Category archive: Kyle Busch
Here we are this weekend at Kentucky Speedway, a track where the key statistic coming into the race may be the number of parking spots added (PSA) since last year's debacle.
But let's stick to the quality of the racing, and not whether the parking was ample. Of course, it's hard to analyze the racing at a track where there's been one race. However, in that race, Kyle Busch was dominant, finishing with a 145.6 driver rating, the third-highest mark he has had in any of his 24 career Sprint Cup wins.
Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesKyle Busch celebrates after winning the inaugural Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway in July 2011.
But Busch goes into this race struggling in his past four races -- all finishes of 17th or worse -- as well as on 1.5-mile tracks like Kentucky, with two top-5s in his past nine races.
That's the best way to project what will happen at Kentucky -- to take a look at performance at those other 1.5-mile tracks. Those tracks are different, yes, but definitely have similarities.
Problem is, we've had four races on such tracks this year, with four drivers from four teams coming out victorious. There was Tony Stewart at Las Vegas, Greg Biffle at Texas, Denny Hamlin at Kansas and Kasey Kahne at Charlotte.
This is when you call on a guy like me to crunch the numbers.
One driver's performance does stand above the others, and that's Biffle's. He's the only driver with a top-5 in all four of those races. He also has put up three of the top eight marks in driver rating on 1.5-milers this season.
Want a sleeper? I'll give you a sleeper. Although he has been slipping down the points and his Sonoma finish was a disappointment, keep an eye on Martin Truex Jr., who has the highest individual driver rating on a 1.5-mile track this season, a 142.6 in a second-place finish at Kansas.
Looking for Trouble
Every week, my fellow members in ESPN Stats & Information crunch the crash numbers and tell us what to watch for that weekend. Here's what they found.
If Kentucky is like any of the other 1.5-mile tracks, the middle of the pack is the wrong place to be. Since 2008, 182 of 506 accidents (36 percent) on intermediate tracks have occurred to drivers running in positions 15-25.
The Eliminator: Kentucky
For those of you new to my little blog, every week I use a device called The Eliminator to predict a winner. It's pretty simple: Instead of telling you somebody will win, I'll point out why everybody else has to lose. The driver remaining, by process of elimination, will be the race winner.
And if you want to see who was eliminated in each step, I'll post the info on my Twitter account (@MattWillisESPN).
1. The past 21 Sprint Cup winners on 1.5-mile tracks had previously won a Sprint Cup race (16 eliminated, 30 remaining).
2. The past eight and 11 of the past 12 winners on 1.5-mile tracks had a top-20 finish in the previous 1.5-mile race (12 eliminated, 18 remaining).
3. Each of the past four winners this year finished 11th or better in the previous year's race (10 eliminated, eight remaining).
4. The past two Sprint Cup winners were coming off a stretch of three straight finishes of eighth or better (seven eliminated, one remaining).
Your winner: Jimmie Johnson
I'll be the first to admit that numbers can be misleading.
Of course, except mine. My statistics have only good intentions, looking to guide you and me together on a path of enlightenment.
But other numbers can be misleading, especially when it comes to drivers at Charlotte. So let's break down three drivers, one who is worse than you thought, one who's better and a third who's a bit of both.
Jimmie Johnson: Charlotte is sometimes referred to as "Johnsonville." There was a period of time when the dude owned the place, at one point winning four in a row. But that time has passed.
Johnson's driver rating has slipped at Charlotte over each of the past six seasons (see accompanying chart), except a rebound in 2009.
Johnson looked like he was making a comeback at Charlotte in 2009, when he ran a race-high 71 fastest laps in a win. After that, though, the drop continued.
Over the past four Charlotte races, Johnson has run 88 fastest laps, a still-respectable number at sixth-best in the series but certainly not worthy of track ownership.
Kyle Busch: Busch's career at Charlotte was rocky at the start of his Cup career. In his first seven races there, he finished 25th or worse six times. But in his past nine starts, he's finished eighth or better in all but one.
Despite not having won there, his numbers are among the best. In the past 10 races at Charlotte, Busch has put up two of the three highest single-race driver ratings, but finished second and sixth in those races.
