You find a common thread among current and past NASCAR drivers, one no aspiring young driver should ignore. It's almost an edict that no great driver has ever defied. Not "The Intimidator." Not "The King." In fact, they started the trend.
So here it is. If you're planning on living behind the wheel, young racers, make sure you bring one thing with you.
Make sure you have the name.
If you're a NASCAR lifer, you know what I'm talking about. NASCAR drivers just seem to have the perfect name for their sport. And when pronounced with the proper twang, they just roll off the tongue.
In fact, NASCAR is littered with so many drivers aptly named for their sport it's suspicious. The situation has brought out the cynic in me. Over the summer, while at Thursday Thunder at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, I plan on investigating whether there is a naming commission secretly staffed by NASCAR to conduct quality control of the names of their drivers.
In that honor, here are my favorite names of current drivers:
9. Mark Martin - The driver of the No. 5 Kellogg's/Carquest Chevrolet Impala is considered the best driver to never win a championship. He holds the record for most Nationwide Series wins with 48. And he introduces the first rule of NASCAR names: A first and last name starting with the same letter is a recipe for a solid driver's name.
8. Jimmie Johnson - Working on his fourth consecutive Sprint Cup Series Championship, Johnson follows Martin in a long line of appealing NASCAR names with first and last names starting with the same letter.
But this is a classic name, really. It worked for the former Dallas Cowboys football coach. It obviously works for the No. 48 car.
7. Reed Sorenson - He came through AMS's Thursday Thunder, and his name portended success. He follows another of the long-standing NASCAR naming rules: first and last names starting with letters that are adjacent in the alphabet is a good start.
6. Sterling Marlin - When you win two consecutive Daytona 500s, as Marling did in 1994 and 1995, you have to have the name to back it up. Good thing for Marlin, he did.
Another NASCAR naming rule: combining an adjective and a noun creates a "sterling" name.
5. Bobby Labonte - He had a good run not too long ago. I know, because my step-dad starting buys flags and license plates with his face on them. Labonte brings us NASCAR naming rule No. 59: alliteration is classy. All those b-sounds in his name just work so well together.
4. Kasey Kahne - See 'Mark Martin' and 'Jimmie Johnson' above.
But it's so daring to follow the rule using K's.
3. Scott Speed - Really, the last name says it all.
2. A.J. Allmendinger - Follows the "double-first letter" rule and combines it with an embarassing last name. Awesome.
1. Boris Said - Boris said what?
Hard to pull off having a verb for a last name, but this driver, stuck in second-to-last place in the standings, at least passes the NASCAR Naming Commission standards.
Brian Paglia is a sportswriter with the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at 770-478-5753 ext. 253 or firstname.lastname@example.org