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Two-Headed Monster: Is Kyle Busch’s Win Count as Impressive as it Sounds?

Well folks, he did it again: XFINITY Series career win No. 79, national series win No. 157.

And he’s only 30.

It’s no secret that Kyle Busch is a polarizing driver. He’s been both brash and mellow. He’s called NASCAR out about the cars and lack of SAFER barriers. He’s bumped to the win, he’s spun drivers out, he’s saved his car from crashing too many times to count. He won the 2015 Sprint Cup championship after missing 11 regular-season races.

He’s a one-man highlight reel, really, driving fans to cheer loud or boo even louder – but as long as they’re making noise, he knows he’s doing something right. And the fans have been making a lot of noise over the past few years in regards to Rowdy’s win count, now only 43 away from tying Richard Petty’s record of 200.

They debate for good reason: Petty won each of his races in the Sprint Cup Series, while Busch has divided his wins across the three national series: Sprint Cup, XFINITY and Camping World Trucks. Can 200 wins – can 157 wins even – in three series be considered as impressive as 200 in Cup?

Of Course. Busch is a Rare Talent: Enjoy it While You Can

I’ll preface this by saying that I’m no fan of interloping. I’d rather see it dramatically limited and let the XFINITY and Truck series drivers duke it out each week. But one of us had to argue this side, and Kyle Busch was the driver I wanted to be when I was a teen, so here goes.

I like numbers. They don’t lie. And Busch is among the best when it comes down to numbers. He has the second-highest most national-series wins (Cup, NXS, Truck) in the sport’s nearly 70-year history, trailing only Petty. That he has done so in the most-competitive era the sport has seen shouldn’t be lost on the fans watching. It’s hard to win a race these days.

And yes, Busch has padded his numbers by racing in the XFINITY and Truck series, but his Cup win count isn’t too shabby either – 34 wins, enough for 17th on the all-time Cup wins chart. Considering his age and his output, it’s conceivable that Busch ends up with 50 or more Cup wins when he decides to retire, a number that very few drivers have reached (just 12 all time) and one that only five drivers have reached who have made a start in this millennium.

But that’s in the future. Plenty of things could happen between now and then keeping him from that number. So here’s another “right-now” number: 18.76 percent. That’s Busch’s winning percentage among the three series, easily the best of the 18 drivers who have won 50+ races combined in the three national series. In the NXS, the percentage is 25.16, and in Trucks it’s 34.11 – again, the best in the series.

Close behind Busch in win percentage isn’t Petty, but rather David Pearson with an 18.28 percent. Petty is third with 16.89. In fact, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick are the only other active drivers with a win percentage of more than 10 – Johnson with a 12.73 percent and Harvick with 10.18 percent.

Other drivers who have double and triple-dipped in recent years include Mark Martin, Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski and their win percentage across three series isn’t anywhere near Busch.

DriverCup WinsNXS WinsTruck WinsTotal WinsTotal StartsCup Win %NXS Win %Truck Win %Overall Win %
Richard Petty20000200118416.89%N/AN/A16.89%
Kyle Busch3479441578378.63%25.16%34.11%18.76%
David Pearson1051010658018.29%16.67%N/A18.28%
Jeff Gordon93509887011.67%6.85%N/A11.26%
Darrell Waltrip841309792110.38%13.68%0%10.53%
Dale Earnhardt762109781211.24%15.44%N/A11.95%
Mark Martin404979611434.54%20.76%28.00%8.40%
Kevin Harvick324614929045.90%19.25%11.38%10.18%
Bobby Allison84208676111.70%4.65%N/A11.30%
Cale Yarborough83008356014.82%N/AN/A14.82%
Jimmie Johnson76107760514.87%1.08%0%12.73%
Carl Edwards25386697186.05%15.51%10.00%9.61%
Matt Kenseth36290658706.19%10.07%N/A7.47%
Tony Stewart48112616908.14%11.70%33.33%8.84%
Rusty Wallace5500557497.79%0%0%7.34%
Greg Biffle192016558033.97%8.20%19.75%6.85%
Ron Hornaday Jr.0451555900%2.17%14.17%9.32%
Brad Keselowski18341535317.59%14.91%1.52%9.98%

Fans are witnessing something special here, just as they were when Johnson won five-straight titles. Whether the win count reaches 200 or not – and I suspect it will, as Busch averages just over 10 wins a season across all three series – the sheer amount of victories that he has accumulated is something that is going to be hard to top.

Is it as impressive at 200 Cup wins? Of course not, but it was never really about Cup wins, it was about the fabled 200. Only three drivers have reached 100 total wins, and only Harvick is close to the number today (92 wins and counting).

To say that Busch’s win count is worth less because he padded it in the XFINITY and Truck series is a disservice to Busch and to the two lower-tier series. These aren’t minor league races, per se. Dave Moody said it best on his blog earlier this week:

The Xfinity Series is much more than the motorized equivalent of AAA baseball. It is North America’s No. Two form of motorsport, ahead of IndyCar, NHRA, IHRA, IMSA Sports Cars and SCCA. Its in-person attendance and television ratings are the envy of every motorsports entity this side of Sprint Cup, and those who see it as nothing more than “Cup Lite” are simply not paying attention.

