What Stewart has accomplished in turning around the former Haas CNC Racing team in such a short time is remarkable, but it still does not even compare to what Alan Kulwicki accomplished in 1992. Stewart has aligned himself with some phenomenal partners since day one, and it is obvious that some of the support came from those around him in these concluding races. I'm not throwing Stewart or his team under the bus as he is one of the most talented and versatile drivers we have seen in recent history. However, there is no argument that Stewart himself, the group from Haas Automation as well as many other corporate sponsors and the assistance from Hendrick Motorsports had already been established and had the luxury of investing a vast amount of funds in order to prepare for this moment. I do not consider Stewart an owner/driver. In my mind, he is a driver/partner.
The last owner/driver champion, Alan Kulwicki, turned a college education and impressive driving skills at the local level into a NASCAR championship in less than a decade. Clearly he gathered the support from a well-rounded team and highly engaged sponsors along the way, but he did this with very little personal funds and without a teammate or satellite team's expertise. Even if he had the opportunity to consult with similar teams in the garage it would not have been entirely possible, because those were the teams in which he had to race against for the championship in the end.
Going back to 2011, there's no doubt that Sunday's race had a phenomenal conclusion. There's not much in racing that is more exciting than seeing two of the finest competitors push their cars to the limit in order to achieve the victory. The problem I still have is how the champion has been decided in recent years. From a statistical standpoint, some of the numbers just don't make sense. Stewart earned the least number of top five finishes among champions since 1950 (back when they only had 19 races), which equates to only 25% of this year's 36 races. I believe that the unique competition in auto racing is entirely different than most other sports, so why try to make it like several of the others and add a playoff format? These teams are competing in a 36+ week marathon to be the best in the sport. From my perspective, the driver that completes the season with the most consistency should be the champion and it's highly doubtful that my opinion will ever come to any other conclusion.
Now I will be moving on in just over a week to see a race where no points, only bragging rights are involved: the 44th Annual Snowball Derby weekend at Five Flags Speedway. Before I head there I will be stopping in Biloxi, Mississippi for a few days as part of a trip I won a few months back. I'll be checking out a few of the casinos, playing in a poker tournament and since I'm so close perhaps driving into Louisiana for the first time in my life. Then it will be off to Pensacola, Florida where for the second straight year I plan to attend many of the week's events leading up to the 300 lap race on Sunday. Five Flags Speedway holds 3 nights of supporting races as well as a green flag party on Wednesday night where fans can meet the drivers and listen to live music. There's also the Fast Eddie's Snowball Showdown on Thursday night where fans can race against some of the drivers in go-karts. Speed51.com kicks off the week's festivities on Tuesday night at the local Beef O' Brady's restaurant with a radio show featuring many of the drivers as guests.
I'm going to try and put together a Snowball Derby preview video beforehand if time permits, and plan to upload photos and videos nearly every day during the week. Stay tuned to http://www.youtube.com/ajcrdstr24!
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