NFL quarterback Tom Brady stole the attention of the sports world Tuesday morning when he announced he would not be returning to the New England Patriots, the team he had played for since being drafted in 2000. While the debates will continue for years over who is or isn't the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time) when it comes to NFL quarterbacks, there's no debating that Brady has established himself as a front runner in the conversation due to his six Super Bowl victories.
By now you're probably asking yourself why we are talking about football on a short track racing website, and that's a great question.
With his career not yet completed, Brady has entered himself into an elite category as a living legend who continues to play the game he loves. Similarly, there are short track racers throughout the country who you could say the same for.
And that brings us to our question of the day: who's the current Tom Brady of short track racing?
Answering that question isn't as easy as one may think. It's not a question that can be answered simply by looking at which short track racers are winning the most races now. At this stage of his career, Tom Brady is not the best active quarterback playing in the NFL. However, the success that he's had in the past and the legacy he's established makes him an all-time great who has plans to continue playing the sport he loves.
Which short track racers falls into that category with Brady? Let's took a look at a few possibilities:
When it comes to Big-Block Modified racing in the Northeast, many fans would make a case for Brett Hearn being the G.O.A.T. How could you not? The Sussex, New Jersey driver known as "The Jet" has accomplished nearly everything there is to accomplish in the division he competes in.
With an unofficial count of 910 career victories, Hearn leads the all-time list of drivers to get behind the wheel of a Dirt Modified. He's an eight-time Super DIRTcar Series champion, a six-time Super DIRT Week Big-Block Modified winner and a 12-time Eastern States 200 winner.
Like Brady, Hearn has a list of younger competitors such as Matt Sheppard trying to chase him down in the record books, but for now the majority of his accomplishments have been unmatched.
If there's one knock against Hearn in this conversation, it's the fact that he hasn't won championships in recent years like Brady. And although he's no longer winning at the rate he was during the prime of his career, "The Jet" can still get it done against the best of them.
When football fans think of great NFL quarterbacks, they think of Tom Brady. When race fans think of great asphalt Late Model racers, they think of Bubba Pollard.
The 33-year-old racer from Senoia, GA has become the face of Late Model racing in America over the last decade. By our count, Pollard has scored a total of 104 Late Model victories between 2010 and 2019, with 59 of those victories in Super Late Models.
Pollard's list of major victories includes races like the All American 400, Oxford 250, Slinger Nationals and Canadian Short Track Nationals. Throughout his career, he has won races with the ARCA/CRA Super Series, ARCA Midwest Tour, CARS Tour, Pro All Stars Series, Southern Super Series and SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour.
Although Pollard hasn't chased championships like Brady, he does have a 2014 Southern Super Series championship on his resume.
The one question mark surrounding Pollard in this discussion is his age. He's still only 33 years old with a lot of bucket list items on his resume, including the biggest Super Late Model race of them all: the Snowball Derby. Known as the "Super Bowl" of Super Late Model racing, Pollard is still chasing the biggest prize of them all.
There's no doubt that Pollard belongs in this conversation, but it's hard to imagine that his resume won't be even more impressive after another decade-plus of racing.
Although Donny Schatz will never be able to accept the title of "King" in the Sprint Car world -- that honor belongs to Steve Kinser -- he's established himself as the best Sprint Car racer of the past decade.
Schatz is now a 10-time World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series champion with 300 series victories on his resume. Add in his 18 career All Star Circuit of Champions victories, as well as 10 wins in the "Super Bowl" of Sprint Car Racing -- the Knoxville Nationals -- and you have the greatest Sprint Car drivers since "The King" himself.
In addition to his Sprint Car success, Schatz has displayed versatility by winning races behind the wheel of a Dirt Late Model.
When comparing Schatz to Brady, one has to consider that Schatz is still going as strong as ever. Although he didn't win his "Super Bowl" in 2019 at the Knoxville Nationals, he was once again a strong contender in every race he competed in.
Like Pollard, we expect a lot more success to come for Schatz in the coming years as he builds his legacy.
It's hard to ignore the obvious similarity between Brady and Tour-type Modified racer Doug Coby. They're both six-time champions competing at the top level of the sport they love.
