Race Weekend Central

Only Yesterday: Does Being a ‘Triple Threat’ Mean Anything?

There are several ways to be considered elite.

Maybe it’s hitting the double-digit win column in a single season. Maybe it’s winning seven championships or 75 or more races. Maybe it’s dominating a single race, such as winning by 14 laps or leading 588 miles of the Coca-Cola 600.

But what about winning in all three of NASCAR’s top premier series?

Often called a “triple threat,” these drivers have won at least one race in the NASCAR Cup, Xfinity, and Craftsman Truck series in their career. To date, only 41 drivers have accomplished this feat, with Tyler Reddick becoming the most recent driver to do so, winning his first Cup race at Road America in 2022.

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There are a bunch of active drivers who have won two out of three series and could join the list this year but would need some help (for example, AJ Allmendinger would need to join a Truck team, which is not likely), making it next to impossible to happen for most, at least this season. For other drivers, becoming a triple threat is very possible.

Alex Bowman could join the list if he wins the Truck Series race at North Wilkesboro Speedway in May. Noah Gragson could also become a triple threat member should he win a Cup race this season. Other drivers, such as Ty Dillon, also have a shot, but would need a lot of help to notch that Cup win he needs to join the list.

But is there any weight to being a “triple threat?”

In the 2000s, with the competition so much tighter than before with the playoffs and stage breaks, it certainly could be argued that you are noteworthy if you accomplish this feat. In the grand scheme of NASCAR? Not so much.

The Xfinity Series was founded in 1982, around 35 years after NASCAR was founded. Elite NASCAR drivers of that time, such as Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, David Pearson and Cale Yarborough were still active in the Cup Series and could try their hand at the Xfinity Series, should they have desired.

However, the Truck Series was formed in 1995. Given that NASCAR is in its 75th season, that leaves a whopping 47 seasons of drivers unable to compete for the triple threat. All of the drivers who proved themselves as some of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history had since retired, making it impossible for them to complete the triple sweep.

Petty only won in the top level of NASCAR. He never won an Xfinity or a Truck race — in fact, he never attempted a race for either series. But he is still rightfully “The King” despite not being a triple threat. In fact, being a triple threat is really the only way to eclipse Petty’s 200 wins. Kyle Busch has over 200 wins in NASCAR’s top three series. Impressive, yes, but not near as impressive as 200 in a single series.

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Not to mention, some of the drivers who are triple threats are far from the elite status we classify drivers as, no matter what the qualifications for elite are. Drivers like David Reutimann, Jamie McMurray, Steve Park and Ricky Craven have all achieved the triple threat status, but all of them are in the single-digit career win column for all three series, with Reutimann being the triple threat with the least wins across all three series combined with four (two Cup, one apiece in both Xfinity and Truck).

Likewise, several drivers who are triple threats only have one win in just one singular series as well. Of the 41 drivers who have achieved the triple threat, 20 of them only captured a single win in at least one of the three series. Can we really count a triple threat driver as elite if they just barely accomplished the feat?

There are a few drivers who are elite who have only gotten one win in a particular series (Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski, for example, both only have one singular Truck Series win, but they are both Xfinity and Cup champions, so there’s an argument for them to be elite regardless), but for a lot of the 20, how could we consider them to be elite? Especially over Cup champions who have never even attempted a race in one or both lower series?

This is not to say that achieving the triple threat isn’t impressive. It very much is — to go out and win in three different series proves that you, at least at one point, had the ability to win in anything with a motor and four wheels. I also am of the belief that the triple threat should be talked about more because of how unique it is.

However, as impressive as it is, when it comes to identifying great NASCAR drivers and building future NASCAR Hall of Fame classes, the mark of the triple threat is not something that should be heavily considered.

About the author

Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. He co-authors Only Yesterday (Wednesdays) and Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the site's primary Truck Series reporter and writer, and contributes to SRX coverage, too. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is currently pursuing his master of journalism at Temple University. He is a theatre actor and fight choreographer-in-training outside of Frontstretch. He is a loyal fan of the Cincinnati Reds and Carolina Panthers, still hopeful for a championship at some point in his lifetime.

You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.

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Kurt Smith

Kyle Busch has over 200 wins in NASCAR’s top three series. Impressive, yes, but not near as impressive as 200 in a single series.”

I respectfully disagree, and I think Busch’s achievement is more impressive than Petty’s for a couple of reasons.

For one, there were many more Cup races in a season in Petty’s day, and he ran in most of them, as many as 45-50 sometimes.

Secondly, the competition was nowhere near as tough in Petty’s era. In a LOT of races during Petty’s prime, very often the winner would be the only car on the lead lap. There weren’t multi-car teams back then (or they weren’t prevalent, anyway), so Petty wasn’t competing against drivers in equivalent equipment. The competition in the weakest truck races today is still stronger than the best Cup races in Petty’s day.

I realize it’s sacrilege to suggest that Kyle Busch is better than Richard Petty was, but there’s no way Petty…or anyone else…would win 200 races in today’s Cup series. That Kyle Busch has been able to rack up as many wins as he has in all three series against much tougher competition makes his record more impressive to me.

DoninAjax

Baby Busch in the lower (for a reason) series is like taking candy from other babies and money from their parents (or owners).

Kurt Smith

You could argue that in many of the Cup races Petty was in, he was up against very weak competition. How is that different?