Yes, he wins a lot in these series; more so than in Cup, but he’s playing under the rules he’s been given: he can race in the other series so he does. It’s no different than Jimmie Johnson’s six Cup titles – it’s not his fault that he won them in the Chase format, it’s what NASCAR gave him to play within.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. You’ll likely never see anything like it again.

-Sean Fesko

No. No, no, no, no no no no no.

The only win total that counts for Kyle Busch is 34 – the total numbers of victories he has in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Look, that isn’t to discredit his wins in the XFINITY Series, Camping World Truck Series and K&N Pro Series East. Each of those wins stood in their own right on their day, and each is a credit to just how impressive of a driver Busch is.

They just aren’t relevant statistics for the pro level.

Say what you will about Busch’s dominance in the minors, but when it comes down to it, the statistics just aren’t important.

For historical perspective on this argument, let’s take a look at another NASCAR legend: Mark Martin.

Rising through the ranks from Batesville, Arkansas, Martin was among the best drivers in NASCAR for the majority of his 33-year career. While the veteran was terrific in any series, his best series statistically was the XFINITY Series.

Despite competing in more than 15 races just twice, Martin racked up an impressive 49 wins the NASCAR’s AAA series from 1982 through 2012. His best period came in the late nineties, where his familiar No. 60 Winn-Dixie Ford racked up at least five wins in four of the five seasons from 1996-2000.

The stats were impressive, so good, in fact, that Martin was largely considered the best NXS driver all-time until Busch began making the series a laugher in the late 2000s.

Still, ask any race fan about Martin, and you’ll hear the following things:

“Great driver, but he never won a Cup title.”

“Shame he never won the Daytona 500. He was so close in 2007!”

“How many years did he finish second in the standings again?”

That point doesn’t go to discredit Martin for his tremendous talent and accomplishments as a NASCAR driver. He’s probably the best driver to go without winning a title – and he arguably would have had one had a penalty not given Earnhardt the edge for one of his seven championships in the early 90s.

All I’m saying is that the casual fan doesn’t care about minor league stats.

Trying to say wins in the XFINITY Series or Truck Series should be relevant compared to the wins of the best drivers in the Cup Series is like saying a football player’s wins in college should give him credit as a NFL player.

Johnny Manziel was a phenomenal college player at Texas A&M University. He helped lead the Aggies into the SEC with momentum, even toppling the Alabama Crimson Tide in the process.

Still, I don’t think Manziel’s going to be making his way to the NFL Hall of Fame anytime soon. Anyone that saw him play last season in Cleveland would agree.

Busch’s minor league stats at phenomenal. He’s arguably the best NXS and NCWTS driver of all time. Still, unless his Cup Series win and championship totals drift up to the levels of top-tier drivers Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, it’s difficult to hold Rowdy in the same regard.

-Aaron Bearden

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kb

Well he who participates constantly in the little leagues of course his stats is padded, and padded big. He has the most active runs in that series as a Cupper and it is a pretty big margin. He is the most constant, almost obsessed driver to do so. And to have that celebration as if it was a Cup win, Jesus man..kinda lame and ego driven. So what if he wins, what is that really saying, and how can one be “proud” and boastful of such a thing. Sad really. Yes, he did win, yeah…(sarcasm)..again so what? And why is that something? I am amazed people don’t see the difference. I have never been against Cup drivers, when they participated and won, I said o.k…now do it when it counts on Sunday. A few have a shot at a Cup ride, most make a comfortable living where they are and will never advance and they know it. Maybe the ARCA series should be re-promoted as the up and coming series, because in reality that is what it is. My two cents.

Fred

KB,
Good points. You get it. Trying to legitimize all those cheap minor league wins against much lesser funded teams is an absolute joke. To be a cup champion yet still race in minor leagues just to massage your ego is beyond ridiculous. Yes he has 34 cup wins, the conversation stops there. This crap about reaching 200 and somehow being relatively equal to petty is insane. And yes, to celebrate a busch series win like he has accomplished something is one of the lamest things in the history of sports

kb

…Casual fans and “serious” fans don’t’ give a shitz about minor league stats either. From my heart of hearts…it means shitz to most fans, yet it is being promoted as a super human effort. Please for the sake of history let us call it like it is, and stop feeding the ego. It is big enough. But, seriously, look at it from a logical and practical viewpoint, pull in all the variables..it is a non issue. The Nascar media is lazy and looking somehow for Kyle since he injured his legs in the little leagues as a angel of super this and that. Never mind that facts, they are not important. Don’t get it, never will.

Bill B

No.

Robert

You gotta be kidding, right? Comparing Kyle Busch to Johnny Manziel?

Dave Moody hit the nail on the head

Aaron Bearden

Hi Robert,

I understand your point. In all fairness, Kyle Busch is much better at the highest level of NASCAR than Manziel’s proven in the NFL. But in terms of wins in developmental leagues bolstering their reputation, I would argue that the two share some similarities. To each their own.

