The Frontstretch: Time To Put the * In the NASCAR Record Books by Jeff Meyer -- Wednesday November 7, 2007

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Time To Put the * In the NASCAR Record Books

Voices From the Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Wednesday November 7, 2007


One thing that really, really irks me – as well as many NASCAR fans – is the use of the term “Nextel Cup Champion.” It is commonly said that Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt are each 7-time Nextel Cup Champions. Jeff Gordon is also known to be a 4-time Nextel Cup Champion, singled out as the only man capable of tying, or possibly eclipsing, those two NASCAR icons.

Well, such statements are simply not true.

Right now, in the sports world outside of NASCAR, there are two major sports that are in the (possible) turmoil of adding an asterisk to the names of record breakers in their record books. Those sports are Major League Baseball and the National Football League, respectively.

For even if you are not a baseball fan, you surely know by now that Barry Bonds has broken the home run record held for 33 years by Hank Aaron, who eclipsed Babe Ruth's record in 1974. You should also know that many, if not most, baseball fans also think that, when it comes to home run records, the record book should read "Barry B*nds."

Of course, the asterisk is in reference to the fact that Bonds, almost certainly, used steroids throughout much of his career in his quest to obtain the home run record. Ruth and Aaron, on the other hand, used the tried and true method of pure skill, longevity, and perhaps a well-prepared meal.

In the NFL, it has been suggested earlier this week that should the New England Patriots go undefeated throughout the '07 season – accomplishing a feat that only achieved by the 1972 Miami Dolphins – there should be an asterisk by their name, as well. The reason their amazing feat (should they succeed) is even being called into question is because of a scandal that was revealed earlier this year, known as "Spygate."

Basically, what the Patriots had been doing is stealing the opposing coach's signals. While this sort of thing, to some degree, goes on all the time, officials within the NFL felt that whatever the Patriots were caught doing went way above and beyond the rules and accepted limits. So much so, in fact, that the NFL levied unprecedented fines against both their coach and the Patriots organization as a whole. Hopefully, someone like the Packers (Go Pack!) will come along and make it all a mute point … but I digress.

Of course, the record books of both professional baseball and football will not contain those aforementioned asterisks in those special cases; but they should, especially when it comes to B*nds.

And in the world of NASCAR, those asterisks should appear, as well; in particular, by any champion’s name after 2004. That is when Nextel stepped in, and Brian France drastically changed the points system; in turn, affecting the way the champion was crowned.

So that means – if you want to get technical – Richard Petty actually has five Winston Cup titles … to go along with two Grand National ones. Dale Earnhardt Sr. has seven Winston Cup trophies, while Jeff Gordon has won himself four. But none of them has ever won a Nextel Cup title … and it just isn't fair to compare the two types.

My point to all this is that unless the points system in NASCAR goes back to some resemblance of how it was in the past, a Winston Cup and a Nextel / Sprint (or whatever they will be calling it down the road) Cup are just not comparable.

And that means Gordon, as it stands now, will never have the opportunity to fairly have a shot at eclipsing those great icons. If things were similar, Gordon would statistically have more titles in hand; in fact, he’d have wrapped up his sixth one at Texas under the old Winston Cup points system. But where you used to win apples, now the prize is oranges; and as a result, Jeff Gordon’s number remains just four.

That’s fine; but should he add to that total down the road, the record books should note the difference if the true story is to be told.

Stay off the wall,

Jeff Meyer

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Today on the Frontstretch:
NASCAR Easter Eggs: A Few Off-Week Nuggets to Chew On
Five Points To Ponder: NASCAR’s Take-A-Breath Moment
Truckin’ Thursdays: Top Five All-Time Truck Series Drivers
Going By the Numbers: A Week Without Racing Can Bring Relief But Kill Momentum


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True Fan
11/07/2007 11:03 PM

How about we just call them N.A.S.C.A.R. titles ? DUH!

11/08/2007 03:43 AM


11/08/2007 04:09 AM

You mean Hank Aar*n? He’s the guy that finally accumulated more home runs in a longer career, playing more games per season than Babe Ruth. Of course you wouldn’t remember that because time eliminates all asterisks.

How about all the points formats they used prior to the one they settled on? Since Earnhardt won his using the cup system, shouldn’t all they have the asterisk? Maybe David Pearson should just have all of his champion seasons asterisked since none of them were under the only “true” points system apparently.

