Race Weekend Central

Friday Face-off: Can Rowdy Catch Superman?

Kyle Busch scored the 36th win of his career Saturday night in Texas.  He’s currently 17th on the all-time wins list and third among active drivers (Jimmie Johnson ranks first with 77 and Tony Stewart is second with 48).  Will Busch eclipse Johnson’s total before he’s done?

Clayton Caldwell, Contributor: It’s a great question. Busch can absolutely do it. He’s been around so long that you forget he is only 30 years old, which means if he races until the his mid-40’s he still has 13-15 years left in him. If that’s the case, and he stays at JGR, he’ll win a ton more and be close to Johnson and Gordon.

Sean Fesko, Staff Writer: Sure, he could, but it doesn’t just depend on how many wins Busch racks up, it also depends on how many more Johnson does before he retires. Johnson could very well reach 90 or more wins before his career is over, meaning Busch needs to find at least 54 more wins in Cup. Not a tall order, considering Busch is only 30. If he races another 15 years, he’ll need 3.6 wins a season, and he currently averages just below that. Doable, yes. Likely? Maybe.

Amy Henderson, Senior Editor: Can he? Yes.  Will he? That’s a bigger question.  What separates Johnson and Busch is less talent (they’re pretty equal there), but their ability to deal with adversity during a race, and that’s where Johnson has the upper hand.  Busch has grown up some since his accident last season, but his mini-tantrum after Fontana shows that he’s still his own worst enemy. I’m guessing he’ll hit the 75-win mark for his career, but that’s a mark Johnson is has already passed, and he’s not done yet.

Aaron Bearden, Assistant Editor: He might get close, but it’s unlikely that Rowdy will get to Johnson’s mark on the all-time list. Busch is currently 30 years old. Let’s say he has another 15 years as a top-tier driver. If so, Busch would need to win roughly 2.7 races per year to catch Johnson’s current mark. That would be challenging, but possible. However, there’s a catch; Johnson isn’t done yet. JJ could end his career with anywhere from 80-100 wins. The higher Superman climbs, the more challenging it’s going to be for Rowdy to catch him.

(Photo: NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch claimed his 36th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory at Texas Motor Speedway, but he needs more than double that total to catch Jimmie Johnson on the all-time wins list. (Photo: NASCAR via Getty Images)

Jason Schultz, Contributor: I believe Kyle Busch will top Johnson on the all-time wins list. At 30 years old, he has already accomplished a tremendous amount in his career and is just now hitting his prime. After capturing his first Sprint Cup Series championship in 2015, he has more confidence than ever before and this will pay off in terms of victories over the next decade. I imagine he will continue racing well past the age of 40 and by racing for just 11 more seasons and scoring four victories each year, he can top Johnson. While I believe Johnson will continue to collect trophies before he retires, Busch will edge him out in the wins column before he hangs up his helmet.

In light of the uproar over Phil Robertson’s invocation at Texas, should NASCAR implement any rules about what can and can’t be said during the invocation?

Henderson: I have mixed feelings.  On one hand, I’d say that freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion, and people should just not listen or participate if they don’t want to (and should not be chastised fro doing so).  On the other, why can’t there be some kind of nondenominational invocation, or a moment of silence during which people can reflect or pray as they wish?  That would make it a more personal, spiritual moment without alienating anyone, because if they want to pray individually to whatever entity they choose, they certainly can, and those who don’t can simply wish for a safe race with a Dale Junior win or whatever they choose. And no, it’s not a First Amendment thing—the tracks are private property, and can therefore put in place any rules they so choose (or can, as part of the sanctioning agreement, be told to do so by NASCAR).

Mark Howell, Senior Writer: Pre-race invocations aren’t a NASCAR thing; they’re a First Amendment thing. Like what Robertson said or not, he made his comments because he felt compelled and free to do so. NASCAR likely wasn’t complaining about the tenor of Robertson’s prayer because it generated a fair amount of media attention. If NASCAR tries to control any part of pre-race events, they should more carefully audition the performers who do the National Anthem. We’ve suffered through some horrible ones over the years.

Bearden: Honestly, and this is coming from a Christian, this should bring up the necessary conversation about stopping the invocation. I may get flack for this, but as NASCAR continues to put focus on inclusion, it seems silly to alienate fans of other religious beliefs. I’m all for having members of raceway ministry at the track to offer prayer and support for drivers, teams and fans that request it, but perhaps it’s time for the mandatory invocations to fade into the past.

Phil Allaway, Newsletter Editor: This is tough because if NASCAR lays down any rules, it will be viewed as a form of censorship.  You’d think that this would go without saying in a situation like this, but I guess it has to be stated here.  NASCAR needs to be inclusive.  That means that you can’t cater your invocations to one group of people.  Involve everyone from every walk of life.  Change things up every once in a while.  One of the reasons why everyone remembers Pastor Nelms from nearly five years ago is the fact that he dared to be different.   The only hard and fast rule I’d insist on is to not make political statements during the invocation.

Jeff Wolfe, Senior Writer: NASCAR is the only sport that has a prayer before its event. The closest you get to anything like that is a moment of silence at times, usually in remembrance of someone passing away. Since Phil used the word “Jesus” without it being a curse word, well, these days that’s pretty much going to offend somebody. But last I heard, NASCAR was not a government run entity and this is still at the moment a free country. Also, when you ask someone like Phil Robertson to pray, someone who has been outspoken about his religious beliefs, you can’t be surprised by what he says.

