Horsepower and Manpower: The Greatest Dynasties in Motorsports
With Jimmie Johnson winning his fourth consecutive Sprint Cup Championship in 2009, the term "dynasty" was changed forever in NASCAR.
With all the hype that is surrounding Jimmie Johnson, it got me wondering what it takes to become a dynasty in the world of motorsports. The fact is, there have been very few.
It is tough enough to succeed in the sport, let alone become a dynasty. However, there have been drivers and teams that have successfully proved everyone wrong.
So, as we embark on a very historic moment in motorsports, I thought it would be appropriate to look back at some of the sport's greatest dynasties.
Richard Petty: Bow Down to the King
Every sport has it's icon. Baseball has many, such as Babe Ruth and Cal Ripken, basketball has Michael Jordan, football has Joe Montana, and hockey has Wayne Gretzky.
In NASCAR, the biggest icon without a doubt is "The King," Richard Petty. The classic cowboy hat, the dark sunglasses, and that bright smile and mustache make him the most recognized figure in the garage.
The team his father started, Petty Enterprises, is the winningest organization in NASCAR. Petty holds 200 victories, a record that will almost never be equaled, and continues to place himself at the forefront of the sport.
Petty also was at the forefront of one of the sport's key ingredients, sponsorship. His long-time sponsor, STP, has been with Petty since 1972, making it the longest running sponsorship deal in NASCAR history. It started a trend of major companies coming on board to keep teams funded. Now, sponsorship is the most important aspect of the sport, all because of a $250,000 deal in 1972.
His success as a team owner is just as impressive. Drivers such as John Andretti, Bobby Labonte, and the late Bobby Hamilton Sr. have driven his famous No. 43, with Andretti and Hamilton putting the famous number in victory late on three separate occasions.
His legacy is set in stone. Next year, Petty will be inducted in the inaugural class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. When you think of dynasties in motorsports, Petty's nickname says it all. He is truly "The King."
John Force: Nothing Funny About It
There is nobody in the NHRA that is more vocal, more poignant, and more excited than John Force. His attitude and his driving style are exactly like the title sponsor of the series: Full Throttle.
Force got his first win in funny car back in 1987. Little did everyone know that what would follow would be nothing short of a dynasty.
As of the end of the 2009 season, Force has 126 career victories in 202 final round appearances, a 63 percent win rate. No other driver in any of the top four classes in the NHRA Full Throttle Series comes close to that win mark. Force has more titles than any driver in the NHRA with 14.
Not only is he a good driver, he also has proven to be a top team owner. Force owns three other cars in the funny car series, driven by Robert Hight, Mike Neff and his own daughter, Ashley Force Hood.
All his drivers have won events, with Hight winning his first championship this year.
He has also seen the negative of being an owner as Force's former driver, Eric Medlen, died last year in a testing accident. However, he pulled his team together, taking a week off from racing to honor Medlen and his family. Shortly after, the team returned and won in honor of their fallen teammate.
The dynasty that Force has in motorsports continues on as he continues driving. More titles will be in his future, whether he's the owner or driver.
Richard Childress and Dale Earnhardt: Intimidating the Competition
These days it is hard to find many owner-driver combinations that last for a long period of time. But in the case of the duo of Dale Earnhardt and Richard Childress, their dynasty was all left on the race track.
Childress, a driver at the time, decided to take the chance of running a team and stepped out of the driver's seat. However, he needed a driver that could win.
Earnhardt had not won a title since 1980, and had fallen on some hard times when his team was sold. He raced for Bud Moore for a few years, and then was teamed up with Childress.
What came was both a dynasty and a friendship unlike any ever seen in NASCAR. Earnhardt and Childress combined to win 66 races and six championships, including Earnhardt's record-tying title in 1994 and his emotional win in the Daytona 500 in 1998.
Outside the track, the two were extremely close. Both lost their fathers early in life, were avid hunters, and wanted to succeed. It was the perfect combination, one that was cut short far too soon.
Earnhardt's death in 2001 took away one of the greatest owner-driver combinations ever in NASCAR. Childress did not just lose a driver, he lost a friend.
The dynasty that these two have left goes beyond racing and championship trophies. It was the first time that a team owner and driver had a true relationship outside the race track.
Tony Schumacher: Army Strong
In the world of NHRA, the one name that is at the top of the list in this decade is Tony Schumacher. Consider this, he is the winningest driver in the top fuel dragster category with 61, passing the great Joe Amato in 2008, holds the E.T. and speed records for the same class, and won his sixth consecutive, and seventh overall, title this past year.