Aside from that, I’ll grant that it’s easier to compete against truck and Xfinity series regulars, but a lot of Cup guys have raced a lot in the both series, why hasn’t anyone else piled up 200+ wins?

I’m not trying to disrespect the King, I still call him the King for everything he did for the sport. He was absolutely the best of his era. I just think Kyle Busch’s win total over three series is a more impressive achievement.

Last edited 5 months ago by Kurt Smith
DoninAjax

If Aaron Judge played in AAA games would he count his home runs there in his total?

Kurt Smith

I wasn’t saying that Kyle’s Truck and Xfinity Series wins should count as Cup wins, DoninAjax. I am saying that winning a truck or Xfinity race in Kyle’s era is tougher than winning a lot of the Cup races in Petty’s era. I wasn’t saying Kyle is the record holder in Cup because he isn’t. I am saying that his win total over all three series is more impressive.

Kurt Smith

Put it another way. Do you think Richard Petty, if he had the option to run all three series, would rack up 200 wins today? My answer is I doubt it. We can’t compare that obviously, but in the current era no one is even close to Kyle.

Last edited 5 months ago by Kurt Smith
DoninAjax

I said in his home run total. Baby Busch is counting all three series in his total.

Bill B

Have any Cup competitors even came close to running as many lower series races (counting only those they ran while being a Cup series regular)?
If not, there’s your answer.

Kurt Smith

Why is that a knock on Kyle? Again, Richard Petty won more races than anyone else partly because he competed in more races than anyone else. Both drivers put up their numbers the same way…racing a lot.

Bill B

I wasn’t knocking Kyle, I was answering your question….
“…why hasn’t anyone else racked up 200 wins?”

The answer, IMO, is because most of the Cup drivers aren’t that greedy or need their ego boosted as frequently. Or maybe they’re just too lazy.

The point being that, at such a time when other Cup drivers attempt as many lower tiered races, and none of them can put up 200 wins, then maybe you can use those lower tier wins to argue how stupendous Kyle Busch is.

Kurt Smith

Bill ol’ buddy, there was a time not very long ago when guys like Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski and several others actually ran for championships in both series. Yes, they were criticized for it, but they probably stopped doing it because it’s really damned hard to race close to a thousand miles on a weekend.

Mark Martin ran 236 minor league series races, was that because he needed his ego boosted?

We can talk about why drivers don’t race as much as Kyle, but I doubt it’s that they don’t have the ego or greed problems Kyle has. If Kyle Busch has an insecurity problem, it doesn’t show on the racetrack.

Even if you don’t like the guy, and I’ll concede that there are reasons not to like him, you can’t deny that he’s one of the all time greatest to get behind a wheel.

Kurt Smith

By the way Bill, I hated when the Busch Series was Cup Lite too, not so much because I felt like Cup drivers were beating up on developing drivers but because there weren’t any developing drivers. It was almost all Cup guys for a while, and so the rookies came from open wheel series and we were all wondering where the hell we were going to get Cup stars from in the future.

NASCAR actually got a rule change right when they told drivers they could only run for a championship in one series. I didn’t think that would fix the problem but it has.

But all that said, looking back now I have to give KB his due.

Last edited 5 months ago by Kurt Smith
Bill B

Does Being a ‘Triple Threat’ Mean Anything?
NO. Not in the context to which you are referring. The only threat is to the purses in the lower series and the well being of teams running that series full time.

Last edited 5 months ago by Bill B
Kevin in SoCal

It used to mean something to have a win in all three series when there were only a handful of drivers who have done it. Now with 41 drivers having done it, it doesn’t mean as much. Especially as you said, with some drivers having only one win in each series.
I’m much more impressed with the drivers who have multiple championships in each series.

Kurt Smith

Are there even any? I know Martin Truex is a two-time Xfinity champ but he only has one Cup title.

Kevin in SoCal

Hi Kurt, I meant “multiple championships” as in each series, not multiples in one series. So we have guys like Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch, Brad Kesolowski, Martin Truex Jr, etc, who have won a championship in two of the three series. Nobody has won in all three series, yet.

Kurt Smith

Ah, okay. Thanks for clarifying…

TiminPayson

I love Richard Petty but I’m old enough to remember the field of crap wagons he ran against. I know that sounds disrespectful but guys like Joe Frasson and Blackie Wangerin, while colorful, couldn’t run up front at their local short track. I’m sure that was true for many of RP’s competitors

Kurt Smith

It’s a whole other discussion, but the prevalence of multi-car teams brought worthwhile parity to the sport better than any rule change the sport’s leadership has come up with. Petty raced against guys like Pearson and Allison, but now it’s Hendrick vs. Gibbs vs. Penske and others, and as a result you have 12-13 drivers that can win on a given week as opposed to five or six.

Last edited 5 months ago by Kurt Smith
Echo

I think Mark Martin did it because he loved racing and winning. I think Kyle Busch did it for the very same reason. He really hates to get beat no matter what series he’s in. Every racer should feel the exact same way. Kyle Busch got good equipment because he showed every owner and sponsor that he could and would win every week. No matter what anyone says, 200 plus wins in the top 3 nascar racing series is one hell of an accomplishment, period. We can argue forever, but his name will always show he has 200+ wins .

DoninAjax

I think stats should count only in the top league you play in. Does an NHL player talk about his stats in the AHL? Does an NBA player mention his stats in the G-league? Stats in lower levels of competition don’t matter once you reach the top.