NASCAR has been around for 65 years and there have been quite a few things that have happened over that time that have been rather remarkable. Most every year there is somebody doing something for the first time, or somebody accomplishes something that notches their name in the recordbooks. This past weekend it happened again in Texas when Kyle Busch became the third driver in Nationwide Series history to win five consecutive races at a single track. There are people who feel as though the accomplishment is not as impressive considering the equipment that Busch is wielding around the track, but it is still an outstanding feat.
The Nationwide Series has evolved in many ways throughout its existence and interestingly, someone set this consecutive win record in each of the three major periods of its growth. Jack Ingram was the first one to set the record, when the series was in its infancy and the majority of the schedule took place on small bullrings dotted around the Southeast. Aside from Milwaukee, Indianapolis and Dover, the other 24 races on the schedule took place in Virginia or places further south. Ingram won his first of the five races at South Boston Speedway in the middle of the 1985 season. It was the third of three visits to the track that year. It was not unusual for the series to make multiple visits to a track during the season because the series was in its formative years and was still struggling to gain traction among promoters. In 1985 the series ran at Hickory Motor Speedway four times, and Orange County twice, two other tracks that did not host Cup races at that time.
In 1986, the Nationwide series had South Boston on the schedule four times. Due to the fact Ingram had figured out the setup the year before during the last visit of the season, it was very beneficial to have the track on the docket four times in a single season. Ingram didn’t totally run away with the races, but he was nearly the lap leader in all four of them. Were it not for Larry Pearson and Dale Jarrett, he would have truly dominated because they led the bulk of the laps that Ingram didn’t.
The next driver to accomplish the feat was Dale Earnhardt, who won the first race of the season every year from 1990 through 1994. He truly owned the races in 1991, 1992 and 1993, but had a little bit more work in 1990 and 1994. By the time Earnhardt was matching Ingram’s mark, the series had begun to mirror the Cup schedule a lot more. There were still non-companion events, but 20 out of the 28 races on the schedule in 1994 were at the same facility that the Cup series was running. That is where the Cup drivers started running more and more of the Nationwide races. When Earnhardt took the checkered flag at Daytona in 1994, there were no less than 13 Cup drivers in the field some of whom were Daytona 500 champions and obviously knew how to plate race.
Fast forwarding to 2010, Busch took the green flag this weekend trying to duplicate the accomplishments of these two stars of the sport. Busch had already scored four straight wins at Texas over the last two years, and also had just finished third in the Cup race just an hour or less before the flag dropped. The defending Nationwide champion dominated the race, and after leading 153 of 200 laps, took the checkered flag and put his name in the recordbooks as the third driver in history who was able to win five consecutive races at a single track.
While the talent question will be debated for years to come as Busch continues to rack up wins in all three touring series, the claim of superior equipment simply doesn’t hold water.
Does Busch have better equipment than the teams that only compete in the Nationwide series? He unquestionably does. However, there were several drivers in the race who were driving Nationwide cars that are backed by Cup teams and have just as many resources backing them up as Busch has backing him. There were 10 Cup drivers in the race besides Busch, not the least of which was Joey Logano who is running in equipment built and maintained in the same shop as Busch’s. Clint Bowyer is driving equipment that won the owners’ championship in the recent past while Carl Edwards is a former champion and is running in Jack Roush’s equipment that is certainly backed by as much money and resources as Busch’s.
Is Busch’s accomplishment different than those of Ingram and Earnhardt? Certainly there are some differences. In fact, Earnhardt’s is probably less impressive than the other two because it was on a plate track, against lesser foes, in glorified Richard Childress equipment and there is no question that Earnhardt is one of the greatest plate racers ever. Ingram’s is quite impressive merely for the fact that it took place at South Boston. The track is so small and so tight that it is virtually impossible to stay out of other people’s problems during a race. For Ingram to have done it five times in a row, is truly an unbelievable feat.
Whatever the feelings are toward Kyle Busch, he deserves a tip of the hat and a place in the record books – one of many he’ll have before he’s done – because he was able to win five straight races at Texas, against competition that is arguably stiffer than it was for the other two who have achieved this accomplishment. Now the question comes, can he do it again in November to be the only one to do it six times? We’ll all see, but if he does, he deserves to be cheered.