The driver of the U.S. Army dragster has taken on the nickname "Sarge" and it is very appropriate. He is the top dog in the dragster class. The fact that no one has taken his title of championship away in six years backs that up.
Until you knock Schumacher from his perch atop the NHRA, everyone will be obeying his orders.
Bigfoot 4x4 Inc.: Car Crushing Legacy
When one man starts an entire new form of motorsports, that is a dynasty in itself. 35 years ago, Bob Chandler began work on a mid-1970s Ford, putting a bigger motor in it, then bigger axles, then bigger tires.
He kept driving the truck harder and harder, and finally got to the point that people were calling him "Big Foot." So, he put the name on the truck, and in that moment a dynasty was born. Chandler created the first monster truck, and since that time has been at the forefront of the industry.
His truck was the first to crush cars in front of a live audience. It was the winner of the first official side-by-side monster truck competition in 1985. Chandler was a key developer in creating the Monster Truck Racing Association, MTRA, in 1987.
Chandler received a U.S. Patent in 1989 when he built Bigfoot Eight, a complete tubular chassis monster truck specifically made for racing. His truck won it's first world championship in 1990. In the 20 years that followed, his team won 24 more.
Currently, the Bigfoot team has five full-time race trucks that compete year-round in the U.S. The team currently holds three Guinness World Records. Their Bigfoot Five truck is the biggest monster truck in the world, standing 18 feet tall with 10-foot tires, and driver Dan Runte holds the other two.
Runte recorded the long jump and height record in 1999 when he jumped his Bigfoot truck over a plane. His truck went 202 feet, shattering the old record by nearly 60 feet. This past year, Runte set a new speed record in a monster truck, going 84.49 mph on a one eigth-mile drag strip.
The Bigfoot team is the leading team in monster trucks. Their dynasty wasn't set over time, it was set from the start.
Michael Schumacher: Formula Won
In the world of Formula 1 racing, there is no one that has come close to the dynasty set by Michael Shumacher.
He began his career in Formula 1 in 1991, racing for the Jordan team, before switching over to Benetton, where raced until 1995. Schumacher recorded two championships while he was with the team at Benetton.
In 1996, Schumacher switched to the Ferrari team, and set forth on a career that is one of the most prolific in all of motorsports. During his time with Ferrari, he won five consecutive championships, from 2000-2004.
Schumacher has more podium appearances than any driver. He went the entire 2002 season finishing no worse than third in any race. After the 2006 season, Schumacher decided to call it a career, retiring from driving and becoming an advisor to the Ferrari team.
His driving ability, passion, and drive in Formula 1 will forever be documented in the motorsports history books. Michael Shumacher is a dynasty all his own.
Hendrick Motorsports: NASCAR Domination
There is no one in NASCAR that has a bigger footprint as an owner than Rick Hendrick. He has shown that longevity and persistence will bring much success.
Starting out as a one car team with Geoff Bodine as the driver, Hendrick began winning races with drivers by the names of Waltrip, Rudd, and Labonte. But, in 1992, he found the guy that would set forth a dynasty that is unlike any other in NASCAR.
A young driver named Jeff Gordon signed on to drive the bright, rainbow colored DuPont Chevrolet, making his debut at the season finale in Atlanta. A year later, he won rookie of the year. He won his first race in 1994 followed by the organization's first championship in 1995.
That championship set off four consecutive titles for Hendrick, three with Gordon and one with Terry Labonte, who beat Gordon for the title. Gordon brought the fourth title to the organization in 2001, and soon added a new driver to the mix.
It was a California driver named Jimmie Johnson,who was most recognized for a hard wreck at Watkins Glen in the then-Busch Series, where he stood on his car after hitting styrofoam.
Johnson made his rookie debut in 2002, winning the pole for the Daytona 500. What came next was something thought to be impossible in NASCAR. Johnson would win his first championship in 2006, followed it up a year later with a second, then tied Cale Yarborough with three straight in 2008.
Johnson is now poised to put himself and his owner in a league all their own, as he is set to win a fourth straight title this season.
Hendrick has brought youth and experience to his team, signing both Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin to drive for him. Martin has had his best season in a long time, and credits Hendrick for the chance.
No other organization has as many titles or has seen as much success as Hendrick. This dynasty is far from done, it will only get better as the years pass.