Or maybe, we should just give all the champions there due because they were able to win the championship using the same system that everyone else on the track was held to in that season?


11/08/2007 06:18 AM

I agree Jeff. In fact everything NASCAR does lately bugs me. Brian France is quickly heading down the path of becoming the next Tony George.

11/08/2007 06:45 AM

We need to calm down about the terrible injustice suffered by Gordon . At this rate we’ll soon be discussing giving him two Cup championships for 2004 and at least one for this year , maybe two . That should give him enough championships to satisfy his fans, and writers who are suppossed to remain un-biased to do a good job but obviously aren’t .
What shall we do about the Cup championships when Hoosier tires were let in after years of only Goodyear ? I think we need to award a Cup title to the highest Goodyear driver and to the highest Hoosier driver, because previous or post years could not be compared on equal terms . And as long as we’re so concerned about fair comparisons , Dale Earnhardt did not finish his racing career . He would probably have raced for several more years and certainly could have won more races and even championships . So if and when Gordon or anyone else reaches 7 championships , there will have to be an asterisk next to their name and a footnote * This person equaled the championship total of two drivers , one who was killed and had no opportunity but certainly the ability to increase his total, and one whose number of career wins will never be equaled . That sounds like a fair asterisk .

B France Blows
11/08/2007 08:02 AM

NASCAR should put an asterisk beside the 48 last year and possible this year. Any team who can’t stop cheating and has their crew chief suspended for close to 15% of the points races over the last two years certainly deserves the *

Steve M.
11/08/2007 08:28 AM

WOW, a lot of non-Jeff Gordon fans, as well as Hendrick’s and Jimmie Johnson. Personally I love all the attacks that are made towards Jeff. That means that he’s doing his job; winning races and championships (regardless of an * or not), and proving that he’s a better race car driver than most of the others. You don’t have to like the man, you can make up all the stories you want about him, you can argue till you’re blue in the face about his driving skills or techniques. But it won’t do any good, cuz he’s won 81 races and 4 Championships, and will hopefully break another record by finishing in the top 10 in the final two weeks. If so he breaks Dale Jarrett’s record for the number of top 10 finishes in one season. Sorry all you FAG’s (Fan’s Against Gordon), but these are the facts and you can’t dispute them. Does he deserve an asterisk for the two years that he would have won if it weren’t for the Chase points system? That all depends on whether or not the Chase disappears and the old points system (or something similiar) replaces it. If so, then yes, he does. And if it never happens, so be it..the man is still a better driver than yours!

M.B. Voelker
11/08/2007 08:45 AM

Richard Petty won his championships under several, different points systems. Got any asterisks for him?

The driver who comes out on top according to the rules currently in place is the legitimate champion. Period. No asterisks required.

Steve M.
11/08/2007 09:05 AM

M.B., do you know where I can find when the pre-Chase points system came into effect? I’ve researched and cannot find that information. I understand what you’re saying about the curret point system vs. the Champion. What I don’t like is not having my facts when discussing NASCAR from 20 or 30 years ago. Possibly Jeff Meyer can assist with this question. When exactly did the pre-Chase points system go into effect?

11/08/2007 10:04 AM

AS far as I’m concerned a championship is a championship regardless of who won it (ie not my driver) but what really irks me is that every championship is referred to as a Nextel Cup Championship. Did they go and change the plaques on Sr, Petty, Labonte, Waltrip, etc’s trophies? Anything prior to ’04 is a WINSTON Champ.

11/08/2007 10:10 AM

It disturbs me too. This revisionist history is B*@#S*#! Grand National Championships was the wording in the news stories when Petty, Jarrett, and Johnson won. Did coverts from Nextel break into Bill, Rusty’s, Benny, and Dale’s homes? Etch off the words Winston Cup, and stencil in Nextel Cup? And now that Nextel is defunct, people 20 years from now are going to ask, “what the heck is a Nextel?” Call them what they were.
As far as Bonds goes, once the Giants slugger retires, his name in the official MLB record books will be forever accompanied by an asterisk, followed by a pound sign and exclamation point, all preceded by the letter ‘F‘—a string of characters that will always be associated with Barry Bonds.
When people think of Roger Maris, they immediately think ‘asterisk. And when people of this and future generations think of Barry Bonds, they will immediately think F*#!.