Tony Stewart: Early in Stewart's career, he was a regular front-runner at Charlotte, with six top-5s and nine top-10s in his first dozen races there. In his past 14? Not a single top-5.
But there's hope, Smoke fans. Last fall at Charlotte, Stewart put up a 121.2 driver rating, his best in his past 14 races there.
Looking for trouble
Every week, my fellow members in ESPN Stats & Information crunch the numbers and tell us what to watch for this weekend.
Since 1990, more drivers have recovered from accidents and gone on to post top-10 finishes at Charlotte than any other intermediate track.
Carl Edwards (three times), Jeff Gordon (twice) and Martin Truex Jr. (twice) are among those with multiple "saves" at the track. Edwards has more such recoveries at Charlotte than all other tracks combined (two).
The Eliminator: Charlotte
For those of you new to my little blog, every week I use a device called The Eliminator to make a pick.
It's pretty simple: Instead of telling you somebody will win, I'll point out why everybody else has to lose. The driver remaining, by process of elimination, is the race winner.
And if you want to see who was eliminated in each step, I'll post the info Friday on my Twitter account (@MattWillisESPN).
1. The past 14 Sprint Cup Series winners finished 16th or better in the last race at the track. (31 drivers eliminated, 16 remaining).
2. Nine of the past 10 Charlotte winners were 11th or better in the last Kansas race (eight eliminated, eight remaining).
3. Eight of the past nine Charlotte winners had a previous top-two finish at the track (three eliminated, five remaining).
4. There have been 10 different winners in the past 10 Charlotte races (three eliminated, two remaining).
5. The past three Charlotte winners finished 17th or better in each of the past three races (one eliminated, one remaining).
Your winner: Kyle Busch
Who doesn't love a Saturday night race with a little controversy? Likewise, who doesn't love a blog with a little controversy?
Next step: Find a controversy. Maybe Formula One blogger Tom McKean and I are high-level art thieves. Or Marty Smith and I start running moonshine ... again.
Mystery cautions and close-call restart penalties aside, your winner Saturday night was one Kyle Busch, which is getting to be a familiar sight at Richmond International Raceway. It's the fourth straight year he has won the spring race at the track.
More impressively, it lowered his average finish at the track to a 4.7. That's the best mark by any active driver at any track, with a minimum of five starts (remember, we've run only a single race at Kentucky).
But let's go historic with this nugget, shall we? Busch's 4.7 average finish is just decimal points behind the best mark for any driver with at least 15 starts at a track. The best mark is Cale Yarborough at Nashville, with a 4.67 mark.
Trivia break! If we lower the minimum to 10 starts, which driver has the best career average finish at a track? Hint: It's a 1.8 at Bowman-Gray.
Can I have a second?
I'm not sure if people are aware, but there's a pretty popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and he's on a bit of a winless streak. The upside? He's getting pretty consistently close to a win, and if he wins, it'll make some history.
Earnhardt has finished second on seven occasions since his last win. The Cup series record for the most runner-up finishes between wins is eight, done four times: Jeff Gordon (snapped in 2011), Jeremy Mayfield (2004), Bobby Allison (1970) and Bobby Isaac (1970).
In total, nine drivers have had at least seven runner-up finishes between wins. Besides Gordon, the other active driver to do so was Kevin Harvick.
Junior's winless streak is now up to 138 races. Only six drivers in Cup history have gone that long between wins. The record belongs to Bill Elliott, with a 226-race stretch.
Trivia break! It could be worse for Junior. What driver holds the record for most second-place finishes without a win?
Dominant in defeat
But let's focus on Edwards, who had an impressive 126.4 driver rating in defeat. Driver rating, a stat that incorporates many parts of NASCAR's loop data, maxes out at 150, and anything over 100 is very good.
Over the past two seasons, Edwards has had six races with a driver rating of at least 125, but just one win in those races.
Edwards is one of just two drivers over the past two years with at least three races with a driver rating of at least 125, but no more than one win in those races. The other? Jimmie Johnson.
Trivia break! What driver has the most races with at least a 125 driver rating over the past two seasons?
