Welcome to the latest Happy Hour mailbag! You know how these work: you write us with your best rant/joke/one-liner at email@example.com or on Twitter at @jaybusbee, we respond to your messages, everyone goes away with a smile on their face. Today, we start by putting some history in perspective:
Kyle Busch in his first 7 full years averaged 2.75 wins a year for a total of 22 wins in the big league and ZERO Championships...
Jimmie Johnson in his first 7 full years averaged 6.3 wins a year for a total of 40 wins in the big league and three championships....
Jeff Gordon in his first 7 full years averaged 7 wins a year for a total of 49 wins in the big league and three championships....
What would truly amaze me if media clowns like yourself actually wrote about racing instead of trying to build up a driver to make headlines...RIP...NASCAR...
— Steve Jackson
I … like … the … use … of … ellipses. Still, gratuitous media-shot aside, you have a good point: The volume of Kyle's wins tends to obscure the fact that only 22 of them have come at the highest level, and he's not quite the boy wonder you'd think he is when you look at the numbers. Busch simply has to win multiple Cup championships to get taken seriously in a best-ever discussion.
(On another note, we don't try to build up drivers; we just write about what happens. And in unrelated news, stay tuned for our new 20-part series, "Paul Menard: He's like Earnhardt times Petty with a dusting of David Pearson." We WILL make you love him.)
Now, more Kyle, Petty and Kyle Petty? Sure, why not?
Are you kidding me? Truck race wins to compete with Sprint Cup or Nextel or Winston Cup wins … [segue into the usual "why don't we count AAA home runs and college football touchdowns" argument] This is crazy, and I can't believe you, a serious fan and writer, agrees they should be compared to Petty. It's not his fault the other "skeeters" out there were not better than they were. Can't wait to hear this response.
— Mike M
Whew. Well, at least you called me a "serious fan and writer." Many of your compatriots weren't quite so generous. Look, here's the deal: The competition in all three national series right now is at least the equal of many of Petty's races. Does that mean Kyle's wins in the lower series should count against Petty's? Heck no. We need two lists: Sprint Cup-level and all-series. Since it'd take someone 40 years, at five wins a year, to match Petty's total, that 200 is safe. So why don't we create a second list, totaling all three series? Yes, Petty didn't have the opportunity to race in those series, but I think he got enough racing in, as our next writer argues:
I'm rather tired of Kyle Petty's gas. Yeah, his dad is the King, and all, but let's compare apples to apples. Waltrip, Gordon and Earnhardt earned all their victories on Sunday against the best qualified participants. 84 for the two former; 76 for the latter. How many of the King's 200 happened on Sunday? One of the King's victories happened on a Wednesday in a convertible in what I believe to be a 50-mile sprint. On a Wednesday? Was the best possible competition really available in the middle of the week? A 50 mile sprint? Points? Really?
Yeah, uh … the sacred-Petty-record fans kind of run aground when you start digging down deep into Petty's races. One of them came in a potato-sack race at a Catawba County Fair. True story.
[Kyle's] wins are just as impressive as The King's. No disrespect to The King. But anyone who has run a race on a Saturday night knows it's a workout. So, racing in multiple classes in one weekend at the top levels in NASCAR is Iron Man status, if you ask me. So yes, his wins are just as impressive as The King. But The King will always be The King.
Kyle Petty would like a word with you, sir. And when he talks, beware his ponytail. It's like a cobra.
We done with Kyle? Yes? All right, let's move on.
Want to know an interesting statistic? David Gilliland has a higher average finish (9.3) at the three restrictor plate races this year than any of the top twelve drivers in the Sprint Cup standings. The best among the top twelve are Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch, both with 12.3. The worst is Matt Kenseth with a 24 … second worst is Ryan Newman with a 23.3.
Yet Gilliland is at 30th place in the driver standings, the lowest of all the drivers except one who has started every race. For most races his car is not up to the quality of the top drivers from better funded teams. Unlike other races, however, restrictor plate and road course races (Gilliland finished a respectable 12th at Sonoma) force more "equipment parity," i.e. the quality of the car each driver has is not as material as the driver's own abilities.
Do you think if the regular Sprint Cup drivers all had access to equal equipment for all races that we would see closer and more jumbled driver standings from week to week?
— Russ Cherry
Hmmm. Interesting idea, though I'd submit that Gilliland is more a beneficiary of right-place, right-time with the restrictor plates. Anybody who can keep a car off a wall has a chance of a top 5 at a restrictor plate track these days. But your point is an interesting one, and I'd love to see a blind-draw race where every driver runs to a random car and pilots it around the track. I think Tony Stewart would win, Robby Gordon would annihilate half the field, and Joe Nemecheck would park purely out of habit.
Jimmie Johnson may have just made a new fan Sunday. We have all had our fun on the live chats with the Lord Vader cracks, but this dude can straight wheel a car! Going from 21st to 5th in the last stage of the race was incredible to watch. The car was obviously not black, and it most definitely had a "48" on the doors, but I swear there were times that the TV cameras showed an open face helmet with a distinct mustache behind the wheel. Not to mention that the team is "melting down" around him, yet he still sits just 7 points out of the lead! Even being fed up with the situation he was totally professional while calling out his crew. People may say that he has only won 5 titles because his team has figured out a system to the Chase (I have been guilty of it) but I believe that if he arises from the "ashes" that is his 2011 season, people will finally start to see that he is the greatest driver of this generation of NASCAR.
— Darrell Watts
Sweet heaven, did you just compare Jimmie Johnson to The Intimidator? You're a brave, brave man, sir. Aside: Of all the ridiculous knocks on Vader, the whole "the Chase favors the 48 team" is just stupid. Is it Johnson's fault he runs well on the Chase tracks? What, he should request that they run on, I dunno, gravel? Look, Vader fans: Nobody's going to love your guy until 20 years after he's retired. I know, it hurts; see if you can find comfort in your five-and-counting Cup championships.
Finally, we have another example of extreme NASCAR fandom in everyday life:
Used to drive on a highway everyday where you drive on a one lane ramp to get on. This is actually the start of the highway so there is no merging. At the bottom of the ramp, the road widens to 3 lanes. I tell you, whenever I was first in line going down the ramp, you look in the rearview and it is like leading the field to the green flag at Daytona or Talladega (before the double file restart business) because as soon as it widens, cars jump out to the other lanes and usually multiple cars follow making a little draft group (again, before the couples racing). Fun stuff! I would love to think I would be the leader when the drop a green flag at Daytona.
Oh, and you would be, for about three-tenths of a second. Got a NASCAR-in-my-life moment of your own? Let us know. But don't go creating one; we don't want to get blamed when you rear-end somebody at the traffic light and say they "spun their tires on the restart." Get to it!
And on that note, we're out. Thanks to all our writers this week. You want in? Fire up the computer and hit us with whatever's on your mind, NASCAR-wise, at firstname.lastname@example.org, find us on Facebook right here, or hit us up on Twitter at @jaybusbee. Make sure to tell us where you're from. We'll make you famous!