Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Crafton... and What Makes a Champion

Alright, good, I'm not the only one with some sanity.

Then there's this moron...

I don't even know where to begin with this. On the one hand, we agree that Crafton wasn't at fault; but then he goes on a tirade about the Truck series being boring, and having sucked since 2001 when they got the high compression engines........ Uuuuh, wtf Truck Series are you watching? This season is definitely the exception to the rule--assuming Hornaday doesn't have some trouble and Crafton catches up, which is still a possibility.

The racing in the Truck series for the past several years has been easily the best of the three major series--awesome side-by-side racing, a variety of great short tracks, non-restrictor plate super speedway racing with REAL drafting, and more importantly, GREAT championship battles that consistently come down to the last race of the season. This is ESPECIALLY true of the last two seasons, plus the season that Kvapil won the title. The racing has been awesome, plain and simple. I won't disagree that the "top teams" run near the front, but that's the same in any series; those top teams are still putting on the best racing on the planet.

Moving onto this statement:

These factors have left Hornaday with few challengers. This season, his greatest competition each week comes from Crafton - a driver who has only one career win (none this season) and just 29 Top-5 finishes in 215 career Truck Series starts.

Okay, and? How is it the fault of the SERIES that Kyle Busch came in and dominated four races, or that Hornaday has put together a dream season? The first time in recent MEMORY that anyone's put together a dream season, by the way...

This brings me to my next point: What makes a Champion.

If there's one argument I hate about the current Chase debacle, it's that "champions need to win all the races..." Plain and simple, stockcar racing has always been more about consistency. The days of having Richard Petty win ten races in a season or Jeff Gordon winning thirteen are becoming more and more scarce, as rules continue to level the playing field (whether that's good or not is another argument entirely.) To assume that a driver who "only" wins once or twice a year is somehow not deserving of racing for the championship is absurd.

When Matt Kenseth won the championship having won only one race, it wasn't really anything new--Terry Labonte won both his championships with only two wins, and Benny Parsons won his with only one win too. Where was all the whining and bitching then? It wasn't around, because REAL racing fans were the majority of fans watching back then, and they appreciated the consistency these guys posessed.

Consistency, in my opinion, is way more impressive than going out there and winning. People are actually saying Kyle Busch "deserves" to be in the Chase more than someone like Bryan Vickers or, for that matter, Juan Montoya? They're insane. The #18 team has proven only one thing: they're fast as hell, and inconsistent as hell. They "deserve" whatever finish they get, Chase or otherwise.

The mark of a true Champion, plain and simple, is NOT winning. It's the ability to overcome adversity.

I'm no big Jimmie Johnson fan, but he illustrates this perfectly anyway. How many times in the last few years have we seen Johnson have a crappy night, ill handling, involved in a wreck, screw-up in the pits, running somewhere down in the 20s, or even two or THREE laps down... And by the end of the night, he finishes 6th or 7th!? THAT is the mark of a Champion, and the mark of a championship-calibre team: the ability to never give up, never say die, and constantly improve on a bad situation.

You can't blame his team (or Montoya's, for that matter) for working the system. It's another argument entirely as to whether The Chase is a good idea (I think it blows), but do you REALLY think that Johnson, if we were on the old points system, wouldn't still be winning championships? They work whatever system they run in.

Which is why Crafton is every bit a legitimate threat in the Truck series. He's a veteran who's been around for several years; he has consistent sponsor backing and a great team, and he is the very picture of consistency. Has he won a lot? Hell no, he's only won once. But talk about bad luck, the guy has been leading so often near the end of a race only to lose it at the last second, it must be hard for his team to keep coming back. But they do. They never give up, they never back down, and like he said, he "ain't afraid." I respect that.

One of these days, someone is going to win a Championship without winning a race. And I will laugh my ass off at Brian France for hours, and toast the champion. I've been a Mark Martin fan since I was 9, and he's the top seed in the points right now, and I want him to win so damn bad it hurts.

But if he isn't gonna take it, I could think of nothing more satisfying than seeing Juan Montoya become the 2009 Sprint Cup Champion--without winning a single race.

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