Trivia break answers
1. Rex White has a 1.8 mark at Bowman-Gray.
2. If you got this one, I'm impressed. G.C. Spencer finished second seven times without a win.
3. Kyle Busch has had 10 such races, and has won five of those.
See, one of the subplots of the season has been the emergence of Michael Waltrip Racing and whether it has surpassed Joe Gibbs Racing as the headline Toyota team in the Sprint Cup Series. Although Truex ranks higher than Hamlin in points, Hamlin has a pair of wins, and he won this head-to-head matchup.
As for the other two cars on each team, the advantage seems to go to Waltrip. The 55 and 15 cars are 11th and 12th in owner points, with JGR's 18 and 20 cars right behind in 13th and 14th.
Kyle Busch has especially been a disappointment, with just one top-5 finish in eight races. Each of the past four seasons, Busch has won at least three races with at least nine top-5 finishes.
The problem? Some might say it's the distraction of his new Nationwide Series team to go with his Trucks team. I don't want to analyze what's going on in Busch's head, but I can analyze his on-the-track performance.
The biggest issue might be that these long green-flag runs NASCAR has had don't work in Busch's favor. Not only is he among the best on restarts in the sport, but he also tends to fall off in long runs.
This season, Busch has the third-fastest average speed early in runs but the 13th-fastest speed late in runs.
What better place to break this slump than Richmond? Dating back to 2005, Busch has had a driver rating over 100 in 12 of the 14 races there, and one of those that he didn't was a 99.2.
This year? Busch has had a driver rating over 100 in just two of eight races.
His teammate Hamlin might also be among the favorites there. Over the past eight races at Richmond, Hamlin has been the fastest car on 305 laps, Busch on 237, both the most in the series. In fact, only two other cars have even 100 fastest laps run, and nobody else is over 200.
Want more evidence that JGR is the team to beat? I got this.
Hamlin already has led 1,188 laps at Richmond, in the top 10 all time there, and his per-race average of 99.0 laps led is the tops of any driver to race at Richmond.
Busch's 5.0 average finish at Richmond is tops among any driver who's made at least 10 starts there. He's at his best in the spring race there, too. Seven races, seven top-5s and a 2.3 average finish. Oh yeah, he's won this race the past three years.
The Eliminator: Richmond
For those of you new to my little blog, every week I use a device called The Eliminator to make a pick.
It's pretty simple: Instead of telling you somebody will win, I'll point out why everybody else has to lose. The driver remaining, by process of elimination, is the projected race winner.
And don't doubt the system: The Eliminator hit Kyle Busch last spring at Richmond.
1. The past 11 Sprint Cup winners finished 16th or better in the previous race at the track (30 eliminated, 16 remaining).
2. The past 17 Richmond winners had a top-3 finish earlier that season (six eliminated, 10 remaining).
3. The past 13 Richmond winners entered the race in the top 10 in points (four eliminated, six remaining).
4. Six of the past seven Richmond winners finished in the top three in the previous year's race (five eliminated, one remaining).
Your winner: Denny Hamlin
The Daytona 500 can be described with several words, words like prestigious, legendary and unpredictable.
Unfortunately for me, as a stats-minded blogger, the unpredictable part doesn't bode well for what I do, which is trying to find stats and trends to try to break down the race.
But while the winners might be predictable, there's one trend that's always brought about debate: whether it makes more sense to race up front or hang in the back and hope you miss the mayhem.
Kyle Busch ran up front throughout last Saturday's Budweiser Shootout and won despite a couple of wild saves. But drivers like Brad Keselowski and Ryan Newman ended up with good finishes after hanging back. But they didn't win.
NASCAR keeps track of a stat called average running position, which is literally the average of where a driver is running every lap of the race. And at the Daytona 500, it helps to be one of those guys at the front of the pack.
Since 2005, when NASCAR began tracking loop data, every Daytona 500 winner has ranked in the top 10 in average running position during the race, and in three of those seven races, the winner had the best ARP during the race.
In those seven races, the driver with the best ARP has an 8.7 average finish in the race, with Clint Bowyer's 17th-place finish last year weighing it down.
