NASCAR Race Weekend Central

2-Headed Monster: Should Kyle Busch’s Wins Be Compared to Richard Petty’s Record?

It’s Not Just A Number

With his win this past weekend in the Camping World Truck Series, Kyle Busch has 184 victories in NASCAR’s top-three national touring series. Kevin Harvick reached 100 victories in the same category at Las Vegas Motor Speedway . Busch only needs 16 more wins to achieve what was once believed to be unattainable. Harvick is halfway there. Richard Petty’s record of 200 wins has stood as the standard for nearly 34 years and few thought it would ever be replicated.

Well, it won’t.

Regardless of what the record books will tell you, the accomplishments simply aren’t comparable.

First off, on the basis of competition, Petty’s total is much more substantial. Petty beat a bevy of eventual Hall of Fame drivers for his triumphs. At the same time that the No. 43 was racking up trophies, drivers like David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, and Bobby Allison were also rolling up 80-plus wins totals of their own. All of the 200 wins Petty scored were earned exclusively in the Cup series, the highest division of the sport. Comparing them with the totals of drivers who dabble in the second or third tiers of NASCAR, the Xfinity and Truck Series, is quite frankly insulting to the legends who Petty had to outduel on a weekly basis.

Additionally, Busch and Harvick regularly outpace drivers in the lower division with single-digit win totals. Many more have zeros in the win column. The experienced drivers in the field are more often than not in inferior equipment. The drivers in comparable cars tend to be developmental drivers, which means they lack the multitude of starts.

A common analogy is that it’s as if LeBron James stopped by a high school to participate in a basketball game, then hangs 90 points on the youngsters. There is some truth to this, though, I would liken it to another NBA player playing on the opposing side. While there may be 10 players on the court, it’s essentially one on one to decide the winner. There may be between 30 and 40 cars on the track during an XFINITY Series race, but in all honesty, way less than half are probably capable of contending for a win.

Busch and Harvick have acquired their totals utilizing the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, a tour that wasn’t available to Petty. The competing teams in the truck series are at even more of a disadvantage, with some racing on a budget for the entire season equivalent to what Busch’s or Harvick’s teams spend on a single race weekend. This lack of parity lends itself to further dilute the accomplishments of a Cup champion spending 200 miles crushing the field into oblivion for another checkered flag.

Certainly, Petty had more opportunity to win Cup races than drivers do today. There haven’t been more than 36 points races in the Cup series since 1972. Petty was routinely participating in anywhere from the mid 40s up to 62 events that all counted towards his official tally.

But that isn’t his fault.

He was presented with the schedule that NASCAR laid out and ran all of the races in its top level. He didn’t seek out lower tier races in an attempt to pad his statistics. There is little doubt if there were that many races on the schedule now, equaling Petty’s total would be much more feasible.

I can’t deny that Busch or any other driver winning 200 races across three series would be impressive. But the king is referred to by that nickname for a reason and he’s not about to be dethroned. – Frank Velat

A Win By Any Other Name Would Be a Win

It may be career suicide to say this, but if Kyle Busch were to win 200 races across the top three national touring series, then it would equal to Richard Petty’s 200 wins.

I’m not trying to disrespect Petty – I have nothing but love and respect for the man. My dad was a fan of Richard Petty, Kyle Petty and Petty Enterprises. He roots for the No. 43 to this day. His friends used to say that he wasn’t a NASCAR fan, he was a Kyle Petty fan. If the younger Petty fell out of the race, then he turned the television or radio off.

Because of that, there will always be a special place in my heart for the Petty family.

I’m also not trying to say that Busch is just as good as Richard Petty. Busch doesn’t have seven championships or seven Daytona 500 wins like Petty, so he is a long way off from me even considering such a thing. Busch is a future Hall of Famer, but Petty might just be the greatest of all time.

The only thing that this argument is about is total race wins. It’s not about who is the better driver, who made the bigger impact on the sport or who is better liked. Petty would win that by a landslide.

