In NASCAR, it is the drivers who receive all the glory and adulation for their wins and championships. The team owners and the supporting cast that enable the driver to accomplish his or her lofty goals play an even more important role though.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, formerly known as Grand National, Winston Cup and Strictly Stock in the early days, is considered the premier series in the sport.
It is the team owners who must put together all the parts and pieces necessary for the driver to take a car on the track that will hopefully contend for wins because that is the goal.
It is the team owner who is responsible for pairing the crew chief and driver for optimal performance. Many times in the history of NASCAR, the owner was a driver for someone else before assuming the daunting task of becoming a team owner.
Owning a race team is never easy in any series, but in the top series of this sport, securing money to race has always been an issue. In the modern era of NASCAR, the owners with the most money seem to have the most clout which results in wins and championships.
The unfortunate by-product of today's Sprint Cup racing is the limitations faced by low-budget teams who just cannot compete against the domination of the premier teams. Often drivers for some of these teams are forced to start a race and then park the car. It has always been that way.
Team owners who are leaders with engines and chassis often supply them to other teams. It gives those teams a better chance to contend for wins and top finishes.
The most talented drivers do reap great rewards for their achievements, but the premier team owners in the sport have accumulated great wealth as the sport has evolved. NASCAR Sprint Cup racing is big business now with mergers, sponsorship deals and marketing.
Let's take a look at how the top Sprint Cup team owners rank from the beginning of the sport through the high dollar multi-car teams we have today.
Parks was a moonshiner like so many in the early days before NASCAR became an organized sport. The man who became a respected Georgia businessman, was part of the group who met with Bill France at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach back in 1947 to organize NASCAR.
Parks won the first two NASCAR Championship (Strictly Stock) titles in 1948 and 1949 with his driver, Red Byron. He was instrumental with financial backing to assist other teams in the sport.
He may not have had impressive stats with numerous wins and a long list of drivers who raced for him, but his impact as an owner will forever be significant in the history of NASCAR.
In June of 2010, Parks passed away at the age of 96.
Glen Wood formed Wood Brothers Racing in 1950, though originally he didn't want to drive. They preferred to be mechanics along with the other jobs they had in farming and lumber with their father and other brothers.
Glen did drive and his brother Leonard was basically the head mechanic. Older brother, Glen, found success at short tracks in Virginia, and it wasn't long before racing became their primary interest.
The team adopted the No. 21 for their highly recognized cars. Wood Brothers Racing is the oldest active team in NASCAR, though currently it is operated by Glen's sons, Eddie Wood and Len Wood.
Perhaps the best years for this team was from 1972 until 1979 with David Pearson behind the wheel of the red and white Ford powered No. 21. During those seven years, they had 46 wins and 51 poles out of 143 races.
Neil Bonnett took over the ride when Pearson left and drivers including Dale Jarrett, Kyle Petty, Ricky Rudd, Elliott Sadler and others.
Glen and Leonard Wood were innovators in the sport and known for their incredibly efficient pit stops. As the decades passed, competition became tougher with the emergence of bigger, stronger teams. They have always been aligned with Ford Motor Company and are considered one of the winningest teams in NASCAR.
During the 2007season, Bill Elliott drove part-time for the team and continued to do so through the 2010 season. Trevor Bayne is scheduled to move into the No. 21 for at least the first five races of the new season, and negotiations are in progress to enable the team to run 17 races which is more than in 2010.
Bud Moore Engineering was formed in 1961, with their first race being a qualifier for the Daytona 500.
Bud Moore's driver, Joe Weatherly, won the Grand National (Sprint Cup) championships during the 1962 and 1963 seasons.
Moore had an eye for driving talent. David Pearson, Fireball Roberts, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip and other top names are among those who drove for him.
It was Moore who put a wild, young driver, Dale Earnhardt, behind the wheel of a car sponsored by Wrangler.
The country gentlemen, who knew how to make cars run fast, was the first in NASCAR to have a multi-car team. His racing operations lasted nearly 40 years.
Moore, a South Carolina native, ran nearly 1,000 races with his Sprint Cup teams. His drivers amassed 63 wins, 463 top-10's and 43 poles.
Moore is highly respected for his contributions to NASCAR and will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame this year.
Junior Johnson honed his skills as a driver while running moonshine in the rural south. He drove his first NASCAR Cup race in 1953 at the Southern 500 in Darlington, S.C. Johnson retired as a driver in 1966 with an impressive 50 wins to his credit.
After becoming an owner, he amassed 139 wins with his notable drivers placing him third in wins to Petty Enterprises and Hendrick Motorsports.
Johnson won six championships in the top series of NASCAR with Cale Yarborough in 1976, 1977 and 1978. Darrell Waltrip grabbed three titles during 1981, 1982 and 1985.
The list of those who drove for Johnson is impressive with names like Bobby Allison, LeeRoy Yarbrough, Geoff Bodine, Terry Labonte, Bill Elliott and Sterling Marlin just to name a few. The drivers for Johnson have 132 wins and 436 top-five's during some 1,049 Cup races.
It was recently announced by Johnson that he would once again run a team for his young son, Robert Johnson, who plans to run the K&N Series and Whelen All American Series.
Junior Johnson was inducted into the first class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame last year.
Penske Racing South was the NASCAR operation for Roger Penske. He debuted in 1972 at Riverside International Raceway with Mark Donohue behind the wheel of a factory-sponsored American Motors Matador.
The race did not go well and Penske ran part-time in NASCAR until 1976. In 1977, Penske sold his equipment and got out of NASCAR. He had his hands full with open-wheel cars, other racing series and his businesses.
In 1991, Penske returned to NASCAR full-time with Rusty Wallace as his driver and Miller Beer sponsorship. He added a second team and not only ran Wallace's No. 12 but the No. 2 car that became known as the famous "Blue Deuce."
