In college football, it is possible to have two national champions—one who wins the BCS Championship Game and the other who is voted on by the Associated Press.
NASCAR, like collegiate football also shares the possibility of having two champions. While it's something that will probably never happen in the Cup Series, it has happened the last two years in the Nationwide Series and three times overall in the sport's minor league.
The split championship is one where the driver and owner titles are shared by different teams. This happens as a result of several top-notch drivers sharing a ride throughout the year, but none running enough to compete for the Driver Championship.
The first time it happened in the series was in 2003, when Brian Vickers won the driver title with Hendrick Motorsports. That same year, Richard Childress Racing took the owner crown with drivers Kevin Harvick and Johnny Sauter sharing the seat of the No. 21 Chevy.
A once in a lifetime kind of deal, right? Wrong!
In 2007 it happened again—and RCR was again involved.
Carl Edwards drove his Roush Fenway Ford to his first Nationwide Series championship, while the duo of Jeff Burton and Scott Wimmer took home the owner championship in the No. 29 Chevy.
OK, so two times is crazy, but three?
2008 was the year when Clint Bowyer won the driver championship. Isn't it funny how RCR is involved in all three instances? However, the No. 20 Toyota driven throughout the season by Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart and Joey Logano brought home the first owner title in the series for Joe Gibbs Racing.
So, could it happen again in 2009?
It's definitely a possibility. As the season nears, the hunt for the championship is looking to be one of the most competitive in recent years—if not ever!
Edwards will again take to the minor league to try and win his second championship in three seasons, while Busch is a threat to bring home both championships for the first time since Harvick did so in an RCR Chevy in 2006.
The reigning owners champion will return with Logano, Brad Coleman and Hamlin sharing the driving duties. Logano will kick off the season in the No. 20 GameStop Toyota this Saturday at Daytona.
In the other corner, the No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevy has Burton, Bowyer and a young Stephen Leight behind the wheel. Bowyer will kick off the season at Daytona for the title contender.
A third contender for the title is the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford. Sophomore sensation David Ragan will pilot the car this weekend at Daytona but will share the duties with Erik Darnell.
Vickers and Burney Lamar will share time in the No. 32 Dollar General Toyota fielded by Braun Racing.
Dark Horse: The No. 33 Kevin Harvick Incorporated Chevy could be a silent contender for the owners championship. With the 2006 champion himself taking a few laps, as well as Ryan Newman, Ron Hornaday Jr., Cale Gale and Stewart (for one race).
Seven drivers vying for Rookie of the Year Honors
Seven drivers will compete for the 21st annual Raybestos Rookie of the Year award in the Nationwide Series—six will be on display for the first time in series competition this Saturday at Daytona.
While the group is young—average age of 24.6 years old and only 33 starts between all seven—it is crammed full of talent.
The contenders include:
• Scott Lagasse Jr. (No. 11 America's Incredible Pizza Co. Toyota)
• Justin Allgaier (No. 12 Verizon Wireless Dodge)
• Michael Annett (No. 15 Pilot Travel Centers Toyota)
• Brendan Gaughan
• Michael McDowell (No. 47 Tom's Toyota)
• John Wes Townley (No. 09 Zaxby's Ford)
• Erick Darnell (not schedule to make debut until April at Richmond)
Only McDowell, who started this race a year ago, has series experience on the high banks of the 2.5-mile oval.
Nine former NASCAR Nationwide Raybestos Rookie winners are entered at Daytona: Ragan (2007), Danny O'Quinn Jr. (2006), Edwards (2005), Kyle Busch (2004), Greg Biffle (2001), Kevin Harvick (2000), Tony Raines (1999), Joe Nemecheck (1990), and Kenny Wallace (1989).