On race days, NASCAR driver Kyle Busch is known for being bold and brash, both in words and deeds. But this week in Phoenix, he turned into a diplomat.
Busch had every reason to brag after his weekend of work at ISM Raceway in Phoenix. On Saturday, he won the race in the Xfinity Series, and on Sunday he won the major race, the TicketGuardian 500.
Those wins were Nos.?198 and 199 for Busch on NASCAR’s three main circuits. They also leave him one behind the record of “The King,” Richard Petty. And if there’s a sure way to cause an argument among NASCAR fans, it’s a driver’s name appearing in the same sentence as Petty’s.
Busch was having none of it. Oh, the 200th victory will be significant to him, and he would prefer to do it on NASCAR’s swing through the West, which concludes next week in Fontana, Calif.
But Busch is not interested in weighing in on the tavern-debate question of which driver’s accomplishment was?more impressive?
“It’s not my job to compare or tell you whether or not what I did was harder or easier, that’s not my job,” Busch said this weekend in Phoenix.
It’s a dirty job, apparently, so let me try to clean it up.
The question is flawed because racing has changed. Rules have changed. Circuits have changed. Tracks have changed. And there is nothing that compels us to pick one or the other as superior.
So why try?
Petty and Busch reached this point in vastly different ways.
Busch’s victories have come on the Xfinity Series, the Truck Series and the Cup Series. Sunday’s victory was Busch’s 52nd?in the Cup Series.
All 200 of Petty’s were Cup victories, but Petty also came up in a time when some races were on weeknights, on dirt tracks and shorter tracks. Still, he raced against the best drivers of his time, as Busch has.
“There’s other people out there that can argue that fact they?have seen Richard Petty race races back at the Fairgrounds when he ran 50 lappers and it was a Cup race,” Busch said. “There were 16 cars in the field. It’s not for me to argue, I don’t care.”
Petty would have been great in any era. And so would Busch, who would race most anything on most any day, if allowed.
(After his victory Sunday, he said he would like to give Formula One a try some day and encouraged a foreign reporter to use whatever connections he had to make that happen.)
So respecting one man’s accomplishment shouldn’t be viewed as disrespectful of the other’s.
Besides, Busch is a fellow Toyota Camry driver, so his decision-making is beyond reproach.
“It is my own and an accomplishment for myself that should stand alone separate from Richard,” Busch said. “Hell, I could say right now that I’m the winningest driver on pavement in NASCAR ever in the top-three series because Richard doesn’t have 200 pavement wins, right.
“So ‘booyah,’ again self-promotion.”
That’s the kind of comment some racing fans will interpret as arrogant, ignoring that Busch was kidding. And Busch is never going to win over a certain segment of the racing public, no matter what he says.
That was clear when his introduction Sunday was greeted with equal parts boos and cheers.
Even those who dislike Busch couldn’t argue denigrate the quality of his performance on Sunday. Working for Joe Gibbs Racing and sponsored by Skittles and M&Ms, “the Candy Man” led 177 of the 312 laps. But some restarts caused him to lose the lead with about 60 laps left, and Busch had to gradually work his way back up.
With 16 laps left, Busch?overtook Ryan Blaney and cruised to his second consecutive Cup victory in Phoenix.
“He has a determination and drive that’s very unusual,” said Joe Gibbs, the former NFL coach. “I think he is driven by records. He’s driven by trying to do something great.”
Busch likely will be the last driver ever to reach 200 victories, because NASCAR has imposed restrictions on how frequently drivers can participate in the Xfinity and Truck series.
With Busch, there are two other numbers to keep in?mind: 33 and 100.
The first is Busch’s age, which means he has plenty of years of driving left. The second number came up when a reporter asked if had a goal in mind for number of Cup victories.
Most drivers would avoid that question as if it were debris on the track. Not Busch.
“Let’s set it at 100 and see if we can’t go get there,” he said.
Hear Somers every Monday between 4 and 4:30 p.m. on The Drive with Jody Oehler on Fox Sports 910 AM.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: After Kyle Busch's ISM Raceway wins, should he and Richard Petty be mentioned in the same sentence now?