When you’re watching sports on the TV, it can be tricky to really get a good grasp on how tall your favorite athletes, drivers, and other stars are. Until they stand next to someone or something else, you have no real sense of comparison or scale. The same is true for NASCAR drivers, who we mostly see in a seated position in their cars, or perhaps standing alone for an interview.
Believe it or not, the average height for NASCAR drivers has stayed roughly around 5 foot 10 inches for most of the sports history. The tallest driver currently is Austin Cindric who towers at a stately 6 foot 3 inches. But how short do NASCAR drivers get? In today’s blog, we’re looking at the shortest drivers both in the current field at the time of writing, and of all time.
The shortest-ever NASCAR driver is Danica Patrick, who stands at just 5 feet 2 inches. With the exception of Patrick, the others are all relatively close in height, meaning to within an inch or so of each other. Racing in NASCAR right now, we have:
- Daniel Hemric – 5 foot 5 inches
- Tyler Reddick – 5 foot 5 inches
- Todd Gilliland – 5 foot 5 inches
- Chris Buescher – 5 foot 6 inches
- Kaz Grala – 5 foot 7 inches
Going back in time, there are more drivers who share similar stature:
- Danica Patrick (Age 41) – 5 foot 2 inches
- Morgan Shepherd (Age 81) – 5 foot 5 inches
- Dave Marcis (Age 82) – 5 foot 5 inches
- Derrike Cope (Age 64) – 5 foot 6 inches
- Geoffrey Bodine (Age 74) – 5 foot 6 inches
|1||Danica Patrick||5 feet 2 inches||All-Time|
|2||Daniel Hemric||5 foot 5 inches||Current|
|3||Tyler Reddick||5 foot 5 inches||Current|
|4||Todd Gilliland||5 foot 5 inches||Current|
|5||Chris Buescher||5 foot 6 inches||Current|
|6||Kaz Grala||5 foot 7 inches||Current|
You can check out the tallest drivers in NASCAR here on the site as well.
Danica Patrick is the most successful female open-wheel driver in US history, and also enjoyed many good years on the NASCAR circuit. One of her other titles, among others, is as NASCAR’s shortest-ever driver at just 5 feet 2 inches.
She ran 191 races in the Cup Series, among which she garnered 7 top-ten finishes. Perhaps her greatest achievement was being the first woman to win an IndyCar race, which she did at the 2005 Toyota Indy 300, not to mention her 6 other podium placements in IndyCar races during her career.
All 5 of the shortest drivers mentioned currently in one of NASCAR’s racing series, though some, such as Todd Gilliland, are relatively new to the top-level Cup Series but between them have prior experience in the Xfinity and Truck Series. Let’s learn a little more about each driver:
Hemric is just 32 years old, and has already won two titles in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, as well as races in the Truck Series. In the Cup Series, he drives the Number 11 Chevrolet Camaro for Kaulig Racing. Within the Cup Series, he has had 3 top-ten finishes, and his overall position in the 2022 season was 46th.
His best result so far has been in the 2019 Cup Series, in which he finished 25th overall. He has only had 3 years in that series so far, however, so there’s plenty more action we can expect from him.
Like Hemric, Tyler Reddick is also a former champion in the Xfinity Series. At just 27 years old, however, he has already enjoyed a longer and more successful time in the Cup Series than fellow short driver Hemric.
He has competed in 123 races over 5 years, in which time he has accumulated 4 wins, and 53 top-ten finishes. In the 2022 season, he finished 14th, only one place behind his best-ever finish in 2021, where he came 13th.
Reddick previously had a contract with Richard Childress racing, but the remainder of the contract was purchased by Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin’s team, 23XI Racing in the 2023 season.
Todd Gilliland is the son of David Gilliland, and currently races for Front Row Motorsports. In that team, he drives the Number 38/36 Ford Mustang, but he also sometimes drives the 15/51 Mustang for Rick Ware Racing.
