Friday, November 18, 2011

Stewart title would have historic significance

If Tony Stewart does win his third NASCAR Sprint Cup title Sunday, it will have some historical significance. First, Stewart would be the the only driver to win a Sprint Cup title under NASCAR's three championship systems. He won his first crown in 2002, under the system that had been in place since NASCAR's inception. Then, Stewart won a title in 2005, the second year of the Chase for the Championship, when 10 cars made NASCAR's playoffs, and the points were reset, but the races were still scored under NASCAR's old system. If Stewart wins today, he will be the first driver to win the Chase for the Championship in NASCAR's new scoring system, and the only driver who can win the crown under the three different scenarios.
Jimmie Johnson won the last five titles in the Chase for the Championship Series, and Kurt Busch, who won the first crown when the 10-race Chase started in 2004, did not win a title under the original scoring system.
A title would also tie Stewart with Dale Earnhardt for the second most years between crowns at six. Earnhardt won his first crown in 1980, then not again until 1986. The record for longest time between crowns goes to Terry Labonte who won in 1984 and 1996.
A third title will also put Stewart on a very short list in NASCAR history. Only Richard Petty and Earnhardt each with seven, Johnson with his five, Jeff Gordon with four and Lee Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip each with three, have won more than two NASCAR Sprint Cup titles.
And finally, Stewart would be the first driver-owner to win the crown since the late Alan Kulwicki in 1992, who won a close battle with Bill Elliott by 10 points.

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