Did You Notice? … Kyle Busch has hit 50 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victories? That number ties him for 11th all-time at just 33 years of age.
So much has been made of Busch challenging Richard Petty’s record of 200 career wins when you compile his totals in all three major NASCAR series. He’s on pace to get there sometime in 2019 with 193 victories total (50 Cup, 92 in the XFINITY Series and 51 in Camping World Trucks). It’s a comparison that tends to agitate old-time fans.
But what’s lost in that is just how many Cup victories Busch could churn out over his career. If Busch races 10 more years, he could trail only Petty and David Pearson on the all-time win list. Earning 100 is a real possibility when you look at recent NASCAR history.
I looked at the careers of the 10 drivers ahead of Kyle Busch on the all-time win list. How many victories did they churn out during their age 33-42 seasons? For most, that was the prime of their careers. Consider Dale Earnhardt won five of his seven championships during that span of his life; Jimmie Johnson won four.
NASCAR All-Time Win List
Richard Petty: 200 (73 wins from age 33-42)
David Pearson: 105 (69)
Jeff Gordon: 93 (23)
Darrell Waltrip: 84 (57)
Bobby Allison: 84 (41)
Jimmie Johnson: 83 (43)
Cale Yarborough: 83 (57)
Dale Earnhardt: 76 (50)
Rusty Wallace: 55 (33)
Lee Petty: 54 (26)
Eight of the ten drivers listed got at least 48 percent of their win total over that ten-year period. The average is 53.8 percent. They also averaged 47.2 wins apiece during that 10-year stretch of their careers.
So if Busch races another ten more years, competitively 47 wins gets him to 97. That number puts him third all-time, ahead of Gordon and Johnson. And you have to assume Busch will keep collecting a handful of XFINITY and Truck wins per season along the way.
As of now, Busch only has one MENCS title (2015). But you have to expect that number will grow, too. Busch is a top three title contender this season and his two main rivals are age 42 (Kevin Harvick) or losing their team at the end of the season (Martin Truex Jr.) For 2019, Truex could end up Busch’s teammate but that’s no guarantee of success. Since joining Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008, Busch is the only one from that team to win a championship.
Young guns like Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and others should develop over time to challenge Busch. But it’s hard to see them shutting him out of Victory Lane every year or slowing the inevitable rise up the list. Busch may be one of the sport’s most polarizing drivers but he’s well on the way to being one of its best. Ever.
Did You Notice? … AJ Allmendinger still had two years left on his contract with JTG Daugherty Racing? That’s how badly both sides wanted to part ways after a dismal last few years together. Allmendinger was officially released Tuesday from his MENCS ride but the divorce has been in the making for quite sometime now.
The ‘Dinger’s peak with the No. 47 team came all the way back at Watkins Glen in 2014, the site of his only career MENCS win. He made the postseason that year but never made it past the first round; after that, it was all downhill. The Californian earned just one more top-five finish on a road course in eight starts (fourth at Watkins Glen in 2016). He never finished higher than 19th in the final standings and was not even remotely close to making the playoffs again.
All this mediocrity came with one of the few teams in the sport that has kept expanding, both in total sponsorship and resources. Growth to a two-car team the past two seasons didn’t seem to boost performance; in fact, Allmendinger has averaged just one top five per year since the Glen victory. The total of four top fives is equal to the much-maligned Trevor Bayne during that stretch, also losing his ride at Roush Fenway Racing.
It’s a shame because Allmendinger is one of the sport’s most colorful personalities. His poor performances have faded him into the background of the sport but on-track success could have made him a national star. The potential for popularity was always there, paired with opportunities on some of the sport’s high-profile teams: Richard Petty Motorsports, Team Red Bull and Team Penske, to name a few. But a drug-induced suspension for ADHD medication lost Allmendinger the Penske ride in 2012, eventually opening the door for Joey Logano there. At the end of the day, he never quite reached his full potential in all those places.
Allmendinger’s NASCAR career, should it end here, will go down as one of missed opportunity. But the sport misses out when he’s not in the driver’s seat.
Did You Notice? … Quick hits before taking off….
- I think we get it at this point; no one quite knows what to make of the Charlotte ROVAL. It’s likely to be a stock car version of Survivor as drivers simply try and make it to the finish without wrecking. Ryan Blaney has to be especially nervous after a subpar run at Richmond Raceway and a vicious crash in testing here. But the one driver you may not think about who’s especially vulnerable? A guy I’m hearing about people assume will just slide on through? Aric Almirola. Not so fast. He’s got just one top-10 finish in 15 career starts at Sonoma and Watkins Glen. His career average finish there is in the low 20s; he’s never led a single lap on a road course. Those are awful numbers that might not cut it for a guy only 23 points above the cutline. Austin Dillon, who has never had a top-five finish in Cup on a road course, has weak stats on paper, too. But Dillon has become an expert at minimizing damage during the playoffs. The last two races have been his best stretch since the first two races of the year as it’s clear Richard Childress Racing spent the regular season experimenting for months after that Daytona 500 victory.
- With Justin Marks announcing this weekend at Charlotte will be his final NASCAR race the list of retiring drivers is piling up. We have Kasey Kahne, Elliott Sadler and young Justin Fontaine from the Camping World Truck Series. Matt Kenseth will never run full-time in the series again; his future is uncertain along with Jamie McMurray and Allmendinger. The changing of the guard within the past couple of years has been a wave we’ve never seen in this sport.