Most experts, fans, teammates, and those close to the seven-time MVP say that, while Maris was never able to adjust to the stigma of being remembered as a historical footnote, Bonds is already used to constantly hearing the phrase “F*#!” everywhere he goes.

Also, Aaron was no choirboy. Although he is presumed to be a man with some class and dignity, stories tell of him being jacked up most of the time on amphetamines. I’m sure it helped him keep up for games, much like coffee. But I don’t view what he or Bonds has done any less because if that’s all it took, why aren’t more people at 50 homers a year or 500 for their career? And, what about all those pitchers whose recovery time was quicker and able to pitch every 4th day, instead of having to sit out and Bonds feasting on lesser quality pitchers? These guys might have the record, but we all know that the “Babe” was the King.

11/08/2007 10:29 AM

Are you serious? Petty actually drove *STOCK CARS, so that gets an extra asterisk…they even raced on *DIFFERENT TRACKS…that gets another. What really, really irks me is that Meyer is clueless.

11/08/2007 10:49 AM

>>Jeff Gordon has won himself four.<<

Jeff, Jeff, Jeff.

Last weekend, Gordon wrapped up his sixth Winston Cup.

If that billionaire buffoon down in Daytona Beach hadn’t mucked around with his silly “Chase,” The Brian could be looking at history next year. Instead, he’ll be seeing more and more empty seats.

11/08/2007 11:10 AM

A title is a title, regardless of how convoluted and the rules may be.

Also, it’s moot point, not mute point.

Hopefully, someone like the Packers (Go Pack!) will come along and make it all a mute point

J. Meyer
11/08/2007 11:22 AM

OMG! Mark, you are correct. We are going to have to put an * in the editors paycheck this week!

Lyle M
11/08/2007 12:27 PM

It doesn’t look like we will have to worry about Gordons’ record because Jimmie Johnson has sure ruled the Hendrick team for the last two seasons . It appears he will win the championship this year , and i don’t see anything to stop him next year either . He has proven he is the number one driver at Hendrick .

11/08/2007 02:23 PM

When the rules change all teams change the way they do things all season to win the Championship In 2004 these are the facts for all the Gordon fans Jimmie Johnson had a huge point lead in August and according to the TV interviews from him, Chad Knaus and Rick Hendrick they were running experimental setups and engines to test for the chase and they lost a ton of points and that is why Gordon caught up. No doubt this year he would of won by the old rules but not 2004 no way no how.

11/08/2007 02:48 PM

In all reality, all of these drivers should simple be referred to as ‘Cup Champions’. If they decide to rename the Series to something other than ‘Cup’ then that name goes along with it. Maybe it was called something else when Richard Petty won some of his championships, but it was basically the same Series that turned into ‘Cup’ at some point.

Further, the actual points system in place is irrelevant. All of the teams and drivers are racing to the same system, which is known at the beginning of the season. The Champion is the Champion. If you think of it any other way, then every season will have some sort of asterisk.

11/08/2007 03:21 PM

While I agree with the asterisk thing in general,and especially where the 48 team is concerned,if you’re going to those lengths,perhaps there’s one more to be added. Since Dale Earnhardt won his last Winston Cup championship due to Ernie Irvan’s untimely accident,there should be an asterisk there too. No champion before or since,had the good fortune of having his chief competition lost for the season,allowing him the title. Let’s face it,had Irvan finished the season it almost certainly would have resulted in a championship,leaving Earnhardt’s permanent record at 6,not 7. Think of it this way-if the entire Pittsburgh Steelers franchise perished in a plane crash before Super Bowl 41,that would have handed the title to the Seahawks. On that basis alone,Earnhardt’s seventh title deserves and asterisk.

11/08/2007 09:41 PM

While I agree that calling the Cup anything more than that seems silly, especially the way things change so fast in NASCAR year it could be the “Handi-Wipe Cup” for all we know I think the bottom line is that whoever won the championship that year under that seasons rules is the champion. Interesting opinion piece on MSNBC reagrding how boring NASCAR has become: Nothing we haven’t said here I guess.


Contact Jeff Meyer

Recent articles from Jeff Meyer:

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