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.
|Driver||Cup Wins||NXS Wins||Truck Wins||Total Wins||Total Starts||Cup Win %||NXS Win %||Truck Win %||Overall Win %|
|Ron Hornaday Jr.||0||4||51||55||590||0%||2.17%||14.17%||9.32%|
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.
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.