The first short-track race of 2016 at Martinsville was relatively tame, but as always at a short track, tempers did flare.  How far is too far to push it on a short track, and is what’s acceptable different on a bigger track than at Martinsville or Bristol?

Schultz: Short track racing is among the most popular in the sport because of its rough nature. The only real limit in terms of how far a driver can push it is when they cross the line between hard racing and intentional manipulation. Drivers shouldn’t blatantly take each other out if they are many positions apart on the track. However, if they are racing for position, then any contact should be considered racing. Bristol is a much faster track than Martinsville and any intentional action will often lead to greater consequences. If drivers respect each other on the track while still expressing the emotion short track racing brings out, then it’s fair game.

Fesko: Smaller tracks inherently means more bumping and banging, and using the bumper or rattling someone’s cage is much more acceptable at a track with lower speeds than a track like Daytona or Talladega where airborne cars are a scary reality. This close-quarters, take-no-prisoners racing of short tracks is exactly why fans like racing there. When you have drivers purposefully wrecking one another out of the race is when you’ve gone too far. Matt Kenseth crashing Joey Logano is bad, but Brian Vickers using the field as a pinball machine isn’t – similar circumstances, different outcomes. It’s subtle.

(Photo: Mike Neff)
Save for a few rare incidents, Martinsville was a fairly drama-free race by short track standards. (Photo: Mike Neff)

Howell: Short tracks are a perfectly logical place to beat, bang, and lean on your competition. I’d rather get bumped and spun at Martinsville than at Talladega, and I believe there’s an unwritten rule within the mythical “drivers’ code” that states as much. Tempers will flare, but that’s the inherent nature of putting 40 cars in such a confined area. As long as your actions center on the dynamics of the race, a bit of muscle-flexing should be overlooked. Once it turns into blatant vengeance, that’s when NASCAR needs to step in and lay down the law.

Bryan Gable, Contributor: Beating and banging is part of short track racing.  The idea is that less room to maneuver and generally lower speeds means close quarters racing, so a little more aggression than what you would see on a big track is par for the course.  I want to see drivers race hard, make contact, fight for position, and bump and run if necessary.  I don’t want to see drivers completely spin out or wreck each other just because they have an opportunity to do so, but if someone crosses the line, I have no problem with this being a self-policing sport.

Dustin Albino, Contributor: I love short-track racing. I love the bump and runs. I love the close corner racing. Too far is crashing a competitor, even for a victory; that goes for all tracks. If you can’t beat someone on a given day then it’s just not your day. I believe in the 100 percent rule, but we saw last year at Martinsville something that was out of character and totally uncalled for. Speeds shouldn’t matter. Drivers get away with more on short tracks, but it shouldn’t be that way.

Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. both had positive things to say about the drivers’ council and how the group is working together to get things accomplished. What kind of things would you like to see them change/fix?

Allaway: I feel like maybe a move away from the double-file “shootout style” restarts and towards a more traditional system so that people aren’t completely dependent on Lucky Dogs and/or wave-arounds to make up laps.  It would make the races a little more interesting.  It’s debatable whether the current restarts have helped passing at all.  Other than that, continued development of the aero package.

Caldwell: The things I would like to see them change is to remove the driver adjustable track bar inside the racecar. I think it hurts passing on the track that drivers can fine tune inside the racecar and keep up with the changes over a run. I also would like to see them pressure NASCAR to open the rule book a little more and let them play with things a little more. I believe both of those would help the racing a lot and help create passing on the racetrack.

Fesko: I honestly don’t think the drivers can do much to fix what really ails the sport. Scheduling, Cup interloping, etc. – that’s up to money more than anything else. What they can focus on is creating more transparency, streamlining rules and suggesting different procedures like restart formats.

Howell: The best aspect of the Drivers’ Council is its attention to transparency and how it challenges opinions and/or decisions trickling down from NASCAR’s main office. The era of NASCAR operating as a “benevolent dictatorship” is fading fast, and I think we’re seeing how voices from those active in the sport have made positive changes happen. While the Fans’ Council seems to get short shrift, the drivers have Brian’s ear and are getting things done. That said: I think the next big issue to address is how to attract more young people to the sport. Partnerships between race teams and universities are just a start. Drivers have more power than they know, and they are the catalyst for securing NASCAR’s future.

Gable: The things that most need to change in NASCAR are things over which the drivers don’t have a lot of control.  I do think the drivers were instrumental in developing the low-downforce aero package, and it is always good to keep the lines of communication open with the sanctioning body.  But do the drivers have any power to address a schedule in need of an overhaul and a seriously flawed Chase?


About the author

Amy is an 20-year veteran NASCAR writer and a six-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found working on her bi-weekly columns Holding A Pretty Wheel (Tuesdays) and Only Yesterday (Wednesdays). A New Hampshire native whose heart is in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.

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Bette Geraud

All kyles Races he wins in “B” team races shouldn’t be counted!!! Totally unfair !!!!!!

Broken Arrow

Get a life, Bette. In real life, everything counts.

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