Putting Kyle Busch's wins in perspective

July, 12, 2011

"Variety is the spice of life," you might've heard your grandmother or me remark on occasion. In NASCAR, it certainly holds true.

Say what you will about the style of racing, or the ability to get in or out of Kentucky Speedway this weekend, it was pretty nice to see a new track on the Cup series schedule.

But I was actually disappointed to hear that the Nationwide Series would be adding Indianapolis Motor Speedway to its schedule next season; because it actually took off a classic short track from the schedule.

Call it whatever you prefer -- Indy Raceway Park, O'Reilly Raceway Park, Lucas Oil Raceway (I just like IRP) -- but it has been on the schedule since the first Nationwide Series season in 1982.

Now, it's another lost track from the days of NASCAR past, along with other tracks such as Hickory, South Boston and Langley. These tracks may be open in some form, and I always encourage you to support your local tracks, but the biggest names no longer race there.

It's really unfortunate, but I understand the business side, that NASCAR has outgrown some of its past. However, it seems like every week we gets fans waxing poetic on the ESPN.com chats about North Wilkesboro or Rockingham.

Cash money aside, I'd like to see some NASCAR National Touring Series races return to some of these past tracks. Although maybe they don't need to visit Hickory six times a season like they did in the inaugural Nationwide Series season.

On with stats!

The debate begins

You know what I love? NASCAR debates. Old versus new. Petty versus Pearson. And the newest one is how should Kyle Busch's wins across NASCAR's top three series be regarded against previous legends.

I won't tell you what to think, but I will provide an argument for each side.

Busch has 99 wins, which is the third most across the top three series, but just 22 of them are Cup wins. The two drivers in front of him are Richard Petty (200 wins, all in Cup) and David Pearson (106 wins, 105 in Cup).

Petty won 200 of his 1,184 Cup starts, or 16.9 percent. Busch, on the other hand, has 22 wins in his first 240 starts, just 9.2 percent.

On the flip side. Petty made 1,184 NASCAR starts, all in the Cup series (not including the defunct Convertible series). He once ran 61 races in a single season, and often took advantage of fields that had little depth and star power beyond the 43. Examples: winning by five laps (and you think today's races are boring?) at Nashville, or winning in an 18-car field at Bowman Gray.

Trivia break! Busch has won two national series races in a weekend 16 times, but who's second on the list?

A debut to remember

Insert second traffic joke. Anyways, it is nice to see another new track on the schedule. It's the first time the Cup series has added a track to the schedule since 2001. I hope that trend continues, given the attendance the race drew.

Obviously, it was Kyle Busch's first Cup win in an inaugural race. He had just turned 16 when the Cup series made its first stops in Chicago (won by Kevin Harvick) and Kansas (won by Jeff Gordon) in 2001.

Trivia break! Who was the last Joe Gibbs Racing driver to win an inaugural Cup race?

Odds and ends

You know I like to recognize some notable performances over the past weekend.

Shout-out to David Reutimann, who got his first top-5 of the year, finishing second. He has only one other top-10 this year, ninth at Charlotte. It's his best finish since running second last August at Bristol.

Or how about Ryan Newman in fourth? It's his fifth top-5 this year, after having only four last season. He's also led twice as many laps already this year as he did last year.

Trivia break! Who was the last driver not from Hendrick, Roush or Gibbs to win a Cup title?

Trivia break answers

1. Carl Edwards has won two races in a weekend five times.

2. Tony Stewart won the first Cup race at Homestead in 1999.

3. Dale Jarrett won the title for Yates Racing in 1999, and before that, Dale Earnhardt for Richard Childress Racing in 1994.

Matt Willis | email

ESPN Staff Writer
Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.



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