Rusty Wallace drove for Penske more than 20 years. Penske Racing South became a highly recognized organization running 1,249 Cup races over 27 years. His drivers have 63 wins, 496 top-10's and 86 poles.
In 2011, Kurt Busch will drive the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil car, and Brad Keselowski will be driving the No. 2.
Joe Gibbs, former Washington Redskins coach, began his NASCAR racing operations in 1991. The organization ran General Motors products until 2008 when they switched to Toyota, a newcomer to the sport.
Gibbs has maintained a multi-car operation in NASCAR's top series. He has three championships, one with Bobby Labonte in 2000 and Tony Stewart in 2002 and 2005.
Stewart debuted the No. 20 Home Depot car at the 1999 Daytona 500. The orange and white car raced under the Gibbs banner until Stewart asked to be released in 2008 so that he could begin his own racing operation.
Young Joey Logano took over the ride. Currently Denny Hamlin drives the No. 11 FedEx car, and Kyle Busch runs the No. 18 M&M's car.
In 19 years, JGR has raced in 1,298 Cup events with 88 wins, 598 top-10 finishes and 51 poles. Currently, JGR is run by Gibb's son, J.D. Gibbs, though his father remains involved and is highly visible at most races.
Jack Roush was a racer with wins and championships in drag racing and the sports car circuit dating back to the 1960's. In 1988, he entered into NASCAR racing, but it was a minimal part of his automotive engineering enterprises based in Livonia, Michigan.
His NASCAR operation, currently known as Roush Fenway Racing, is based in North Carolina and has evolved into one of the premier teams in the sport. Roush has remained closely aligned with Ford throughout his NASCAR history.
Roush has two NASCAR Sprint Cup Championships, one with Matt Kenseth in 2003 and another with Kurt Busch in 2004.
Roush is a strong believer in multi-teams that enable the sharing of information and technology. His drivers have won 2,756 Cup races in 23 years. His statistics show 120 wins, 639 top-five's and 68 poles.
Currently, his stable of drivers consist of Greg Biffle driving the No. 16, Matt Kenseth in the No. 17, Carl Edwards wheeling the No. 99 and David Ragan behind the wheel of the No. 6.
Mark Martin, Jeff Burton and Jamie McMurray are but a few on the list of drivers who have raced for Roush.
Richard Childress was an owner/driver in the top series of NASCAR from 1971 until he retired from racing in 1981.
His first driver was already a Winston Cup (Sprint Cup) champion named Dale Earnhardt. Earnhardt left Childress after one year but returned in 1984 and a great owner/driver relationship was forged.
With Earnhardt, RCR had six Winston Cup (Sprint Cup) Championships in 1986, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1993 and 1994.
Childress became a potent force in NASCAR, and it seemed nothing could stop the Earnhardt/Childress combo. In 2001, tragedy struck when the famous driver of the black No. 3 was killed at Daytona International Speedway.
Though the future looked bleak at RCR, Childress rebounded and continue to build his racing empire. He will have four Sprint Cup teams in the 2011 season with Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer and Paul Menard.
During the 37 years Childress has been racing in the Cup series, statistics show 2,015 races with 94 wins, 833 top-10 finishes and 42 poles.
Lee Petty is the patriarch of one of NASCAR's most well-known racing families. He began Petty Enterprises with sons Richard Petty and Maurice Petty.
Lee Petty was a superstar in NASCAR from his racing days that began in 1949 until he retired as a driver in 1964 with 54 Cup series wins.
The second generation Petty, Richard, assumed driving duties with 1960 being a banner year when he finished second in the points. For this Petty, his glory days were still to come.
The Petty, known as "The King" won seven NASCAR Cup titles. In 1964, 1967 and 1971, it was known as the Grand National Series. His championship titles were known as Winston Cup in 1972, 1974, 1975 and 1979.
The "King" ran his last race in 1992 at Atlanta Motor Speedway during the Hooters 500. His driving career showed 200 Cup wins which is a record that still remains.
Petty continued operation of Petty Enterprises with his son, Kyle Petty. After merger-mania struck the organization in 2008, Kyle Petty was released.
Petty Enterprises became known as Richard Petty Motorsports and faced financial struggles, especially in 2010, when Richard was basically a figurehead for the operation.
Late in the year, it was announced he had regained control of Richard Petty Motorsports. He will field two cars in 2011 with AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose as his drivers.
Petty Enterprises was most known for the famous blue No. 43 STP Dodge driven by Richard Petty for so many years.
Hendrick Motorsports was originally named All Star Racing when it was founded by Rick Hendrick in 1984.
Hendrick, a wealthy businessman in Charlotte, N.C. has risen to the status as a premier NASCAR team owner.
His teams who have raced in the top series of NASCAR, have amassed 10 Winston Cup (Sprint Cup) titles. The first title was attained by Jeff Gordon in 1995. Gordon also captured the series title in 1997, 1998 and 2001.
Terry Labonte won a Winston Cup (Sprint Cup) title for Hendrick in 1996.
HMS driver, Jimmie Johnson, has set a record with five consecutive Sprint Cup Championships from 2006 through 2010.
Hendrick Motorsports builds the cars from the ground up at the expansive complex. HMS supplies engines and chassis to other teams as well.
An impressive list of former drivers with Hendrick include Darrell Waltrip, Benny Parsons, Ricky Rudd, Geoff Bodine, Kyle Busch and others.
Currently, the four HMS teams include drivers, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin. Kasey Kahne will replace Martin in 2012.
The Hendrick powerhouse has impressive statistics in the Cup series. His drivers have run 2,828 races with 194 wins, 773 top-five finishes, 1,268 top-10's and 174 poles over a 27-year period.