Kyle Busch’s quest for a huge milestone of national series wins has drawn comparisons — right or wrong — mainly because of the iconic nature of the number he’d been chasing: 200.
It’s been nearly 10 years since Busch first casually mentioned reaching the double-century mark, coming on the occasion of his 50th national win at Richmond Raceway. “It would be sure nice to get that,” Busch said back on May 2, 2009, on the occasion of his 24th birthday. “I know it’s not 200 Cup victories like Richard Petty has, but it will still be a phenomenal mark for me.”
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Ten years later, after making history at Auto Club with win No. 200, Busch still isn’t trying to draw direct comparisons to Petty, whose all-time win mark of 200 is arguably as important a number as his iconic No. 43. But the number 200 doesn’t come around often in stock-car racing. Asterisk or not, it’s a mark worth celebrating.
Is it worth taking the great risk of trying to compare the two, achieved in different eras with different levels of competition, different technology, different tracks? Our Zack Albert and Jonathan Merryman discuss.
Albert: As tempting as it might be to try to force a false equivalency between Kyle Busch and Richard Petty and their accomplishments, I’m not taking that bait. Petty’s 200 wins stand on their own as triumphs in the sport’s top division. Busch’s 200 over three series are remarkable on their own level, impressive for their consistency and the speed with which he’s reached that plateau.
In the preseason, Busch himself mentioned Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James as an unsolvable problem, that while he’d like to be mentioned among NASCAR’s all-time greats, there’s no formula or opinion meter that calculates stats and achievements across the eras to arrive at a clear-cut No. 1. If Rowdy isn’t willing to try an apples-to-apples comparison with Petty’s feats, I’ll sit this one out, too.
Merryman: Kyle Busch may not be on board with the apples-to-apples comparison, but I’m all for it. So, is Kyle Busch’s 200-win mark equal to that of Richard Petty’s? I may be in the minority, but I vote yes. Why, you ask? Well, like Richard Petty did back in the day, Kyle Busch shows up to race anywhere, anytime and in anything with four wheels, a motor and a steering wheel.
In 1964 there were 62 races on the Cup Series schedule. Petty raced in 61 of those. Kyle Busch doesn’t have that opportunity. The most Monster Energy Series races he’s ever run in a single season is 36.
Having said that, Petty’s commitment to the sport is unmatched. He showed up and raced at places his biggest competitors didn’t. To me that is equivalent to Kyle racing at the Xfinity Series and Gander Outdoors Truck Series level. Is it Richard Petty’s fault David Pearson didn’t race full time his entire career? Does that take away from his 200? No. So why is it Kyle’s fault that Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. don’t run more races against him in the other series?
All in all, Richard Petty, on 200 occasions, won at a national level in NASCAR. Kyle Busch has done the same.