Kinser, Mansell, Garlits, Lauda, and Muldowney set high standards

5/20/2008 - NASCAR
Don Garlits, from left, Niki Lauda, Steve Kinser, Nigel Mansell and Shirley Muldowney all created their own legends. ESPN.com Illustration

Who are the top 25 drivers of all time? ESPN.com asked 19 experts to vote for any driver that piloted something with wheels and a motor. Steve Kinser, Nigel Mansell, Don Garlits, Niki Lauda and Shirley Muldowney kick off the list from 25 to 21.

Series: World of Outlaws winged sprint cars

Championships: 20 WoO titles.

Years competed: Now in his 29th season.

Birthdate: June 2, 1954

Hometown: Bloomington, Ind.

Why he made the top 25: Kinser is the Michael Jordan of sprint car racing. From 1978 through 2005, the man known as "King of the Outlaws" won 20 championships. He has an incredible 543 A-Features victories.

Accomplishments: Kinser is the master of the dirt, but he also has enjoyed success on pavement. He finished 14th as a 42-year-old rookie in the 1997 Indy 500, and he won an IROC race at Talladega in 1994. Kinser was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 2005.

Series: Formula One and CART

Championships: One in Formula One and one in CART

Years competed: 1980-95

Birthdate: Aug. 8, 1953

Hometown: Worchestershire, England

Why he made the top 25: The only person to hold the F1 and CART titles simultaneously, winning the F1 crown in 1992 before adding he CART championship in 1993. He was the first driver to win a CART title in his first season.

Accomplishments: Mansell won 31 F1 races and earned 32 poles. He won five CART events and 11 poles in his championship season. Mansell finished third in the 1993 Indy 500, his first start on an oval track.

Series: NHRA Top Fuel dragsters

Championships: Three (1975, '85 and '86)

Years competed: 1959-86

Birthdate: Jan. 14, 1932

Hometown: Ocala, Fla.

Why he made the top 25: "Big Daddy" is known as the father of drag racing. He was the first man to win three NHRA Top Fuel titles and the first to surpass numerous speed milestones, including 200, 250 and 270 mph.

Accomplishments: Garlits won 144 national events, including the NHRA U.S. Nationals eight times. He was voted No. 1 on the NHRA's list of top 50 drivers. He also was instrumental in improving the safety of the sport. Garlits was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1997.

Series: Formula One

Championships: Three (1975, '77 and '84)

Years competed: 1971-79 and 1982-85

Birthdate: Feb. 22, 1949

Hometown: Vienna, Austria

Why he made the top 25: Winning two of his three championships after suffering severe burns and near-fatal injuries in a fiery 1976 crash.

Accomplishments: Lauda won 25 races and 24 poles in his career, but showing the determination to overcome his disfiguring injuries and continue to race up front is what sets him apart. Lauda suffered serious facial burns and lung damage in the 1976 crash, lapsing briefly into a coma. Incredibly, he was back racing six weeks later after having surgery on his eyelids so they would open properly. He won the title the next season, retired for two seasons at the start of the 1980s, then won his final championship in 1984.

Series: NHRA Top Fuel and Funny Car

Championships: Three in Top Fuel dragsters (1977, '80 and '82)

Years competed: 1965-2003

Birthdate: June 19, 1940

Hometown: Schenectady, N.Y.

Why she made the top 25: The first woman to win a major racing championship.

Accomplishments: Muldowney overcame enormous obstacles at a time when women were not accepted in professional drag racing. She broke those barriers to become one of the most successful Top Fuel racers of her era. Muldowney won 18 national events and was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2004.

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.