Petty is loved by all, while Busch is someone who so many love to hate. So let’s ignore the names and faces of these two incredible talents and look purely at the stats and competition they raced against.

Should Busch win 16 more times, then you have to compare it to the Petty’s record.

The main argument against Busch is that 141 of his victories came in the XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series, and only 43 occurred in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The commonly used metaphor is that Busch “stole candy from babies” in a majority of those wins, as he was against inexperienced drivers in inferior equipment.

But people forget that Petty basically was the Busch of his era. Petty won 140 races before what is known as the modern era of NASCAR.

When Winston came on board as the title sponsor for the Cup Series, it reduced the schedule to 31 races. Prior to that, the Cup schedule ranged anywhere from 44 to 62 races. It was rare for a driver to compete in every single race during that era, but Petty was there almost every week.

There were five seasons during that time where Petty missed only one race a year, at most. One of those years was 1967, when he won 27 times – the record to this day – out of 48 races. In comparison, Petty’s greatest rival, David Pearson, raced just 22 times that year.

Petty always faced great competition at the big-money races, but there were a lot of midweek races during that span where he would be one of around 20 entries. Sure, Pearson, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough or some other legends would show up to those races, but Petty’s talent and the No. 43’s speed were far superior to the rest of the cars in those fields. Doesn’t that sound familiar?

The XFINITY and Truck races are essentially what the midweek Cup races used to be. Busch shows up with his future Hall of Fame talent and superior Joe Gibbs Racing equipment and only has to beat out a handful of competitors. But like Petty, Busch still has to beat some great drivers to win those “midweek races.”

Kevin Harvick just notched his 100th win across the three series this past weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway; most of those wins came against Busch in the two lower series. Busch has also had to beat the likes of Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Carl Edwards, Kyle Larson and Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr. to pick up those wins in the lower series.

Speaking of Hornaday, his HoF induction somewhat legitimizes the argument that Busch’s 200 would be equal to Petty because most of his success was in CWTS. He beat out former Cup winners and champions to get voted into the Hall.

Busch, Harvick and the other Cup drivers dominated NXS and CWTS so much that they aren’t even allowed to race in more than a handful of the races each year now. Busch now has to lean more on Cup wins to get to 200.

With the Cup schedule holding steady at 36 races now, it is impossible for a driver to ever catch Petty’s record on Cup wins alone. Records are made to be broken, so why not indulge in the fact that Busch is closing in 200 wins? -Michael Massie

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Matty

Well done Frank. So many of Petty’s wins occurred in an era when few ran the entire race schedule and those who did were James Hilton/Tiny Lund/J D McDuffie independent types. Petty always drove a factory car in those days. Realistically only seven or eight drivers had a chance to win any given day. That said he had some incredible win streaks in Grand National, both in the series, and also at some individual tracks (the old RIR, Nashville, and Bristol). I really miss those days…..

Brian

So Matty the past say three years, how many drivers would say have a truly realistic shot at winning races “any give day” in this era? I typically only get to about 10 or so which is not that much different based partially on how NASCAR has strived so much to have the cars be equal. If there were truly that many more teams/drivers in actual contention for wins we likely or should have seen even more winners than we currently do. Example would be the 3 and 17 cars these past 39 races. Both have two wins, both made the playoffs, but neither is in the discussion of potential to win each and every week. Shoot the 3 car if not for leading the one extra lap due to leaders running out of gas at Charlotte would have the same number of laps led in those two wins as wins. Not a strong argument about a team that can win any given day.
NASCAR has also convoluted the races themselves that even looking at number of lap leaders is misleading.

