Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In the Rearview Mirror: Kulwicki and Stewart comparisons are truly unjust

Credit: RacingOne multimedia
Tony Stewart is the first owner/driver since Alan Kulwicki to win the grand prize in NASCAR. While the comparisons have been levied between the two, there are honestly more differences than similarities.

Kulwicki and Stewart each overcame a deficit to win the championship. For Kulwicki, it was in the final six races of the 1992 season that he gained momentum toward his goal of obtaining the Winston Cup. On the other hand, Stewart claimed his third title by winning five of the final Chase races after a lackluster regular season performance. Nevertheless, he was able to beat Carl Edwards in a historic tiebreaker.

Kulwicki and Stewart also share a diverse racing resume. Kulwicki got his start on dirt tracks and progressed his way into ASA, Busch Series then finally Winston Cup. Stewart has done it all: go-karts, USAC, winning the IRL championship and moving to NASCAR. Stewart’s career is extremely diverse. I think the only thing he hasn’t race on in a car is maybe ice?

That is where the similarities seem to stop. Kulwicki was a solo operation, wielding a briefcase through the garage area conducting business as he strolled along. He started his race team from the ground up. While Stewart is considered an owner/driver, it’s important to remember that he is a co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing with Gene Haas, and the team was already in existence (formerly Haas CNC Racing) when Stewart bought into it. Also, a key to their success has been their partnership with powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports.
Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR
"It's an honor to be in the same category with Alan Kulwicki," Stewart said. "But Alan did it all on his own. I've got a great co-owner with Gene Haas and (general manager) Joe Custer helped put all this together with (Hendrick Motorsports owner) Rick Hendrick."

Coincidentally, part of the successful workings at SHR also have ties to Kulwicki. Tony Gibson, crew chief for Ryan Newman, also worked for Kulwicki from 1986 through his championship in 1992.

Family support also separates the two. Kulwicki’s father, Gerry, built engines for USAC but did not take any time to support a young Alan as he tried to learn the sport and the ropes. Undeterred, Alan stayed on his path and made it without any help. In comparison, Stewart’s family has openly been there to support him. His father Nelson can be found at many races and has been a strong force in his career. Tony thanked his family in his speech this past week: “I want to thank my mom, dad, and my sister Natalie. You guys have sacrificed so much for my career and my life; I know my sister, I have been a pain in your butt for sure,” Stewart kidded. “That’s what brothers do.”

While there are some similarities between Stewart and Kulwicki, the comparison between the two is unjust. Comparing any winner to a winner of a different time and different circumstance is a whole other story. Each man has his own personal tale to tell; let that speak for itself rather than say "Tony Stewart is the new Alan Kulwicki." There will never be another Alan Kulwicki.

_______________

NASCAR By the Numbers and In the Rearview Mirror (looking back at NASCAR's history) are Amanda's two weekly columns with Skirts and Scuffs, but as an Associate Editor her duties are limitless. Amanda also expanded her area of coverage to include exclusive interviews, brought straight to the readers of Skirts and Scuffs. To read her past columns and interviews click here.Feel free to follow and contact Amanda via Twitter

1 comments :

  1. No, Tony's accomplishment is not the same al Kuleicki's. But Kuleicki's way is just not possible in today's high-budget super-team-oriented NASCAR. What Tony was able to do is the closest thing we'll get to a "Kuleicki".

    That in no way diminishes the magnitude of Tony's feat. Recall that Haas CNC recorded just a single top-5 finish in 5 seasons. All that changed with Tony's arrival. Gene Haas laid a nice foundation, but Tony and his own group of guys built the championship house.

    ReplyDelete