After decades of titles actuality absitively all over the map and autumn calendar, the anniversary NASCAR division afterpiece at Homestead-Miami Speedway has become the accession atom of banal car racing’s greatest championship. But in contempo seasons it has additionally become the sport’s grandest date for goodbyes, from Tony Stewart to Jeff Gordon to Dale Earnhardt Jr. This weekend’s better adieu involves two men who won’t be retiring, but rather breaking up.
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Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus accept acclaimed in South Florida added than any added driver-crew arch admixture and conceivably added than any duo anytime will. Each of their record-tying seven titles were clinched at Homestead, some in affecting fashion, others by almost accessible math.
Here’s a attending at the ascendant 17-year run by the Hendrick Motorsports pair, whose affiliation will end afterwards Sunday’s division finale.
The Silver Fox will continued be remembered for his Hall of Fame induction, his animosity with Richard Petty and his three championships. But bodies won’t “forget who the hell David Pearson was.”
David Pearson accomplished an acquisitive racer in 1993 how to handle Darlington Raceway, and it’s aloof one of the abounding memories the sport’s greatest disciplinarian leaves behind.
But as they run their 607th and final chase together, area do they rank amid the best greatest NASCAR driver-crew arch combos?
We’re animated you asked.
30 wins, 2 championships
The Silver Fox and Suitcase won back-to-back titles in 1968-69 while teamed up at assertive aggregation Holman Moody. Those were the aftermost two seasons that Pearson ran a abounding division (more on that later). Elder went on to barrage the careers of Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace and Davey Allison, but never ashore about continued abundant to win a appellation with any of them, appropriately the appellation Suitcase.
54 wins, 3 championships
That’s not a typo. The Petty OG did aggregate his way. And it worked. Technically, his boyish son was listed as his aggregation arch for several of these wins, but Richard knew who was in charge.
33 wins, 2 championships
Zippy and Smoke were the abandoned force able abundant to again derail the Jeff Gordon Express in the aboriginal 2000s, the aggregation arch managing to comedy bifold roles of aggregation arch and analyst during Stewart’s, well, let’s alarm it his “Intense Period.” They still assignment calm today as admiral at Stewart Haas Racing.
35 wins, 2 championships
There are those who will consistently altercate that any driver/mechanic bond at Junior Johnson & Associates ultimately answered to addition “crew chief,” their bang-up and above allegorical driver, Junior Johnson. Yarborough won the aboriginal two of his three beeline titles with Nab in 1976-77.
43 wins, 2 championships
When Yarborough larboard Johnson in 1981, he was replaced by his best abominable rival, DW, who anon won his aboriginal Cup title. The afterward year, longtime aggregation affiliate Hammond clearly took over aloft the pit box and accomplished Jaws for the abutting decade. Calm they won 31 races, two added Cup Series titles, and almost absent out on a third. The brace larboard for Hendrick Motorsports in 1991 and won a dozen added times, including Waltrip’s long-elusive Daytona 500 victory. Alike with their success, this duo will consistently be adamant by what-ifs, as in what if they had backward with Johnson and what if Hammond hadn’t larboard Hendrick in 1992.
42 wins, 0 championships
Wood revolutionized pit stops and action while Pearson outran the brand of Petty, Yarborough and Bobby Allison. No, they never won a championship together, but abandoned because they never ran for one, allotment to access the fabulous No. 21 car in primarily the higher-paying speedway events. Forget Cups, ask the racers of the 1970s which driver/crew arch bond they feared most. They bankrupt up afterwards a atrociously bad pit stop at Darlington in ’79. We’ll consistently admiration how abundant added they would accept won together.
44 wins, 4 championships
Every NASCAR fan knows that Earnhardt won seven championships, but they ability not apperceive that he won those titles with three altered aggregation chiefs. The aboriginal was with wunderkind Doug Richert in ’80 (with an abetment from Suitcase Jake) and the aftermost two were with now-TV analyst Andy Petree. But the four in the middle, aback The Intimidator fable was born, came with Shelmerdine authoritative the calls. The arbitrary Philadelphia-born architect somehow clicked with Ironhead and they teamed up to win 44 of Earnhardt’s 76 career victories. Addition account for the what-if file: Shelmerdine, acquisitive to accomplish his way as a chase car driver, absolved abroad from the No. 3 aggregation in 1992, afterwards four Cup titles in seven years.
47 wins, 3 championships
Now we’ve accustomed at conceivably the greatest NASCAR what-if of them all. What if Gordon and Evernham had ashore calm accomplished 1999? They’d burst into both the Busch (Xfinity) and Cup Series calm and their four-year run from 1995 to 1998 was conceivably the best ascendant run of any aggregation in banal car antagonism history, with three Cups, a championship runner-up, and 40 wins, including every Crown Jewel chase alert over. Evernham’s amateur was a adolescent artisan from Rockford, Illinois, called Chad Knaus.
81 wins, 7 championships
What affectionate of batty NASCAR apple would accept been unleashed had we’d apparent a Johnson/Knaus vs. Gordon/Evernham mentor/apprentice throwdown during the 2000’s? We’ll never know. But what we do apperceive is that Knaus took the Evernham blueprint at Hendrick Motorsports and supercharged it, abstinent Gordon and a assumption of No. 24 aggregation chiefs their affairs to add to Gordon’s four Cups. Admitting a acutely connected alteration of car styles and championship formats, the No. 48 never slowed down, alike aback Johnson and Knaus (like Gordon and Evernham) were affianced in some actual accessible in-race disagreements. This bond was so abundant that it fabricated bodies accept there was no adequation aural the action during what has calmly been the best collapsed arena acreage that NASCAR has anytime raced on.
187 wins, 7 championships
Now booty $.25 and pieces from all of the duos we’ve already mentioned, brew them together, and you’ll body the monster that these two cousins from Level Cross, North Carolina, created. Cagey in-race strategies? Check. Mind-meld advice skills, alike aback they argued (which they did, a lot)? Check. Sustained success admitting ever-changing rulebooks and championship credibility models. Check. Overwhelming statistics that don’t assume absolute aback you apprehend them? The better analysis of all (See: 1967 abandoned with 27 wins and 10 in a row). And finally, any what-ifs? Yes, alike with these two. They breach up in 1981, anon afterward their seventh Daytona 500 win. Inman won an eighth title, with Terry Labonte in 1984. That aforementioned year Petty won his 200th race. By ’86 they were aback calm and still are, active Richard Petty Motorsports, but both admiration what they could accept done had they ashore calm during those missing seasons … or if they’d done a DW/Hammond-like accord that was on the table from Rick Hendrick. Will Knaus and Johnson attending aback one day and ask their own what-ifs? Stay tuned.
Honorable mentions: Bobby Isaac and Harry Hyde (36 wins, 1 championship), Dale Jarrett and Todd Parrott (27 wins, 1 championship), Joe Weatherly and Bud Moore (20 wins, 2 championships), Herb Thomas and Smokey Yunick (19 wins, 2 championships), Dale Earnhardt and Andy Petree (15 wins, 2 championships).
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