It begs the question: Who's going to run up front this Sunday?
While it's impossible to know what drivers' strategies will be ahead of time (not nearly that sneaky), we can look at which drivers tend to be at the front of the field at Daytona.
From 2007-09, Kyle Busch had a top-two ARP in the Daytona 500, but it didn't pay off, with an average finish of 23.0 in those races. The past two years, his ARP was ninth and 18th, but he finished 14th and eighth in those races. His strategy might be changing toward being in the back.
Watch for Bowyer to be up front throughout the race, as each of the past two years he's been in the top two in ARP. Plus he's had Daytona 500 success, as he's finished in the top five in two of the past three 500s. Plus, he's won the last two fall Talladega races.
Maybe the mystical spirits that make their home in Daytona Beach reward the racers and risk takers. Or maybe it just pays to be racing all day and not have to turn on that switch down the stretch.
The Eliminator: Daytona
For those of you new to my blog, welcome! Also, I've come up with a method of picking race winners using statistics and history.
But instead of picking a winner, I'm going to tell you why all but one driver in the field cannot win. I call this The Eliminator.
1. Six of the past eight and 10 of the past 13 Daytona 500 winners ran in the first Duel race (24 drivers eliminated, 25 remaining).
2. Nine of the past 10 Daytona 500 winners finished 14th or better in the last Daytona race (18 eliminated, seven remaining).
3. The past four Daytona 500 winners finished outside the top 10 in points the previous season (three eliminated, four remaining).
4. Three of the past four Daytona 500 winners were winless the previous season (two eliminated, two remaining).
5. The past five Daytona 500 winners did not finish in the top 10 in the previous year's Daytona 500 (one eliminated, one remaining).
Your winner: AJ Allmendinger
Occasionally all this number digging and stat crunching pays off. I know our "NASCAR Now" analysts appreciate it, but let's be honest, it's nice when I sound smart.
Nearly two months ago, before the Kentucky race, I wrote that despite being third in the Sprint Cup points, Kyle Busch had been the strongest driver, making him my championship favorite. A couple of wins later, Busch is leading the points and primed to be the top seed in the Chase.
What has been impressive is how Busch has reacted to poor finishes this year. He's statistically the top driver in the series on restarts but faltered on one last week at Watkins Glen. The next week, he blew away the field on the final restart at Michigan.
This was the fourth time this season Busch had entered the race as the points leader. In the first three, he finished 38th, 16th and 36th and lost the lead all three times. But all three times he rebounded to get back to the top.
Let's take a deeper look at Busch's performance:
In 2008, Busch entered the Chase as the points leader, but a few bad finishes to start the playoff derailed his title hopes.
The next year, Busch didn't even make the Chase. At this point in the 2009 season, Busch had five top-5s and an average finish of 17.6.
In 2010, he made the Chase, but his performance wasn't near his 2008 level. After 23 races, he had five top-5s and an average finish of 13.8, and he was eighth in points.
This year, Busch has more than twice as many top-5s -- 13 through 23 races -- and his 10.5 average finish is much closer to his 2008 mark of 10.1 through 23 races.
Trivia break! Which active driver did Busch tie on the all-time wins list?
Across the shop
Meanwhile, Busch's teammate Denny Hamlin switched from a Joe Gibbs Racing engine to a Toyota Racing Development engine for Michigan. I'm sure the move made him some friends in the shop.
Hamlin had a rough day, finishing 35th, dropping to 14th in points but hanging on to the second Chase wild-card spot.
Since winning in June at Michigan, a win that everybody thought signaled his turnaround, Hamlin has one top-10 in eight races, a third at New Hampshire. He's 26th in points during that span.
Trivia break! Who has the most points in the past eight races?
Variety adds spice
If you're a regular reader of my blog (why wouldn't you be?), you know that I love variety -- love to see different winners and a whole mess of guys running up front.
Naturally, I love Michigan.
Busch on Sunday became the 15th different winner in the August race at Michigan, the longest active streak of any race in the Cup series.
If you're curious, the last driver to win this race twice was Dale Jarrett, with wins in 1996 and 2002.
Trivia break! What race has the second-longest string of different winners?
