It’s only a more recent development, but wow, Kyle Busch has won at a heck of a lot of tracks in NASCAR.
The younger Busch brother has had an exceptional career so far, capped off by his 2015 Sprint Cup Series championship no doubt, but more recently, the driver of Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 is making a name for himself by etching said name into just about every record log at just about every track on which NASCAR’s premier division competes.
In fact, adding to the tally at Kansas Speedway last weekend, Busch has now won at 21 of the 23 tracks on which the Sprint Cup Series races.
No other active driver has accomplished more than that. Only one has tied the number, and he’s retiring at the end of this season.
Yes, Tony Stewart also has wins at 21 of the 23 speedways that dot the Cup schedule as of 2016 (and 2017… and beyond…). That also makes them the only drivers to have won at more than 20 tracks on the Cup level with regards to those currently on the circuit (aka, sorry, Rockingham, North Wilkesboro, etc.).
Why this is interesting, I think — and why, as such, you’re seeing more and more folks talk about it as of late — is that Busch’s streak is relatively recent, and not just because he won Kansas last week. Coming into 2016, he also didn’t have a win at Martinsville Speedway on the Cup level, and that’s since been taken care of. Before 2015, he had yet to score a victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway or Homestead-Miami Speedway.
In other words: yes, snagging wins at multiple tracks is a career-spanning feat, but in terms of bumping into Cup’s elite, Busch’s ascent has only quickened more recently.
Stewart and Busch are followed in a tie for third by Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson, both of whom have visited Victory Lane at 19 of the 23 tracks. Matt Kenseth follows at 18, then Denny Hamlin (15), Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards (14) and then Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Ryan Newman (12).
So, who can snag the elusive 23-for-23 on the Cup schedule?
Well, smart money’s on Busch. In case you’ve already forgotten, Stewart’s out at the end of this season, reportedly never to set foot in a NASCAR stock car again — at least full-time. Conversely, Busch is newly 31 years old and has, one’d imagine, at least a decade left in him, if not more.
Though Stewart still has a chance — in fact, both drivers could conceivably accomplish the feat before 2016 ends. For Busch, the magic (or not-so-magic, to date) tracks are Charlotte Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway, both circuits with two points-paying dates left in the season — meaning he’s got four shots to make it happen. And since his quest to earn a win at every track has gone quite well so far in 2016 — he’s two for two, remember — one can imagine he’ll be working overtime at Charlotte in two weeks and at Pocono in less than a month to pull out of his tie with Stewart and try to make some history.
Stewart, meanwhile, has his work cut out for him. The multi-time champion has not notched wins at Kentucky Speedway and Darlington Raceway, both tracks with only one date on the Cup schedule. Tall order, especially for a driver just coming off a back injury that left him out of a racecar until last month and does not appear to be firing on all cylinders just yet.
For the record: Harvick’s only winless tracks are Pocono, Kentucky, Texas Motor Speedway and Sonoma Raceway, meaning he technically has the chance to scratch all off his list before season’s end. Same goes for Johnson, albeit at a few different tracks: Kentucky, Chicagoland Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway and Watkins Glen International.
Keep an eye on Stewart and Busch especially as this season stretches into the summer months. For Stewart, scratching those final two tracks off the list would be the exclamation point on a legendary career. For Busch? Well, it’s better than being known for getting the job done often in the lower series while being unable to replicate it on a higher level. Last year’s championship was the start of changing that mentality. Wins at Charlotte and Pocono could smash that once and for all.