Coby, who scored his sixth career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship in 2019, is recognized by many as the top Modified driver of the past decade. His 28 victories on the tour since 2011 are the most of any driver during that time.
While Coby's racing schedule hasn't been busy enough to compete with others like Hearn and Schatz in the win column, his success rate in races he does compete in is impressive. Since 2011, he has won nearly 20-percent of the NWMT races he's competed in.
Like Brady, Coby also approached the 2020 season with questions surrounding which team he would be competing for. While Brady will not be creating his own team like Coby eventually did, the similarities between the quarterback and the Modified driver are there.
Reading a list of Tom Brady's countless awards and accolades, ranging from Super Bowl trophies to being named Sporting News' NFL Athlete of the Decade for the 2010s, it's clear he has done everything you can do as an NFL quarterback. Similarly, there is very little Lee Pulliam hasn't accomplished behind the wheel of a Late Model Stock Car.
NASCAR Weekly Racing Series National Championships? Pulliam has four of them. Pulliam also has two Martinsville Speedway grandfather clocks from the discipline's "Super Bowl," the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 in 2011 and 2014.
Pulliam also has wins in several other crown-jewel events, including the 2013 Myrtle Beach 400, the 2015 Hampton Heat 200 at Langley Speedway (VA), the 2015 Thanksgiving Classic at Southern National Motorsports Park (NC) and the inaugural CARS Tour Old North State Nationals at Orange County Speedway (NC).
A comparison between Brady and Pulliam many may not realize? While Brady has enjoyed success off the field as a best-selling author and with his TB12 brand, Pulliam is a successful car owner with Lee Pulliam Performance. Numerous rising stars have scored wins in his cars, with the biggest win arguably coming last year when Brandon Pierce scored $10,000 wining the CARS Tour opener at Southern National.
Like Tom Brady is a six-time Super Bowl Champion, Mike Harrison is a six-time Summit Modified Nationals Champion. The marathon of racing over the summer months tests the mettle of UMP Modified competitors, and Harrison has repeatedly risen to the occasion.
Still, that's just part of Harrison's Modified resume. The Illinois racer is also a seven-time UMP National Modified Champion, and has a laundry list of wins in the biggest UMP Modified races. With 10 Modified Mania wins, four Prairie Dirt Classic wins, as well as victories in the Pepsi Nationals, Gateway Dirt Nationals and more, there's no questioning Harrison's ability in the machines.
Harrison also boasts the career longevity we have seen from Brady on the football field. Harrison's first National Championship came in 2004, the same year Brady was named to his second of 14 Pro Bowls. Both Harrison and Brady have been racking up the accolades ever since.
The same year Tom Brady led the Patriots to victory in Super Bowl XXXVI, Scott Bloomquist was inducted into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame. Bloomquist was already one of Dirt Late Model racing's GOATs nearly 20 years ago, and he can still get the job done today.
What you might call Bloomquist changes from person to person - Bloomer, Black Sunshine, the Dirt Track Dominator - but whatever your preference, you have to call him a winner. He has more than 600 Dirt Late Model wins, along with numerous major championships between the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, World of Outlaws Late Models and the former UDTRA Hav-A-Tampa Dirt Racing Series/Xtreme DirtCar Series.
Bloomquist has also stepped up time and time again under the brightest spotlights of Dirt Late Model racing. He is the winningest all-time driver for the Dirt Late Model Dream at Eldora (8), the National 100 at East Alabama (8), the Jackson 100 (7) and the Show-Me 100 (6) and has multiple wins in events such as the World 100 and the Late Model Knoxville Nationals.
Like Pulliam, Bloomquist has also developed a race-winning team and chassis business. Last year, Chris Madden went on a tear driving for "Team Zero," winning three crown jewel events in a matter of weeks before being sidelined in an off-track incident.
You Make the Call
We've made our case for seven drivers who we believe could be considered the current Tom Brady of short track racing. Now, we want to hear from you.
Which short track racer do you believe is most comparable to Tom Brady? Let us know by Tweeting @speed51dotcom or commenting on our Five Star Race Car Bodies Facebook Feed.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51 Content Manager & Zach Evans, Speed51 Southeast Editor