In the nine-year history of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, the driver champion drove for the owner of car that won that season’s owner championship. All that might change this season.
If the Chase started today, the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota would make NASCAR’s “postseason” as the second Wild Card thanks to Brian Vickers’ win on Sunday at New Hampshire.
The victory snuck the No. 55 ahead of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, and into a prime Wild Card spot. The No. 55 is 13th in owner points, two points ahead of the No. 14, which also has one victory. Currently, the No. 56 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota holds the first Wild Card spot, thanks to its win at Sonoma and it’s standings position of 11th.
As far as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is concerned, it’s a supreme rarity to have a split driver-owner championship. It’s only happened twice. In 1954, Lee Petty won the driver’s championship, but Herb Thomas won the owner’s title. In 1963, Joe Weatherly won the driver’s championship, with the Wood Brothers capturing owner honors.
“One of the very first things we talked about was racing for an owner’s championship,” said Ty Norris, executive vice president and general manager of Michael Waltrip Racing. “Let’s shake up the system. We’ll have multiple drivers but if we can win some races and be in a situation where we can run for an owner’s championship, that can be just as remarkable as running for a driver’s championship. So our team has rallied around that. … It’s something that we are very aware of.”
The rules for the owner championship are the same as the driver’s championship. The top-10 cars in owner points are locked into Chase, with the two cars from 11th-20th with the most wins earning Wild Card berths.