Kyle Busch’s quest for 200 NASCAR national series wins has everything to do with Richard Petty and nothing to do with Richard Petty.
Petty won 200 races during a span from 1960 to 1984 in what is now the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Kyle Busch, born in 1985, has won 199 races in NASCAR national series competition with 52 in Cup (the most recent last Sunday at ISM Raceway near Phoenix), 94 in the Xfinity Series and 53 in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series.
As Busch goes for No. 200 this weekend in competing in both Saturday’s Xfinity and Sunday’s Cup races at Auto Club Speedway in California, the milestone of 200 national wins brings with it as much accolades as it does debate over the validity of his accomplishment coming across three divisions.
“It’s just a number, period,” Petty said. “I did mine in my time. And he is doing his in his time. … He’s got 50-some Cup wins. There’s no comparison. It’s just a number that everybody is trying to compare.”
Obviously, the majority of Busch’s wins have come in what many consider NASCAR’s minor leagues. The NASCAR Xfinity Series started in 1982 and turned into NASCAR’s version of baseball AAA and the trucks didn’t begin until 1995 and has turned into primarily a stepping stone to Xfinity. Petty didn’t compete in any races in either series. Both series feature a mix of young drivers and Cup interlopers as well as drivers who have established themselves as fixtures in those divisions.
“What I said from the beginning of all this is it’s not a comparison to Richard Petty’s 200 wins,” Busch said. “It is not. It is my own and an accomplishment on itself that should stand alone separate from Richard.”
While Busch wants it to stand alone, the fact remains Petty’s record is 200, making comparisons unavoidable.
Petty, who went winless in his last 241 starts, won in 16.9 percent of his races and owns a record that likely no one will ever break. Of Petty’s 200 wins, 30 came on dirt, 20 with fields of fewer than 20 drivers and 64 more in fields of 21-29 drivers. He won 92 races in a five-year span (1967-71) where NASCAR conducted 248 races. It took him 24 years and 944 starts in Cup to earn his 200 wins.
Busch’s 52 Cup wins ranks him 11th all-time and he has won 10.4 percent of all of his Cup races. Over 16 years in 996 starts across the three series, the 33-year-old Busch has won nearly 20 percent of his races.
“It’s not my job to compare or tell you whether or not what I did was harder or easier,” Busch said. “There’s other people out there that can argue that fact that have seen Richard Petty race races back at the [local] fairgrounds when he ran 50-lappers and it was a Cup race. There were 16 cars in the field.
“It’s not for me to argue. I don’t care.”
Petty will point out the obvious in the debate, comparing Busch to a professional athlete competing on both the college and professional level at the same time.
“Not taking anything away from his driving ability, but the competition in the other two (non-Cup) leagues is just not there,” Petty said. “He is taking a Cup team and going back to the guys that are just trying to get started.”
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Don’t take that as disrespect. Petty says that if Busch raced in the 1960s and 1970s, he would have won races against him and David Pearson, who ranks second all-time with 105 Cup wins.
“He is a great driver,” Petty said. “He is one of the guys that you would be able to put him in competition with all the greats. … He would have been very competitive with us.”
Busch has other milestones he wants to hit. He has said once he reaches 100 Xfinity wins, he would no longer look for races to run in that series. Whether he can get to the 83-84 Cup win mark of Cale Yarborough, Jimmie Johnson, Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison remains to be seen, and then there would be the 93 of Jeff Gordon.
“It’s incredible he’s at (over) 50 (in Cup); it’s incredible he’s at 199 with all the series,” Johnson said. “It takes a great crew chief. It takes a great team. You need those pit stops. You need raw speed. Sometimes you need a little luck.”
For now, Busch will celebrate the 200th win whenever it comes even amid the debate.
“I feel as though I’ve been in this position to win as many races as I have due to a lot of great people and being able to go out there and celebrate 200 wins is … I don’t know that it will happen again, but if it does, then that person should certainly cherish that moment,” Busch said.
“I hate that you get beat up so much about an accomplishment, but I guess that’s part of life. Haters gonna hate.”