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Head2Head: Better past two months: Stewart or Hornaday?

October 31, 2011, ,

Both have three victories and are in the thick of championship conversation

What a fall it has been for Tony Stewart and Ron Hornaday.

Stewart began the Chase for the Sprint Cup essentially in last place with no bonus points due to no victories on the season. Hornaday was no better, sitting ninth in Truck Series points, 68 behind points leader Austin Dillon with nine races remaining. Yet, due to an impressive September and October, both drivers find themselves in the forefront of the title discussion with two (Hornaday) and three (Stewart) races remaining.

More impressive two months: Stewart or Hornaday?


Brad Keselowski was the most remarkable story entering the eighth annual Chase for the Sprint Cup. But seven races into NASCAR's "playoff," Tony Stewart, the only driver to win titles in each of the most recent championship formats, without question has been the most impressive over the past two months.

Closely aligned with crew chief Darian Grubb, Stewart, who won Cup championships in 2002 under the season-long points format and in 2005, the 10-race Chase format, is the biggest challenge to championship favorite Carl Edwards.

Stewart knows about winning championships, in multiple formats and divisions, so he has to be considered legitimate. And that's a stunning turnaround.

Right before the Richmond Chase cutoff, Stewart said his Stewart-Haas Racing team didn't deserve a spot in the 12-man playoff. Stewart, who can be a challenge for the media -- but on a positive note as he makes reporters bring their "A game" -- has been the key fixture. No doubt Stewart, who's won at least one race in each of his 13 Cup seasons, is just as challenging to work with day in and day out.

But Stewart started the Chase by breaking a 33-race winless streak at Chicagoland Speedway. Since then he's won twice more and two other top-10 finishes equal an average Chase finish of 8.3.

Edwards' teammate, Matt Kenseth, says Stewart's been lucky to win and he's not running as well as Edwards. But there's no question Stewart putting himself in position to win this championship is very impressive.

Dave Rodman, NASCAR.COM

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

When the Truck Series made its annual visit to Atlanta, Ron Hornaday was nowhere to be found in the championship conversation. It's not that his season was horrible, it's just he wasn't dominating like in the past and found himself 68 points out of first.

But when the calendar flipped to September, Hornaday flipped the switch as well, and is now 15 points away from title No. 5.

Hornaday played the fuel game perfectly at Atlanta to score his second victory of the season and cut 20 points off his deficit. But a couple of days later, team owner Kevin Harvick announced he would be shutting his Truck team down at the end of the season. Hornaday all of a sudden found himself without a ride.

Heartbroken, but determined, Hornaday posted a 10th at Chicagoland and a fourth at New Hampshire. Following that race, Harvick made another bold move, putting Hornaday in the No. 2 truck in an effort to lock up the owner's championship.

This would catapult KHI and Hornaday not just into the owner points battle, but the driver points battle as well. Hornaday won at Kentucky, dominated at Las Vegas, and finished second at Talladega and Martinsville. Hornaday has gone from forgotten champion to title contender in seven races.

Nothing against Tony Stewart's impressive three Chase victories, but when all seemed lost for Hornaday, he put the adversity behind him and found a gear not many thought was possible this late in the season. Both drivers have shined, but Hornaday just a little brighter.


The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

But while both drivers have been lights-out the past couple months, whose run has been more impressive? Bill Kimm and Dave Rodman have their picks. Read theirs and weigh in with yours in the comments below. And don't forget to vote in the poll at the right.