After Thursday night’s win in the Camping World Truck Series and Saturday night's Cup Series win, Kyle Busch has 99 victories across NASCAR’s three major series. One more will give him an even 100, a number reached by only two other drivers – Richard Petty and David Pearson.
So when Busch reaches the century mark – and it’s going to happen sooner than later – should the accomplishment be celebrated? Kyle Petty doesn’t think so.
“I’m sick and freaking tired of hearing Kyle Busch, 98 NASCAR wins,” Petty said Friday during SPEED’s broadcast of Cup practice. “He’s won 21 Cup races. Compare Cup to Cup, Nationwide to Nationwide and Truck to Truck. I’m sorry, that’s a Kyle Petty opinion. But they never do it with anybody but Kyle Busch.”
Petty has a point. When Darrell Waltrip was recently voted into NASCAR's Hall of Fame, his résumé read 84 wins, not 97 (84 Cup, 13 Nationwide). Dale Earnhardt isn’t recognized as having 97 wins (76 Cup, 21 Nationwide), either; he has 76.
To be fair, Busch’s ability to win races across all three series is impressive. He’s won at least six races a season across the three series since 2005 – his rookie year in Cup. Last year alone he won 24 races (3 Cup, 13 Nationwide and 8 Truck) and he has 12 wins (2, 5, 5) nearing the halfway point of this season.
Detractors will claim that Busch cherry picks the majority of those wins feeding on lesser talent. But that argument doesn’t consider the difficulty it takes to be good at driving three distinctly different vehicles. Just because you’re good in one, doesn’t mean your going to be good in another. Exhibit A in this argument is Jimmie Johnson, who has one win in 91 career Nationwide starts.
Back to Petty’s rant, he reasons that Busch gets credit for all his wins because he currently races in all three series, something no other driver does with as much regularity. There may be some truth to that, but the assumption here is that there’s something more, namely that number 100.
I think back to my childhood looking at the baseball record book my grandfather kept next to the Lazy Boy in his den. I’d scan the numbers of Ruth, Aaron and Mays, jealous that my grandfather got to watch them play, and I’d wonder if I’d ever get to witness the same kind of greatness.
So when I was living near the San Francisco Bay Area in 2002 and Barry Bonds was nearing the 600 home run mark, I wanted to witness it – wanted to experience my own Ruth, Aaron or Mays. It didn’t matter to me that the Giants were playing my favorite team, the Cubs, when Bonds sat on 599. I cheered when he came to the plate. I wanted to be a part of history. (Bonds went 0-for-2 that night, by the way.)
In its own way, Busch nearing the century mark is much the same. Not since Pearson won No. 100 in 1978 has anyone in NASCAR reached triple digits. If we’re strictly going on Cup wins, it’s going to be a long time before anyone does again. Jeff Gordon is closest with 84 wins, but it’s looking doubtful he’ll get there before he retires. Next on the list is Jimmie Johnson at 54.
If we don’t celebrate Busch reaching 100, will we ever get to celebrate anyone getting there? Maybe not, which I think is Petty’s point. Breaking the 100-win barrier is an amazing accomplishment, one that shouldn’t happen all the time. And just because it hasn’t, doesn’t mean we should finagle a way for it to happen now.