Nam.

While the Shrub is an amazing talent behind the wheel, it’s the Cup wins that count. We don’t call Hornaday “Four Time”. When do you hear Jr. introduced as “Two Time Champion Dale Earnhardt Jr”. Watching Cup stars beating their chests about wins in the minors (they should win seeing as what they are driving for is essentially a cup team) is like a Cy Young winner bragging about beating a triple A team.
He may turn out to be the best minor leaguer ever, but to be included with the big dogs, he needs another 30 or 40 cup wins under his belt. Otherwise, you might as well add his kart wins to the total.
Cheers.

Rod

I Don’t Call Kyle Busch Shrub My Nickname for him is PEE WEE HERMAN The Xfinity Series Trophy Stealer

Broken Arrow

And Richard Petty padded his win stats by entering local mid-week dirt races that were deemed “Grand National level” even though the rest of the field was filled with drivers of lesser means, talent and experience. Then he would go on to lap the field 7 times and you call it a “Cup” win. Ridiculous.

Whichever way you argue this, it is apples and oranges. Kyle is a great driver on his own merits. And now he has a Cup championship to counter one of the arguments against his record. I know you folks hate him, but he deserves your respect. After all, his personality is no more relevant than your own.

Bill B

Hey, they didn’t ask the question about Petty. If they had my answer would have been the same, “no, his 200 wins aren’t as impressive as it sounds” but the reason would have been different.

Petty won during a period where there wasn’t as much standardization of the series. There were lots of variables that make his accomplishments hard to qualify compared to today’s standards. Just that fact that there weren’t a set number of races in which to compete in a season undermines the accomplishment of winning 200 races.

In Busch’s case, he’s competing in a time where the standardization of the rules and series are pretty well defined. In his case he’s basically going to places where he can dominate because the competition and funding, by definition, always gives him an advantage. I don’t hate him but now that he’s a champ at the highest level, it’s time for him to stop beating up on the wanna-bees. It’s also unfair to allow a cup driver the extra practice time on the track in those lower series, but that’s another debate altogether.

Brad Lewis

Excellent piece and wirth the read and thining about. I am not sure I agree with the second argument as you use the term casual fan and “They just aren’t relevant statistics for the pro level” as part of your argument. The casual fan should not be a concern as you point out, they are a casual fan and as such likely not well versed on what Kyle has accomplished. To say the truck series and Xfinity are not a pro series shows you yourself may be a casual fan so I am not sure you are well versed in what the stats really mean.

Aaron Bearden

Hey Brad,

I appreciate your take on this. My argument on the pro series is this – the NCWTS and NXS are similar to the D-League for the NBA or AAA/AA/A baseball for the MLB. Are they they technically professional? Sure. But do those stats count for players should they make the NBA? No. I fail to see how there’s much difference here.

Rod

NOT AT ALL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sue

That quote from Dave Moody is a joke.Saying the Infinity is the #2 motorsport ahead of all those he mentioned is just ridiculous. I am so sick of these TV and Radio people telling me that I am not a real fan or whatever if I don’t agree with what they are saying. They must think we are blind or something to tell us the stands are full and other racing venues wish they could be like Infinity. He is another one along with Fox that has jumped into the rabbit hole with Nascar.

jerseygirl

agree, Sue and that is a big reason why I dropped by Sirius radio subscription. I got it to listen to NASCAR races, qualifying and the shows. I got tired of it, too and that’s when I stopped paying for the service.

rg72

Apparently the checks from NASCAR to Moody are still clearing

Chris

Here is a sobering thought. Doing the quick math Cup drivers have won 78% of all Xfinity/Nationwide races since 2011 (2011 was the worst year at about 94%). Can’t say that in that time I’ve noticed an uptick in the number of people in the stands by having the Cup drivers there.

dave in ohio

Everybody compares Kyle’s wins to Richard Petty, and because of course since Richard Petty is the God of Na$car (no offense to Richard, just folks perceptions), well then Kyle’s wins just don’t compare because they are not all “cup” wins. I have news for all you folks, Richard’s wins were not all cup wins either. We act like Na$car back then was like Na$car is today, a touring series with the same 43(40) top cars/drivers showing up only once a week with laser inspection and almost perfect parity among the equipment. It was an era where the old saying “If you ain’t winning, you ain’t cheating” was a literal truth, and technical inspection was a joke by today’s standards. The series went to multiple tracks a week, often with only a handful of name drivers and the rest of the field the best of the locals. Even the top cars showed up at the track on an open trailer with a couple of buddies in the cab, and most were built in the garage behind the house. Nothing against Richard, he is a greatly accomplished driver, but in today’s world of Na$car, even the truck series is FAR more competitive and harder to win at than the “cup” races were back in the day. I think both are the best drivers of their generation, and in my opinion, barring injury, there is no doubt in anybody’s minds that Kyle will top 200 total wins.

Tim S.

Big difference is in those days, the best drivers at local tracks could show up with a mechanically-sound car and give the big teams fits. If a local guy shows up at Richmond or Martinsville today, he’s unlikely to even qualify unless there are 39 other entries.

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