Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson continue to climb all-time wins list

As Kyle Busch crossed the finish line Saturday night at Richmond he notched his 21st career Cup victory to move into a tie for 22nd on the all-time wins list with drivers such as Benny Parsons, Jack Smith, Jeff Burton and Bobby Labonte. Not bad for a 26-year-old driver.

Similarly, Jimmie Johnson won the 54th race of his career at Talladega two races ago to tie three-time NASCAR champion Lee Petty, which is also not bad for a 35-year-old.

Both feats are very impressive and we are privileged to have the chance to watch them on a week-to-week basis, just as St. Louis Cardinals fans have been able to watch Albert Pujols become one of the greatest baseball players of all-time.

Let’s see if we can offer some perspective on these two drivers, arguably the two best in the sport right now. It’s natural to think of Busch as the guy who wins races and Johnson as the guy who wins championships. While that is true, it would be unwise to think Busch won’t contend for championships for many years to come and Johnson is starting to move into the realm of the all-time greats in the sport with his win total.

Now, Busch is easily on pace to eventually eclipse Johnson in terms of wins simply because he started younger than Johnson.

Johnson started his Sprint Cup Series career full time in 2002 at the age of 26 and Busch already has 21 wins at that same age.

Setting aside the factor of his championships, Johnson still should be considered one of the greatest winners in NASCAR history. He has won 16 percent of the races he’s competed in, while Busch has won just 9 percent.

Yet, many expect Busch to end up in at least the top 10 all-time as far as Cup victories are concerned. As is the case with Johnson, Busch has a 21-win head start. If Busch were to win at the same rate as Johnson for the next nine years, he will have 75 wins and be right there with Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon.

Johnson, meanwhile, is the same age Gordon was four years ago when he won six races to bring his career total to 81. This isn’t to say Johnson is about ready to fall back and become a guy who’s win rate will dramatically fall off, but he is at the age where other talented drivers saw the Victory Lane gates shut.

Gordon has won just twice since 2007, and Burton won 17 races up until he turned 34 in 2001, winning four races since.

How far will Johnson get? He hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down and currently sits second in the points standings with a victory under his belt.

So, maybe 10 years from now Busch might be making his way up the all-time wins list and surpassing whatever number Johnson has, but it is possible Johnson could've had those numbers himself if he had the chance to start his career a few years earlier, as Busch did.

Sometimes it’s not the case of one driver being better than another, just the case of when they were able to find the opportunity to break into the sport.


  1. Hey jmayer!

    So... JJ wasn't as good as Kyle when he was coming up? JJ didn't have Chad when he was coming up? Kyle was just lucky to have an older brother paving the way?

    I hate the comparisons popping up between Kyle and the King, but this one bothers me too.

    It's too bad JJ wasn't good enough to be full-time in the Cup Series when he was 20 years old and I think that's the correct way of looking at this. What would JJ's winning percentage be if he HAD come up when HE was 20? Now's the time to start your comparisons between Kyle and JJ since they were both in the Cup Series at 26 years of age...

  2. C'mon, Dwindy, it's always fun to compare different drivers' records. From the pioneers to the new guys. The driver that hooked me on NASCAR has the best winning pct. of all time... David Pearson!

    Kyle's pct goes way up after he left HMS. One win in every 7 Cup starts since he joined Gibbs.

  3. The sadder stat (for Kurt anyway) is that Kyle is only one win behind him...ouch!

    I thought I read JJ was going for open wheel career as a teenager which is why he wasnt beeline focused on Cup like Kyle was (thanks to Kurt and that brotherly competition!)

  4. Dwindy1 - All of those may have been factors as to why Busch and Johnson are where they are at in their careers right now. If Johnson had started earlier, he might have more wins right now, but he also might have gotten into a different situation and been not nearly as successful.

    Gene - Not a bad choice. Thankfully he's finally getting in the Hall of Fame this year. It's interesting how Kyle's career took off after leaving Hendrick. Usually it's the other way around for most drivers. Kasey Kahne sure hopes that's the case.

    klvalus - The same could be said for both Jeff Burton and Bobby Labonte. Both of those drivers have contended for championships, Labnte won one, and have been around for nearly two decades, yet Kyle Busch has tied them in just six years.