Matty

Brian,
I actually did count how many drivers had a realistic shot at winning the last race. I came up with 22 (out of 37), using either the best equipment (4 for Hendrick drivers), best drivers (Busch, Hamlin, Harvick), or combo (McMurray, Kurt, Suarez). Seems like more today, than in the old days when it was Petty, Pearson, Allison, Baker, Waltrip, Yarborough and a very few others…

SmarterThanYo

I agree with Michael Massie. So many of Petty’s wins were gimme’s against drivers with no more ability and no better equipment than Busch faces in the Trucks and NXS Series today. It’s impossible and generally a waste of time to compare athletes of different generations because sports change so much over time, usually with improved quality of the competition that calls into question how great the old-timers really were. Sure, Petty will always be a legend, unmatched in the minds of many fans. And Earnhardt is considered the best driver of all time by many of his generation (dirty driving aside). But if you look at just the numbers, there is no difference between Kyle Busch’s 184 wins and Petty’s first 184 wins. And when Kyle reaches and exceeds 200 wins, he should get full credit for that accomplishment.

The very fact that so much was made of Harvick’s 100th win this last weekend (in an illegal car) shows that leaving Kyle out of the conversation would simply be spite. The fans can engage in that. The media has no business going there.

Bill B

Remember that the media was the one’s making a big deal out of Harvick’s 100th win. I didn’t hear anyone else banging that drum.

SmarterThanYo

True, but when it happens, I will be monitoring the media reaction.

rg72

I’ll take Pearson’s fewer wins over either Petty or Kyle.

tjclaus

Pearson was far and away the best drive in his era.

Jer

When NASCAR put Richie Evans, Jack Ingram, Jerry Cook, and Ron Hornady into its HOF, it just evaluated all these so called lower series to higher standing. Richard Petty is not a “1A” member and Evans, Ingram, Cook, and Hornaday are not regarded as “2B” members, but all as simply equals. Unfortunately, this kills the argument that Busch’s wins in lower series are of lower significance.

DoninAjax

There are people other than players in the Football Hall OF Fame. Does that mean they are just as good at playing the game as the players?

Al Torney

This article is total bs. The truck and Xfinity series are the minor leagues. Period. Enough said. Busch is a great race car driver. Maybe even better then Petty but the fact remains most of his wins are in the minor leagues.
Every attempt is made to make the modern era appear better then the old days. Has anyone noticed the number of cars on the lead lap at the finish these days when there aren’t any fake cautions for lucky dogs and wave arounds?
Also keep in mind Petty and the older gang were driving street cars made into race cars on 8” tires, no cool suits, no custom made seats, no power steering and definitely not custom made race cars.
In addition Petty ran in the days that you had to run balls to wall. There were no competition cautions, stages, double file restarts, lucky dogs, wave arounds and fake cautions to try to make the races entertaining. It’s time to start comparing apples to oranges with this crap. And how do the fans like contrived races? Look at the empty seats and sinking tv rations. Tell you anything?
Anybody who thinks Petty, Pearson, Yarborough, Allison, D. Waltrip, Yarbrough, Turner, Roberts, Johnson and a host of others couldn’t run with these guys today is dreaming.

DoninAjax

“Anybody who thinks Petty, Pearson, Yarborough, Allison, D. Waltrip, Yarbrough, Turner, Roberts, Johnson and a host of others couldn’t run with these guys today is dreaming.”

I think it’s the other way around. I would love to see Busch on a dirt track against Curtis Turner or Buck Baker and see how long he lasts.

Petty’s first race was in a topless car. If he had won would he have counted that in his win total?

Tk

Ditto

Al Sorensen

Say what you will, people. Petty is still the King! That title has been earned through far more things than race wins. His personality, dedication, attitude, respect for others, and more all enter into the picture. Get over it. Richard is still the king, and always will be. Take note of that “Shrub”…

tjclaus

Once again for those who missed it above, many of those championship seasons came with no other driver in top flight equipment running as many races, because they couldn’t afford to. Doesn’t take away from what Petty accomplished, but these days you can see a half a dozen or more cars within striking distance in a given race. As for dominance, no will ever top Bill Elliott at Talladega in 1985.

