The Frontstretch: Is NASCAR Ready to Dethrone the King? by Amy Henderson -- Saturday April 2, 2011

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Is NASCAR Ready to Dethrone the King?

Holding A Pretty Wheel · Amy Henderson · Saturday April 2, 2011


There has been considerable debate lately about wins: which ones should count toward the record books and which should not. At the center of it all is Kyle Busch, who scored his 91st NASCAR touring victory at Fontana and who has made it a personal goal to try to equal Richard Petty’s storied mark of 200. That pursuit ignites a certain controversy, especially as this march nears the halfway point of his stated goal at just 25 years old – making that pursuit more realistic than it ever has been.

But should all touring series wins be counted when looking at a driver’s career total?

Kyle Busch continues racking up the victories in all forms of motorsports, from Cup to Nationwide to Trucks (coming just short of another on Saturday afternoon). But does going after that magical 200 number, set by the King, really count when it’s a combination of three different series?

I’m inclined to say no. Why? For the same reason we don’t count Babe Ruth’s minor league home runs when we talk about his career, but also for another, one that doesn’t take other sports into account: if touring series wins were as important in the scheme of NASCAR as Cup wins, Richie Evans would have been a first-round Hall of Fame inductee, and Kyle Busch would have a hell of a long way to go. Evans has 478 known wins in NASCAR’s Modified division, and by some accounts, more than that, as record keeping for the series was not always reliable. He also had nine championships, eight of those coming consecutively.

Take that, Kyle Busch.

There is a certain hypocrisy among the racing media on this subject. While touting Busch’s accomplishments, they overlook those of Evans who, if touring series victories really counted, would be the winningest driver in the history of the sport by more than double Petty’s total. On the other hand, if you want to discount Evans’ wins for being “only” in the Modified ranks, then Busch should be respected for his other accomplishments but the focus should be on his 20 Sprint Cup trophies.

So, which is it?

Nobody disputes Busch’s ability. Love him or despise him, the talent is real. That’s not, nor has it ever been the question. It’s a whole lot more complex than that in truth. How far are we willing to go? That’s the real question. If the new benchmark is going to be wins in any division, are we willing to let Evans supplant Petty as the King of NASCAR? Because if we’re going to talk about Busch possibly approaching Petty’s mark, then we must be willing to talk about Evans in the same sentence, and acknowledge that Busch will likely never come close to the all-time touring win total.

On the other hand, if we’re not willing to put Evans at the top of NASCAR’s pedestal, then we need to treat Busch the way others have been judged. 20 wins at his tender age are hardly a poor total; the majority of Cup racers never attain that number, and Busch is likely to at least double, and more likely to triple that number in his career. But right now, is Busch a better driver than Jeff Gordon? Than Jimmie Johnson? Than Dale Earnhardt? Because that’s what the numbers tell you. If touring series wins count, Busch has surpassed Gordon and Johnson and will likely surpass Earnhardt’s 99 sanctioned touring series wins before this year is out.

If touring series wins count, Richie Evans is more than twice the driver Richard Petty was – he is NASCAR’s winningest driver. And Evans, by the numbers, is more than twice as good as Richard Petty: 2.39 times as good, to be precise. Setting 478 as the benchmark makes the names NASCAR has long touted as the best pale in comparison – so are fans and the media really willing to take that leap and elevate Evans to the top of the heap? And what about Jerry Cook and his 342 Modified wins? Are fans and media ready to make Rome, New York (the hometown of both Evans and Cook, whose rivalry was legendary in its own right) the symbolic home of NASCAR legend instead of Randleman, North Carolina?

Are fans and media really ready to raise Kyle Busch (as well as others like Mark Martin and Kevin Harvick, who also have the bulk of their wins in series other than Cup) so high on the NASCAR pedestal? Because in order to do that and have it be legitimate, the entire face of NASCAR as we know it has to change – and are we really ready to end the reign of The King?

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Dyno Dave
04/03/2011 12:22 AM

With all due respect to Richie Evans his win total includes Friday/Saturday night regular show short track feature wins, which carried points counting toward the modified division championship back in those days. He does not have 478 “touring series” wins and is not even close to Petty’s (and Busch’s) accomplishments…

The Mad Man
04/03/2011 07:53 AM

NASCAR is trying to generate headlines with Busch’s win numbers. It’s hype, plain and simple.

As Kyle Petty said, “When he gets 200 Cup Series wins then come talk to me”.

Sharon Jones
04/03/2011 09:42 AM

Never will the “Court Jester” surpass the King.

04/03/2011 10:24 AM

Mad Man, exactly! This is pure hype to make one of NASCAR’s top four chosen ones (the other three “chosen ones” drive for The Felon, and no, Mark Martin isn’t one of them!) record look better than it really is. If they want to count all series totals, then they better go right back to the beginning. I’ll use Curtis Turner as an example (and Mad Man will probably be the only one , besides me, who will know about this). Turner’s “Cup” record only shows 17 wins. But back in the mid-50’s, NASCAR ran a separate convertible division from 1956 to 1959. During those 4 years, Turner accumulated 38 wins. But if you look back on the records, Turner still only has 17 wins. If Kyle’s win totals are to include his Truck and Nationwide wins, then someone like Turner should have his win total changed from 17 to 55. After all, if you’re going to prop up a chosen one’s modern record, then all records should be re-adjusted. Fair is fair!

By the way, if you ever pay really close attention to Kyle’s Trck and Nationwide record, you can see why he wins so many races on NASCAR’s lower tier racing series’. Kyle is such an aggressive driver, many of these lower tier teams get out of his way because he’ll wreck them with no remorse! And most of those guys can’t affort to have some inflated ego like Kyle wreck their cars and trucks just because he can! So it’s easier to just let him go, unless they want the expense of being wrecked.