He’s only been in the Cup Series for 2 years and is yet to win his first race, but has already had 5 top-ten finishes, which is still very strong for such a relatively new contender. At just 23 years old, his career is arguably just beginning.
Aged 30 years, Chis Buescher has already racked up 9 years’ experience in the NASCAR Cup Series. During those years, he has accumulated 5 wins, and 51 top-ten finishes. His best season finish was 16th place back in 2016, and in 2022 he finished 21st.
Like many other Cup Series drivers, he has made great achievements in other series, including winning the XFinity Series back in 2015. Buescher drives the Number 17 Ford Mustang for his current team, RFK Racing.
At 5 feet 7 inches, Grala is the “tall” member of our 5-strong team of short drivers. He is also the son of famous endurance racer, Darius Grala. Kaz Grala has been awarded a number of times for being the youngest driver in his field.
For example, at just 18 years old he was the youngest ever driver to make the NASCAR Playoffs. He has only raced in the Cup Series over 3 years, and currently races full time in the XFinity Series for Sam Hunt Racing. He has achieved 13 top-ten finishes in XFinity already, even at the age of just 24 years.
In life we often think of taller people having advantages over shorter people, but in the sport of NASCAR this isn’t necessarily true. The reason the average height of drivers hasn’t changed a great deal is that it’s actually quite advantageous to be shorter. Drivers who are below the average of 5 feet 10 inches have the following benefits:
- Comfort – The cockpit of a NASCAR vehicle is pretty compact, and thus more comfortable for shorter drivers. If you’re facing 600 laps during a race, then that comfort will be a welcome feature
- Weight – Shorter drivers are invariably lighter than their taller counterparts, which gives them another advantage during a race. The weight differences may be small, but every little helps.
- Visibility – It’s actually harder to see out onto the track as a taller driver than it is for shorter drivers. Obviously, there’s a point at which shorter drivers also have a disadvantage, but the current shortest drivers in the sport hit that “sweet spot” where visibility is actually better for them.
Challenges Faced by Shorter NASCAR Drivers:
The adrenaline-packed world of NASCAR presents its own challenges, and for shorter drivers, there’s an added layer of issues to contend with. The foremost concern for many is the reach for controls.
While tall drivers may struggle with legroom, shorter drivers might find it challenging to comfortably reach pedals or the steering column, necessitating adjustments. Additionally, ensuring that the seat positioning allows optimal visibility and safety might require custom paddings or seat risers.
There’s also the risk of being overshadowed, quite literally, in the predominantly taller peer environment, where height could sometimes be mistaken for might.
Evolution of Cockpit Designs and Driver Comfort:
The evolution of NASCAR vehicles reflects more than just the pursuit of speed and aerodynamics; it’s a testimony to the sport’s adaptability to its drivers. Over the years, as the roster of drivers showcased a varied range of heights, the design of the cockpits underwent subtle yet significant transformations.
Earlier NASCAR vehicles, while raw in their pursuit of speed, perhaps didn’t offer the refined customizability of today’s machines. Modern-day cockpits are marvels of ergonomic design, accommodating both the lanky and the less-so with equal finesse.
Adjustable seating, customizable pedal lengths, and steering column adjustments ensure every driver, irrespective of their height, can find their sweet spot of comfort and control.
This evolution underscores NASCAR’s commitment to ensuring that the battlefield is level, and it’s the talent, not the stature, that determines the outcome on the racetrack.
NASCAR, like many sports, provides a stage where diversity in physical stature exists, and yet the success isn’t primarily determined by it. While taller drivers may have to contend with tighter cockpit confines, shorter drivers have their own set of challenges and benefits.
As seen through the careers of the shorter drivers mentioned, height hasn’t deterred them from leaving a mark in the annals of NASCAR history.
The sport, at its heart, celebrates skill, perseverance, and the spirit of competition. So, while physical characteristics can play a role, they don’t define the limits of success in the world of racing.