Nationwide Champ to Sprint Cup "Chump:" If You Win One, Can You Win The Other?

Kelly CrandallSenior Writer ISeptember 29, 2008

It's hard to win a championship in any series. And we know it's pretty rare to win multiple championships, whether it's back-to-back or in two different series.

In the history of NASCAR, there have only been two drivers who have won both a Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series championship. Ned Jarrett was the Nationwide champion of 1957 and 1958 and then the 1961 and 1965 Sprint Cup Champion.

Twenty six years later, Bobby Labonte was crowned the 1991 Nationwide Champion and went on to win his first and so far only Sprint Cup in 2000.

There have been plenty of drivers who have a championship in one series and not the other.

For starters think about Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, and Jeff Gordon. All are multiple time Cup title holders, but none won Nationwide titles. It even took Tony Stewart nine years to capture his first Nationwide victory at Daytona in 2005.

Jimmie Johnson only had one win in 81 starts before moving into the Sprint Cup Series. It's still his only win.

Jeff Gordon, a four-time champion and considered one of NASCAR's greatest drivers, has five career wins over the course of five years in the Nationwide Series.

They've dominated in the Cup Series: the premiere league. But, they didn't win a title in the minor leagues.

It's probably safe to say that Stewart, Johnson, and Gordon will never win a Nationwide Series Championship. The same can be said for Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth.

Busch never ran a full-time Nationwide schedule and his first race wasn't until 2006 at Texas; he went on to win that race.

Kenseth, on the other hand, has competed in the Nationwide Series and battled Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the 1998 and 1999 Series title. Earnhardt Jr. came out on top both years and when the pair moved into the Cup series together, it was Kenseth who captured his first title in 2003. Earnhardt Jr. is still searching.

Is one title (pick one: Cup or Nationwide) harder to win than the other? Why don't we see more drivers pulling off the double?

There are currently six drivers who have won the Nationwide Series Championship that are still looking for their first Sprint Cup title. Four of them are in the 2008 Chase for the Championship: Dale Earnhardt Jr. ('98, '99), Kevin Harvick ('01,'06), Greg Biffle ('02) and Carl Edwards ('07).

The other two, Martin Truex Jr. ('04-'05) and Brian Vickers ('03) will have to try again next year.

And there's only one driver whose won both a Craftsmen Truck Championship and a Nationwide Series Championship, yes only one: Greg Biffle. Biffle captured the Truck championship in 2000 and then two years later rolled to the Nationwide title.

However, Johnny Benson has the opportunity to make it a two name list if he's able to hold off Ron Hornaday over the next six weeks. Benson was the 1995 Nationwide Champion.

Biffle may have the momentum to pull off another first: win all three titles. Biffle already has the first two to his name and he's thirty points and seven races away from the third.

Ask any driver or any athlete and they will tell you that it's tough to win and very difficult to pull off a championship. It's why they get out of the car each week and are red-faced and dripping wet. Their arms and knees are sore but their as jubilant as ever, kissing their wives/girlfriends and then smother the trophy.

But, the numbers and history of the sport don't lie. Not even the legends and greats of the sport, Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, accomplished such a feat.

Instead it's been left to the young guns and the future of NASCAR. Now it's a race to see whose going to put their name on the list.