Trivia break answers
1. Kyle Busch tied his brother Kurt with 23 career Cup wins.
2. Jeff Gordon is the points leader in the past eight races.
3. The Daytona 500 has had 10 winners in the past 10 years.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for lack of a better word, is special.
I'm totally into the historic nature of the track, all the great races and moments that have taken place there, including this year's Indianapolis 500, which was both riveting and heartbreaking.
But this weekend is interesting for another reason. It's an opportunity for a driver to get an all-important win to move up the ranks in the wld card race to make the Chase. Currently, it'll just take one for the drivers between 11th and 20th in the points to get into a Chase spot. David Ragan could cement a Chase spot with another win, too.
First of all, when visiting "NASCAR Now" and Bristol, Conn., on Wednesday, Joey Logano told me he was going to win, so he's one of those wild card drivers who could use the leap.
But I also have statistics to back up three big drivers to watch at Indianapolis who are in need of a win in the next seven races.
Greg Biffle: Armed with a new crew chief, I hope notes were saved from the Greg Erwin regime on how to get around the Brickyard. Last year, despite not winning, Biffle had the best driver rating, average running position and overall green-flag speed in the race.
In 2009, Biffle ranked sixth in all those categories, so it isn't a one-year wonder for Biffle.
Juan Pablo Montoya: You could argue he could've won in 2009, or make the same argument with 2010. Dude's overdue to kiss the bricks and wash it down with some milk.
His numbers were more impressive in 2009, when he was second in average position and green-flag speed and first in driver rating, than they were last year. But he was the fastest car on 100 of the 320 laps run at Indianapolis the last two years, by far the most of any driver.
Mark Martin: His season has been a struggle so far, but sitting in 20th, one win puts him in that second wild card spot, and Indianapolis is as good a spot as any.
In 2009, when Martin finished second in points, he led the field in green-flag speed and average position. But last year, when Martin missed the Chase, he still ranked fourth in both of those areas. So, even with his late struggles, Indianapolis remains a strong point on the schedule.
The racing might not always be great at Indianapolis, but with drivers making a run for a Chase spot, it'll definitely be tense.
The Eliminator: Indianapolis
Most people just pick winners, some by hunches, some by stats, and some by just picking a name off the top of their head.
I don't pick winners, I pick losers. I'll make my race pick by telling you why all but one driver in the field just can't win.
1) There's never been a first-time Cup winner at Indy (17 drivers eliminated, 31 remaining).
2) Of the last 13 Indy winners, 12 had a previous top-five finish there (11 eliminated, 20 remaining).
3) Of the 17 all-time Brickyard winners, 16 had a win earlier in the season (11 eliminated, nine remaining).
4) The last 13 and 15 of the 17 all-time Indianapolis winners had a top-12 finish in the last Cup race overall (four eliminated, five remaining).
5) Of the last 16 Brickyard winners, 15 finished sixth or better in at least one of the previous two races (four eliminated, one remaining).
Your winner: Jimmie Johnson
One question I get asked more than others (besides that annoying "why do they always turn left?" question) is what driver do I root for?
Placing journalistic integrity (of which I have a little) aside, when I started watching NASCAR, I rooted for Bill Elliott, since he was who my friend who got me into the sport rooted for.
Now, I just root for tight finishes and a variety running up front. That's why this season has been such a treat for me.
In 19 races this season, we've already seen 13 different winners, ranging from the old guard of Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon to new blood of Trevor Bayne, Regan Smith and David Ragan. It's not just a variety of drivers, it's a variety of teams, which I think bodes well for NASCAR.
We've already had just as many different winners this season as we did last season, with 17 races left. Last year, we didn't have a 13th different winner until the next-to-last race. There were 14 winners in 2009 and 12 in 2008.
And that's music to my ears. The more competitive and unpredictable these races are, the better it is.
Now on to that 13th different winner ...
Newman's own record
There's no doubting Ryan Newman's ability to win poles; his 47 are the 10th most in Cup series history.
However, he hadn't been able to seal the deal when starting up front for some time. He'd last won from the pole position in July 2003 at Pocono.
