Rowdy torches the field in the desert at ISM Raceway
By Rick Minter / Andrews McMeel Syndication
With his victories in both the Xfinity and Monster Energy Cup series races at ISM Raceway in Phoenix over the past weekend, Kyle Busch has pushed his win count across NASCAR’s top three touring series to 199, just one shy of NASCAR’s all-time win leader Richard Petty, who had 200 wins, all in the elite Cup series.
Busch has 52 in Cup, 94 in the Xfinity Series and 53 in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series, and is already the all-time win leader in Xfinity and trucks.
As he closes in on 200, a debate is heating up over how Busch’s accomplishments compare to Petty’s.
Many in Busch’s corner point out that a lot of Petty’s wins came against short fields and lighter competition back in the day. Those in Petty’s camp argue that all of Petty’s wins came in the circuit’s elite series and point to his win total in major races, like the Daytona 500, where he had seven wins. Busch has yet to win the 500.
Others say Busch’s records are unique in that no other top Cup driver has put so much focus on competing in the No.2 and No. 3 circuits.
Even more say that comparing the two drivers and their accomplishments really isn’t fair.
Retired driver and TV commentator Ricky Craven weighed in on Twitter, writing that when Busch reaches 200 “it will be a moment for our sport to celebrate a monumental accomplishment. It’s my hope that we stop comparing it to Richard Petty’s unprecedented feat. Both statistics are exceptional but not comparable.”
After his dominating Cup win at Phoenix, where he chased down and passed race leader Ryan Blaney with 17 laps remaining to get his first Cup win of the season, Busch sounded like he wanted to leave the Busch-Petty debate to others.
“It’s not for me to worry about,” he said. “It’s for everybody else to discuss and talk about and argue over and debate. But for myself and the career that I’ve had, I’ve been fortunate to be with a lot of great people, a lot of great sponsors, those that stick around me. …
“To work with my guys, to take them to Victory Lane is what it’s all about.”
Busch added that at the relatively young age of 33, he hopes he has many more wins ahead before he exits the sport.
“Might as well set your goals high, go out there and achieve,” he said, adding that he’d like to run his Cup victory count to 100. “That would certainly put us up there with the top guys, being one of the best of the best.”
Busch’s car owner, Joe Gibbs, also weighed in during the winner’s post-race press session.
“I’m always leery about ‘all-time’ when you start talking in pro sports because there’s been so many great ones,” Gibbs said. “I do think Kyle has the unusual ability of some athletes. … It’s the guys that when they put the helmet on — I think really if he won 500 races, it wouldn’t change — he goes for it every single week.
“He’s got a determination and a drive that’s just very unusual … You [media] guys will probably determine where he winds up in history … but I would say that Kyle has probably got a chance to really do something great.”
Busch’s win at Phoenix on Sunday looked more like some of his Xfinity wins there. He led a race-high 177 laps, won a stage, and at the checkered flag was comfortably ahead of runner-up Martin Truex Jr., who charged through the top five late in the race to claim his best finish of the season. Blaney, the polesitter, led 94 laps and had to stretch a dwindling fuel supply in his No. 12 Ford to finish third, also his best of the season. Aric Almirola, who led 26 laps, and Denny Hamlin, who led seven, completed the top five.
Busch said he couldn’t be much happier with the performance of his No. 18 Toyota after the first four races of the season.
“Best in the business,” he said. “I’ve got the best guys on pit road. I’ve got the best guys in the garage and the best crew chief [Adam Stevens] out there.
“I think all those combinations go together with a pretty good driver, and we can go out there and get the job done. Now we just got to keep doing that.”
PHOTO CAPTION: With a pair of wins over the weekend, Kyle Busch now has 199 wins across NASCAR’s top three series.Stacy Revere/Getty Iimages for NASCAR