04/03/2011 12:40 PM

Many of you who keep supporting Richard Petty seem to forget many of his Cup wins were back when the races were 100 lap/mile races on the short tracks of the day with less real competition then is in the Busch series today.

I have read many books about nascars early days and interviews with drivers of the day, who talked about the drivers getting together and deciding which races the would race in. ( these drivers got together and decided they would not race against each other at every race, you race Friday and I will race Saturday type of deals)

Richard also was one of the first if not the very first to have big time (national/big money) sponsership when all the others only had local(small) sponsership.
So he was alot like the buschwackers of today.

Yes all the King’s wins were in Cup, but alot of them more closely resemble the Busch series of today more then the Cup series.

04/03/2011 02:36 PM

Steve Kinser
561 WOO Sprint Car Feature Wins
20 Woo Championships

Scott Bloomquist
500 Dirt Late Model Feature Wins

Bob Senneker
500 Late Model Short Track Feature Wins

Dick Trickle
Approx. 1000 Short Track Feature Wins
1972 67 Short Track Feature Wins
1973 57 Short Track Feature Wins

There are many other great racers out there. These are just some of the greats I have seen race who have many more touring series wins then Richard Petty. Just because cup gets the most coverage does not mean that they are the best drivers out there

04/03/2011 02:39 PM

Once again, Susan spews her pointless dribble. What you also forget Susan, is that, back in the day, the cup series, or Grand National as it was known as, the schedule was also 45 to 55 races, and started two weeks after the previous season ended. There was a “Northern Tour” where they raced something like 8 races in a two-week period throughout New Yourk and New England. It was just as hard on the drivers then as it is now. Plus, back then, the interstate system was only just being built, so travel wasn’t as easy as it is now. As for Richard’s so-called big time sponsorship, the money back then didn’t flow as freely as it does now, anf drivers didn’t become millionairs in their first year. I remember everyone making a big deal out of Fred Lorenzen becoming the first driver to win $100,000.00 in a season. That was 1963!
Only thing was that lorenzen had the reputation of only running the “big races” like the superspeedways, Martinsville, and Bristol. Yes, it was a lot different back then, and I’m not so sure it wasn’t a lot better. Back then, the drivers drove for the love of the sport. Now, it’s for the love of money! GGive me those old days any time!

Gee, between you, DansMom, and Randy-RandyGoldman, if there is anything that is pointless, it’s your nasty comments! Which begs the question, why do you read any column on Frontstretch if you have such a hatred for the columnists?

04/03/2011 06:13 PM

I will agree it was much tougher on the drivers back in the day and I know there were many years with 60+ cups races, but few drivers raced anywhere near all of the races because of lack of money(sponsership).

I get tried of the Petty supporters acting like he was just another drivers and it was all talent that won those 200 cup races. Richard had factory sponsership and then STP while most of the other driver(not all)still had Mom and Pop(local) sponsers.
He went from 21 wins in 1971, 10 wins in 74 and 13 wins in 75 to only 5 wins in both 77 and 79 and a total of 23 wins from 1976 until retirement in 1992 and no win for the last 8 years. What changed besides more money and big sponser entering the sport? I know radial tires and power steering are a few of the changes to the sport.

I will also agree that the racing back in the 70’s and 80’s (when I started watching, many ASA and midwest short tracks) was better then todays product, this was due as you stated because the drivers were racing for the love of the sport not money. There are only a few drivers in the major touring series(nascar, indy or F-1) who would be racing if the money was not there. This along with nascar chasing the bandwagon fan instead listening to the older longtime fan is a big part of the problem.

04/03/2011 08:36 PM

While I disagree with alot of what you say and wonder if at times if you are just trying to get people riled up. Today we are on the same side of this debate. And My comments about bandwagon fans was not directed at you.

Yes the races are alot closer today then back 15-20 years ago, but the lucky dog, debris cautions and controlling the outcome from the nascar booth are a big reason for that.

No I do not expect these drivers to do this for nothing but these are not the drivers we grew up watching that would race 5+ nights a week just to put food on the table. Look at Joe (start and park) Nemacheck and Dave Blaney there race teams made over $3,000,000 last year by ONLY RUNNING ABOUT 10% OF EACH RACE.

SS Mike
04/03/2011 08:41 PM

I have always felt that Petty being called the King was bogus and so is the hype of his 200 wins. He ran nothing races against nobody racers who had poor equipment while Petty had the best there was.

David Pearson is much more the King then Petty could ever dream off.

04/04/2011 01:20 AM

I can’t help but laugh at some of these comments that are trying to throw the King under the bus. They say things like the racing is more superior now and the drivers are as well….hah! I started following racing during the early sixties and I would bet the farm that 99% of todays drivers would have messed their saddle if they tried to run with 90% of those drivers from that era.
News flash…todays cars are much much easier to drive and money is what makes them easier and safer. Todays engineers have these cars where you barely turn the wheel and they are stuck to the ground like a train on rails by comparison. The King is King. Those guys really knew they could lose their life but the passion and bravery honed their skills not money,fame,fortune and a million dollar engineer.

Joe W.
04/04/2011 03:53 PM

It seems some of you don’t like Richard Petty. Well he is called the King for a couple reasons. 200 wins and 7 championships. Other than Petty only David Pearson has 100 wins and only Dale Sr. has 7 championships. These three are the best of the best. Kyle Busch is NOT in their league. Period, end of story. Susan asks if Peyton Manning plays football for the pure love of the sport. Well of course not, but you don’t see him playing games against High School teams and counting them in his win total either.

04/06/2011 03:07 PM

Saying Petty got all his wins because of inferior equipment is kind of hypocritical considering Kyle does that every week in the NW series does he not?


Contact Amy Henderson

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