That's 34 straight winless races after winning the pole, a Cup record. Second is a tie between Geoff Bodine and Ricky Rudd, both of whom went 26 straight.
Trivia break! Who are the only two active, full-time drivers with more career poles than Newman?
A team sport
I'm a researcher, but I have my limits. So I like to pass along great info if I hear it and give proper credit. So, I've seen this note both on Jayski.com via Marty Smith, and also on TNT after the race.
Newman and Stewart started 1-2, and finished 1-2. They're the first set of teammates to start and finish 1-2 in a race since Darrell Waltrip and Ken Schrader did so for Hendrick Motorsports in the 1989 Daytona 500.
Before 1989, the last time a driver started and won from the pole, with his teammate starting and finishing second, was April 1957 with Fireball Roberts and Paul Goldsmith for DePaolo Engineering. Great note.
Trivia Break!!! Who were the last pair of teammates to finish 1-2 this season?
Hitting the century mark
Kyle Busch won the Nationwide race at New Hampshire for his 100th career win across the three NASCAR National Touring Series, which includes the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series. It's something I've written at length before in this blog.
Only 22 percent of Busch's wins have come in Cup, while all of Richard Petty's and all but one of David Pearson's came at the elite level. However, Petty often ran against far weaker fields and Pearson rarely ran a full schedule, so judge the wins as you will.
It also was Busch's 49th Nationwide Series win, tying Mark Martin's career record. Busch has won 22.6 percent of his starts in that series, Martin 20.9. Among the rest of the top five on the wins list, none has a win percentage over 15.
Trivia break! Who are the rest of the top five on the Nationwide Series career wins list?
Trivia break answers
1. Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin have more poles than Newman.
2. Just two races ago, David Ragan and Matt Kenseth finished 1-2 at Daytona.
You know what's odd? Maybe even downright strange?
Here we are at the midway point of the season, and I don't remember spending too much of my blog space talking about the Hendrick Motorsports drivers. Considering they have a five-time champ, a four-time champ and NASCAR's fan favorite, it stood out a little bit.
But I'm a stats guy at heart, so, when their performance tailed off slightly, I had other things to write about. At New Hampshire, however, I think the three Hendrick drivers currently in Chase position will solidify their spots for the playoff run, maybe even take that precious checkered flag.
Let's break down this three-pronged attack, driver by driver:
• Jimmie Johnson -- Johnson has three career New Hampshire wins, but only one of those has come in the past 14 races at Loudon, that being last spring's race. However, his finishes haven't matched how well he's run, especially in the spring races.
In the past three spring races, nobody's run more fastest laps than Johnson, who has ranked first, first and second in fastest laps run in those races. But his finishes in those three races are first, second and ninth.
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- Junior has never won at New Hampshire, but it doesn't mean he hasn't been fast. Last year, despite his struggles, he finished eighth and fourth in the two Loudon races.
So, ignore Earnhardt's finishes and instead focus on the fact that at the midrace point, he's been running in the top 11 in the past nine races there, and in the top three in four of those events.
• Jeff Gordon -- Like Johnson, Gordon has won thrice at New Hampshire, but those wins came in 1995, '97 and '98. But don't let that get you thinking he won't be a strong contender Sunday.
Gordon has finished sixth or better in six of the past nine New Hampshire races, taking second in three of those. Plus, his loop data marks are strong -- check out the chart:
So, don't focus just on the wins, and look beyond the numbers for Hendrick Motorsports' strength.
Eliminator: New Hampshire edition
Most people just pick winners -- some by hunches, some by stats, and some by just picking names off the top of their heads.
I don't pick winners -- I pick losers. I'll make my race pick by telling you why all but one driver in the field just can't win.
And while my winless streak is at nine races, the Eliminator's picks have finished eighth or better in five of the past six races. But it's time to get a winner. And I just need two steps:
1. Twelve of the past 13 New Hampshire winners finished 19th or better in the race leading into Loudon (29 eliminated, 19 remaining).
2. The past three New Hampshire winners had a top-10 finish in the most recent Richmond, Martinsville and Phoenix races (18 eliminated, one remaining).
Your winner: Kyle Busch.
"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.