It’s Not Just A Number
With his win this past weekend in the Camping World Truck Series, Kyle Busch has 184 victories in NASCAR’s top-three national touring series. Kevin Harvick reached 100 victories in the same category at Las Vegas Motor Speedway . Busch only needs 16 more wins to achieve what was once believed to be unattainable. Harvick is halfway there. Richard Petty’s record of 200 wins has stood as the standard for nearly 34 years and few thought it would ever be replicated.
Well, it won’t.
Regardless of what the record books will tell you, the accomplishments simply aren’t comparable.
First off, on the basis of competition, Petty’s total is much more substantial. Petty beat a bevy of eventual Hall of Fame drivers for his triumphs. At the same time that the No. 43 was racking up trophies, drivers like David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, and Bobby Allison were also rolling up 80-plus wins totals of their own. All of the 200 wins Petty scored were earned exclusively in the Cup series, the highest division of the sport. Comparing them with the totals of drivers who dabble in the second or third tiers of NASCAR, the Xfinity and Truck Series, is quite frankly insulting to the legends who Petty had to outduel on a weekly basis.
Additionally, Busch and Harvick regularly outpace drivers in the lower division with single-digit win totals. Many more have zeros in the win column. The experienced drivers in the field are more often than not in inferior equipment. The drivers in comparable cars tend to be developmental drivers, which means they lack the multitude of starts.
A common analogy is that it’s as if LeBron James stopped by a high school to participate in a basketball game, then hangs 90 points on the youngsters. There is some truth to this, though, I would liken it to another NBA player playing on the opposing side. While there may be 10 players on the court, it’s essentially one on one to decide the winner. There may be between 30 and 40 cars on the track during an XFINITY Series race, but in all honesty, way less than half are probably capable of contending for a win.
Busch and Harvick have acquired their totals utilizing the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, a tour that wasn’t available to Petty. The competing teams in the truck series are at even more of a disadvantage, with some racing on a budget for the entire season equivalent to what Busch’s or Harvick’s teams spend on a single race weekend. This lack of parity lends itself to further dilute the accomplishments of a Cup champion spending 200 miles crushing the field into oblivion for another checkered flag.
Certainly, Petty had more opportunity to win Cup races than drivers do today. There haven’t been more than 36 points races in the Cup series since 1972. Petty was routinely participating in anywhere from the mid 40s up to 62 events that all counted towards his official tally.
But that isn’t his fault.
He was presented with the schedule that NASCAR laid out and ran all of the races in its top level. He didn’t seek out lower tier races in an attempt to pad his statistics. There is little doubt if there were that many races on the schedule now, equaling Petty’s total would be much more feasible.
I can’t deny that Busch or any other driver winning 200 races across three series would be impressive. But the king is referred to by that nickname for a reason and he’s not about to be dethroned. – Frank Velat
A Win By Any Other Name Would Be a Win
It may be career suicide to say this, but if Kyle Busch were to win 200 races across the top three national touring series, then it would equal to Richard Petty’s 200 wins.
I’m not trying to disrespect Petty – I have nothing but love and respect for the man. My dad was a fan of Richard Petty, Kyle Petty and Petty Enterprises. He roots for the No. 43 to this day. His friends used to say that he wasn’t a NASCAR fan, he was a Kyle Petty fan. If the younger Petty fell out of the race, then he turned the television or radio off.
Because of that, there will always be a special place in my heart for the Petty family.
I’m also not trying to say that Busch is just as good as Richard Petty. Busch doesn’t have seven championships or seven Daytona 500 wins like Petty, so he is a long way off from me even considering such a thing. Busch is a future Hall of Famer, but Petty might just be the greatest of all time.
The only thing that this argument is about is total race wins. It’s not about who is the better driver, who made the bigger impact on the sport or who is better liked. Petty would win that by a landslide.
Petty is loved by all, while Busch is someone who so many love to hate. So let’s ignore the names and faces of these two incredible talents and look purely at the stats and competition they raced against.
Should Busch win 16 more times, then you have to compare it to the Petty’s record.
The main argument against Busch is that 141 of his victories came in the XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series, and only 43 occurred in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The commonly used metaphor is that Busch “stole candy from babies” in a majority of those wins, as he was against inexperienced drivers in inferior equipment.
But people forget that Petty basically was the Busch of his era. Petty won 140 races before what is known as the modern era of NASCAR.
When Winston came on board as the title sponsor for the Cup Series, it reduced the schedule to 31 races. Prior to that, the Cup schedule ranged anywhere from 44 to 62 races. It was rare for a driver to compete in every single race during that era, but Petty was there almost every week.
There were five seasons during that time where Petty missed only one race a year, at most. One of those years was 1967, when he won 27 times – the record to this day – out of 48 races. In comparison, Petty’s greatest rival, David Pearson, raced just 22 times that year.
Petty always faced great competition at the big-money races, but there were a lot of midweek races during that span where he would be one of around 20 entries. Sure, Pearson, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough or some other legends would show up to those races, but Petty’s talent and the No. 43’s speed were far superior to the rest of the cars in those fields. Doesn’t that sound familiar?
The XFINITY and Truck races are essentially what the midweek Cup races used to be. Busch shows up with his future Hall of Fame talent and superior Joe Gibbs Racing equipment and only has to beat out a handful of competitors. But like Petty, Busch still has to beat some great drivers to win those “midweek races.”
Kevin Harvick just notched his 100th win across the three series this past weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway; most of those wins came against Busch in the two lower series. Busch has also had to beat the likes of Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Carl Edwards, Kyle Larson and Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr. to pick up those wins in the lower series.
Speaking of Hornaday, his HoF induction somewhat legitimizes the argument that Busch’s 200 would be equal to Petty because most of his success was in CWTS. He beat out former Cup winners and champions to get voted into the Hall.
Busch, Harvick and the other Cup drivers dominated NXS and CWTS so much that they aren’t even allowed to race in more than a handful of the races each year now. Busch now has to lean more on Cup wins to get to 200.
With the Cup schedule holding steady at 36 races now, it is impossible for a driver to ever catch Petty’s record on Cup wins alone. Records are made to be broken, so why not indulge in the fact that Busch is closing in 200 wins? -Michael Massie
About the author
Frank Velat has been an avid follower of NASCAR and other motorsports for over 20 years. He brings a blend of passionate fan and objective author to his work. Frank offers unique perspectives that everyone can relate to, remembering the sport's past all the while embracing its future. Follow along with @FrankVelat on Twitter.
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