COMPARING NASCAR CHAMPIONS TO SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS
Dale Wilkerson January 2011
Every year it seems that the majority of the folks working the different broadcasts from Daytona will refer to the Daytona 500 as the Super Bowl of Auto Racing.
Granted, the Daytona 500 is the biggest race of the year for NASCAR but it does not decide the championship, it is just stop one on a 36-stop schedule. So actually the driver who wins the NASCAR Championship will be a better comparison to the Super Bowl Champion.
Just for fun, I will compare past NASCAR Champions and drivers to Super Bowl teams.
I begin with the team that had the motto, commitment to excellence. They were also known as the hardest hitting team around. I mean they would bump you, grind their cleats into you, and do just about anything to win the game. Playing like that and a black and silver color scheme is there any doubt who the Raiders remind me of? Dale Earnhardt drove as hard as the Raiders played, especially during their Super Bowl years.
This next one, I went back and forth with which driver best resembled this team. The Dallas Cowboys have played in the Super Bowl eight times, winning five of those. This team transformed from the clean cut image of the late Tom Landry to a somewhat boisterous and flamboyant image of the teams led by Jimmy Johnson. Darrell Waltrip was somewhat loud and boisterous as a driver, and just like the former Cowboys Coach and his now teammate with Fox TV, their hair is perfect. I wonder if Johnson and Waltrip use Dapper Dan or some other form of hair jelly. The Cowboys are a love ‘em or hate ‘em team, and the battle lines were similar when ole ‘DW’ was at the top of his game.
Cale Yarborough’s dominance was similar to the Bill Walsh offense of the San Francisco 49ers. Heck, Cale could have played linebacker for them. Jimmy Johnson, the five-time Sprint Cup Champion, looks a lot like the New England Patriots. Johnson doesn’t talk a lot of smack, he just drives kind of like Tom Brady and the Patriots, they just play football.
Rusty Wallace would compare to the New York Jets. Rusty talks all the time, if you listened in on him during a race with a scanner, you know what I mean. Joe Namath guarantying a win sounds like something Rusty would do.
Joe Gibbs won three Super Bowls with the Redskins, and he has three NASCAR titles. Two of those were won by Tony Stewart. The Colts have won Super Bowls in two different cities; Baltimore and Indianapolis. For the Baltimore Colts we go old school with Ned Jarrett and for Indianapolis we keep it in the family and go with Dale Jarrett.
Bobby Labonte won the first championship for Gibbs but his title run reminds me of the St Louis Rams. Terry Labonte was known as the NASCAR Ironman and perhaps no team resembles him better than the New York Giants. The Chiefs pulled of an impressive Super Bowl win that showed the grit and determination of a true winner, much like the LG Dewitt racing team and Benny Parsons did on their title run.
Bobby Allison grew up not far from Miami, so this hometown hero gets to represent his hometown team.
When the Chicago Bears made their run to their lone Super Bowl win led by #9 Jim McMahon, the dominance looked like a certain #9 NASCAR at Talladega without a restrictor plate, and that would be the red #9 of Bill Elliott. The Saints run to the Super Bowl last year somewhat resembled the run of Clements Racing and Rex White and their way to the 1960 NASCAR Championship.
The City of Baltimore has another Super Bowl win, this one coming with the Ravens. The Ravens could be called a mix of the Raiders and the Cowboys, hard hitting, a little boisterous, and a few run-ins with law enforcement. This sounds a little like Kurt Busch. Tampa Bay also has a Super Bowl win. The team known as the ultimate underdogs knocked of the Raiders. During Alan Kulwicki’s run to the 1992 Championship, he called his Thunderbird the Underbird as he charged from behind to claim the title.
Several teams won the NFL Championship before the advent of the Super Bowl. Two of those teams have not advanced to the Super Bowl, but they have deep roots in the history of the NFL. The old school Cleveland Browns compare a lot to Lee Petty while the Detroit Lions could be compared to Tim Flock. During the 1950’s, it was hard to beat the Browns and the Lions, and it was equally as difficult to get the best of Lee Petty or Tim Flock.
Not all teams have won the Super Bowl that has advanced, just like there are more drivers that have lost a championship than the ones that have won. The Vikings advanced four times but came up short in each. James Hylton finished second three times, and as he competed without major sponsors, he battled hard each week, much like a team that had to battle the Bears, Packers, and Lions for a division title each year.
The Buffalo Bills dropped four in a row and no matter how well they played; they are remembered for not winning the big one. Mark Martin has that distinction in NASCAR and many NASCAR fans hope that this season, as Martin will be in the final year of his contract with Hendrick Motorsports, that he will no longer be known as the bride’s maid.
If The Titans had gained just two more yards, they would own a Super Bowl win. If Davey Allison had been a few yards ahead of the spinning car of Ernie Irvan in 1992, he might have won the championship that season. Harry Gant came close a few times, but never won the title, much like the Eagles in the Super Bowl Era.
Sterlin Marlin looked to be on his way to a title until a sudden right turn resulted in a season ending injury. That right turn looked a lot like an errant kick-off that cost the Panthers a title. Kyle Petty had a chance at the 1992 NASCAR title but came up short in Atlanta, so he represents the Falcons. Ricky Rudd finished second once, but the gap from first to second looked a lot like the gap between the Chargers and the 49er’s.
Carl Edwards has made a couple of runs at the title, but has never flipped over a Sprint Cup Title, much like the Bengals during the 1980’s. Denny Hamlin took the lead late in the season and looked to be on his way to the title until Johnson’s comeback at Homestead last year, much like the Cardinals in their lone Super Bowl appearance.
This leaves two Super Bowl teams to be assigned, and that is this year’s matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Many say this is the best head-to-head matchup in Super Bowl history. The Packers have more championships than any team in the history of the NFL. Richard Petty has seven championships and seven Daytona 500 wins. The Steelers began their Super Bowl winning ways in the 1970’s, when David Pearson and the Woods Brothers Mercury combined for 46 race wins. Pearson won three NASCAR championships while driving for Holman Moody and Cotton Owens, where much like the Steelers, if he was in contention for the championship, he won it.
A lot of folks know my allegiance in both NASCAR and the NFL. David Pearson is still my favorite driver and I have pulled for the Steelers since elementary school. So when I remind you that in head-to-head competition for race wins, as Pearson and Petty finished 1-2 as the checkered flag waved, Pearson holds the advantage. Will the Steelers defeat the Packers in the Super Bowl this weekend? Can Aaron Rogers lead his team to another post season victory? Just like a good NASCAR race, we have got to wait for the green flag to wave to find out.