Dave in Ohio

You mention “parity” back in Petty’s day? Seriously? It was not uncommon back then for he winner to lap the entire field, sometimes by several laps. Not a Kyle fan personally, but his driving in all 3 series is certainly today’s equivalent of Petty getting behind the wheel 60 times a year, many times against a field of locals and a few traveling drivers. The 200 wins will be just as significant. Barring something like an injury or early retirement, nobody doubts Kyle will pass 200 wins. He has publicly stated he will stop racing in the Xfinity series when he hits 100 wins (9 away), and again, I don’t think anybody doubts that will happen. I am sure he wants at least two more truck wins to make him the most winning driver in that series as well. That means at least 6 more cup wins to pass Petty. It will happen, the Na$car world will melt down for a while, then everybody will get over it and go back to watching racing.

Brian

When Petty’s record is discussed, listed, recorded, etc. it is almost always 200 NAscar Cup victories which started with the Grand National division. When Kyle or Harvick;s are mentioned it is NASCAR victories.

So with that in mind anyone want to do some research and see who the actual NASCAR victories leader really is since there is likely a driver out there past or present that has more than 200 NASCAR victories based on being in NASCAR sanctioned events. This should include ALL of NASCAR then and not just the top three series.

Busch’s win total is not anywhere close to comparable to Petty’s. Yes the eras were very different but to say Petty’s 200 “Cup” wins are equivalent just because of era or how races were run is also incorrect. One part in the argument for “same” is the mid week races. This was made with no stats to back it up as far as number of wins accumulated nor a lsiting of who ran the races. It just pointed out that there maybe was only 20 cars in the race. Again it sounded like speculation than fact based argument. Yes the Petty Enterprises equipment was usually head and shoulders above the rest but the same can be said for the other super team of the era as well. That team just did not have the consistency of driver in its stable where for the most part Petty ran most of his career in the Petty Enterprises stable.
Do not forget also, he missed parts of seasons due to boycotts, injuries, etc.
Also the argument does not hold up as Busch for several years actually ran more races than Petty did across the three series as he ran full schedules in both Busch and Cup and ran numerous races in trucks for racing well over 80 times a season. So even that well there were more races available is moot and actually completely false.

This whole argument/discussion is ridiculous as they should not even be compared to each other in this manner. When Busch gets to 200 NASACR win yes it should be celebrated as a great accomplishment but should in no way shape or form be held as breaking the 200 top level of NASCAR win total Petty holds.
Yes many drivers are in the NASACR HoF but it is a NASCAR HoF not a CUP HoF. Those enshrined contributed to NASCARs origins, success, growth, and popularity regardless of overall success across the board. This also does not legitimize or make an argument for this discussion.
Kyle Busch absolutely has earned a spot in the NASCAR Hall of Fame but has not earned the right to have win total be compared to Richard Petty’s 200. They are absolutely not the same or even similar another than using the same digits and characters when written about.

tjclaus

Petty and the Chrysler teams also got to use hemi engines when none were available to non-factory teams, and he got to run the 2+2 Grand Prix several years before is was available at the dealers. Two of Petty’s seasons, Ford pulled their top teams out in protest of NASCAR’s highly slanted rules, which continue to this day. NASCAR has always picked and chosen to put their thumb on the scale for their favorites.

Brian

So in the argument for Kyle Busch’s total having the same status as Petty’s 200 wins, would you look at say a baseball pitcher at 200, 300 wins, etc. The records are held for MLB, so in the argument for Kyle’s counting that baseball record should have included AAA and AA wins for those pitchers as well. Who would the record holder be in this scenario?
MLB has their own version of the shortened schedule argument, the era argument etc. It’s called pitch counts, extra days of rest, usage of relievers, etc.
Pitchers also play in the minors but not consistently or constantly. When they do shouldn’t that record also count towards their total? It does not. Why is the NASCAR record being treated differently? It shouldn’t be.

Bill B

Should the TDs a quarterback throws in college count? How about running back’s yard totals?

The only people that seam eager to lump wins outside of cup together are fan boys of a certain driver (because they are bias) and the media (because they need something to write/talk about). Forget about Petty. Should someone that has the same number of wins in all three series as Jimmie Johnson does in Cup be considered the same level of accomplishment? Posing the question this way removes the “different eras” BS.

SmarterThanYo

Posing the question that way gives credibility to Petty’s wins against teams that were little league level at best.

