Column By: HOLLY CAIN / NASCAR – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – Kyle Busch’s victory Sunday at Pocono Raceway not only earned the former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion a series-best fourth win of 2019, but was also another milestone toward a certain NASCAR Hall of Fame distinction.
The 34-year old, Busch, hoisted his 55th career Monster Energy Series trophy tying him with NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace on the all-time wins list – the ninth most career wins in the sport’s storied history.
In just the last 10 seasons, Busch has won 39 races – or 70.9 percent of his career total. And the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry has finished runner-up 34 times in that span – 25.1 percent of his top-five finishes.
“It’s pretty special,” Busch said of his milestone win mark. “We just keep doing what we’re supposed to do. It’s pretty cool to get with and eclipse many of these great names that helped build our sport to what it is today and have been icons, for that matter.”
The number 55 (wins) is certainly important as is Busch’s ninth place on the all-time list. Perhaps, however, it’s the number 34 – Busch’s age – that drops jaws and sends the mind into high speed calculation.
Wallace was 48-years-old when he earned his 55th trophy.
Only three of the eight drivers ranked ahead of Busch on the all-time wins list were age 34 or younger when they won their 55th race. NASCAR’s original seven-time champion Richard Petty along with four-time champion Jeff Gordon were the youngest of all – both only 29-years-old.
Petty won his 55th at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in 1967. It was part of an unmatched 27-win effort in a single (48-race) season.
Gordon, who was just inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, equaled Petty’s high achievement, earning the 55th of his 93 wins at the age of 29 – at Martinsville Speedway in 2001.
Another seven-timer, Jimmie Johnson was 33-years-old when he won his 55th race – at Fontana, Calif. in 2009.
David Pearson – a 105-race winner was 34-years-old – as is Busch – when he won his 55th race in 1969 at Bristol, Tenn.
Next up on the milestone victory list for Busch is the late, seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt, who has 76 wins.
It’s an interesting perspective to look at those drivers currently ranked ahead of Busch on the Monster Energy Series win list – every one of them a NASCAR Hall of Famer. Earnhardt was 42-years-old when he won his 55th race in 1993 at Charlotte. Cale Yarborough, who is tied with Johnson at 83 wins was 38 when he won his 55th race at Dover, Del.
Darrell Waltrip, who is tied with Bobby Allison, at 84 victories each – won his 55th race at Bristol, Tenn. at the age of 36. Allison was 41-years-old when he won his 55th race – in 1979 at Riverside, Calif. – the only member of this elite list to have scored his milestone 55th win on a road course.
Also noteworthy about these men, all but one of the eight drivers ranked ahead of Busch won championships beyond their 55-win milestone. Five of them won the title the same year they won their 55th trophy – Petty (1972), Pearson (1969), Earnhardt (1993), Gordon (2001) and Johnson (2010).
Petty won three more titles. Earnhardt won one more. And Johnson has won two more and counting.
Allison answered his 55-win mark in 1979 with a season championship in 1983. And Yarborough won all three of his consecutive titles – 1976-1977-1978 – after earning his 55th victory.
Waltrip, a three-time series champion, is the only driver with at least 55 race wins not to win a title afterward.
And while Richard Petty’s 200 series victories has long been considered an unreachable tally – Busch has valiantly set a different win threshold. He has 206 victories across NASCAR’s three national series – including 56 in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series and 95 wins in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in addition to his 55 Cup trophy haul.
“It’s amazing to watch him and all of us that are in the sport at the same time as he is, I think we will be thankful later that we got to watch him because he is fantastic and unquestionably one of the best that’s ever strapped into a stock car,” NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Monday morning.