If you've visited a racing-related site today, you've probably been reminded that today is the nine-year anniversary of Dale Earnhardt's death.
Earnhardt has become even more of a mythical figure in those nine years than he was during his driving career, and while death tends to elevate people to higher platforms than they were viewed upon while living, that may not be the case with Earnhardt.
Why? Well, of all drivers with 100 or more starts in the past 20 years, Earnhardt has the highest average finish, according to Racing Reference:
Driver (active drivers in Bold)
Even though Earnhardt tops the list, the top of the list shows the depth of the Sprint Cup Series over the latter half of the period. Four of the top five drivers are active, as are 10 of the top 13. Kyle Busch sits 16th, and I'd put pretty decent odds on him cracking the top 10 before his career is over.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is 19th on the list with an average finish of 16.791, which -- sorry, Junior Nation -- is probably right about where he ranks over the last 20 years. Of all of the Cup-winning drivers of the last 20 years, Terry Labonte has the lowest average finish, although that's skewed somewhat by bad part-time rides Labonte had in the twilight of his career.
Bringing up the rear of the list in 81st is Tony Raines, with an average finish of 28.915. While Raines will never be mistaken for a championship-winning driver in the Sprint Cup Series, the average finish is more of a reflection of the start-and-park rides that he's has had lately. Somewhat surprisingly, the driver just ahead of Raines is David Gilliland, who, until recently, had a decent ride in the Cup Series.