Bill B

I’m not following you regarding that question giving credibility to Petty’s wins but I did notice you didn’t actually answer the question I asked.
If anything I would think it gives less credibility to Petty’s wins.

But what bothers me most is that I misspelled “seem” above.

Bill B

Or maybe I wasn’t clear… Should someone currently running in at least one of the tops 3 series with 83 combined wins in all 3 series (where most of those wins in the lower series) be considered the same level of accomplishment as JJ.
And trust me, I am no JJ fan. If he never won another race that would be fine with me.

tjclaus

Many of Petty’s wins came against what we would now consider the current lesser series. As pointed out, very few of the top flight drives had the resources to chase wins in the local bull rings, they concentrated on the money tracks. Petty wasn’t racing a Wood Brothers, or Homan & Moody car every race. Different era and all, but those lesser series contain JGR, Hendrick, JRM, Rousch, RCR cars, those are not easy wins over vastly inferior equipment.

Upstate9fan

Not the same, but I don’t disregard what Kyle has done. The competition in some of the races Kyle won in the lower divisions is probably much higher than what Petty faced on some of the short tracks in the 1960s. Again, this is an “apples to oranges” comparison. Petty’s 200 Cup wins are like Cy Young’s 500+ baseball pitching wins. It was different era and no one will come close to that record.

J Money

This dude Michael Massie has no idea what he’s talking about. I have been watching Nascar for three weeks and Petty is the KING. I’m offended to even open this page on my phone. How do I delete my browser cause I don’t want this CRAP on my phone anymore.

SmarterThanYo

Stronger, faster, better. In almost every sport you could think of, today’s athletes are superior to the heroes of the “good old days.” Bart Starr won 2 Super Bowls. Today he wouldn’t get a shot at being a backup QB because he is too small and lacks arm strength. I am not willing to concede that Petty, Pearson, Yarborough, Allison, and D.W. could compete with today’s drivers under today’s rules. Today’s drivers are fitter and today’s cars make passing almost impossible. Anyone who wins today (except Austin Dillon LOL) should be given credit for accomplishing something their elders would probably fail at.

Tony

Of course Petty, Pearson, Yarborough and Allison would have a harder time today. The youngest of them is 78 and none has competed in decades.

DoninAjax

I’d bet on Red Farmer even now.

Al Torney

Some interesting points have been made in this conversation. Talking about total NACAR wins in total a couple of names come to mind immediately. Baby Allison won a ton of NASCAR Modified races before he came to Cup. Red Farmer comes to mind. 1952 NASCAR National Modified ChampionFrankie Schneider probably has at least 150 NASCAR victories. A Maryland driver, Johnny Roberts, was 1953 Sportsman (now Xfinity) Champion and NASCAR National Modified Champion in 1960 and 1961. A friend is resleaching his wins and is over 125 NASCAR wins and he still has a lot of research to go. I’m confident Ray Hendrick of Richmond p, Va. has well over 100 NASCAR wins.
Keep in mind that NASCAR Sportsman became Late Model Sportsman in 1967 which in turn became Busch GN and Xfinity.

JDinNC

By my calculations, Petty has a CUP winning percentage of 16.9% (200 wins in 1184 starts), Busch has a CUP/XFINITY/TRUCK winning percentage of 19.5% (184 wins in 946 starts), but his CUP only winning percentage is only 9.2% (43 wins in 465 starts). Busch’s XFINITY winning percentage is 26.8% and his TRUCK winning percentage is 35.2%. So Busch’s success is certainly skewed towards the lesser NASCAR divisions. I think more impressive is David Pearson’s CUP winning percentage of 18.3% (105 wins in 574 starts). And as mentioned elsewhere, Pearson tended to cherry pick the bigger events where the competition was a good bit stronger and didn’t pick up as many easier mid-week wins as Petty.

DoninAjax

Petty and Pearson records works out to approximately 2 wins every 11 races, back when they were races and not Brian’s product. That works out to about 6 wins in a 36 event schedule.

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