Image Credit: NASCAR Hall of Fame

Like Andretti, Dale Earnhardt accomplished so much in his field of racing, but only managed to get that “Crown Jewel” victory once. After coming so close to winning the Daytona 500 countless times, Earnhardt finally achieved this feat in 1998 with his Chevy Monte Carlo. Every crew member from every team lined up on pit road to congratulate the seven-time champion after the race. Earnhardt tragically passed away in 2001, but his No. 3 is still remembered fondly by all NASCAR fans.

Ferrari F2002 (Formula 1)

Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello with the Ferrari F2002 Formula 1 car/Image Credit: Scuderia Ferrari

If McLaren in 1988 is the 1a of greatest Formula 1 seasons, Ferrari’s 2002 campaign is 1b. The F2002 was totally dominant, winning 15 of 17 races that year. 11 of those wins were by racing legend Michael Schumacher, who locked up the World Championship with six races left in the season. Along with teammate Rubens Barrichello, at least one Ferrari driver finished in the top three in every race that year. The F2002 was truly an unstoppable car.

No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Mercury (NASCAR)

Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Mercury driven by David Pearson/Image Credit: NASCAR Hall of Fame

In the racing world, teams often come and go, some quicker than others. So, when a team manages to stick around for over 70 years, you know it’s special. Wood Brothers Racing has been fielding cars in NASCAR since 1950, making them the oldest active team in the sport. Over the years, the team has run with many different vehicles and drivers, but their most iconic partnership came with the No. 21 Mercury and driver David Pearson. Wood Brothers and Pearson ran 143 races together and won 46 of them. That’s a winning percentage any racing driver would envy.

While the names of the most successful drivers and teams will live on in motorsports history, the cars that took them to victory should also be remembered. Every race car driver has their Best Ride. While you may not be able to buy a Ferrari F2002, we can help you find your BestRide too.

Kasey McNerney

Kasey McNerney

Kasey McNerney is a native of Phoenix, Arizona, and inherited her interest in cars from her dad. She previously worked at Phoenix Raceway, where she assisted with communications for NASCAR events. Currently, Kasey writes automotive content for BestRide and works with auto and auto-adjacent businesses to strengthen their social media presence.