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Opinion: Historical Perspective

Kyle Busch will reach the 200 win plateau most likely in a matter of days. He’s sitting on 199 national series victories after sweeping last week’s Xfinity Series-Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series doubleheader at ISM Raceway.

There’s more than a good chance Busch will hit the 200 mark in Saturday’s Auto Club Speedway Xfinity Series race, given to the way he’s run roughshod over the series this year when he competes. The way he’s going, another weekend sweep with a Sunday Auto Club 400 Cup win is not that long of a shot. For the record Busch has finished outside the top 10 just once in his last seven Cup starts at ACS, a streak that includes a pair of victories.

But the great debate about whether Busch’s inevitable achievement exceeds Richard Petty’s record of 200 career Cup wins begins and ends with the views of the two drivers.

“Absolutely not because his number is obviously Cup wins, and mine’s not,” Busch said.

Then there’s the view of “The King.”

“His 200 and my 200 – there’s no comparison,” Petty told Autoweek. “I did my thing and he’s doing his, and they’re not the same.”

So if the two people involved in this debate both agree it’s comparing apples to kumquats, why do so many around the NASCAR world feel compelled to keep the argument alive?

One reason most likely is because Busch is involved. Even as or maybe because he continues to rack up win after win, his polarizing personality still divides the fan base.

And when an icon like Petty is involved, a figure who still in many ways represents the sport, the debate takes on a very clear “old school” versus “new school” feel.

It’s fair to point out when Petty was winning during the 1960s and early 1970s the sport was far different than it is today. A schedule of nearly 60 races dotted the calendar with several 100 lap affairs held on short tracks around the southeast sometimes fielding car counts in the teens the norm. Not until what’s is considered the “Modern Era” in 1972, when the schedule became streamlined to a core slate of more major races did NASCAR start to round into the form that is still reflected today.

But despite the significantly different look of the era, every one of Petty’s wins were at NASCAR’s top tier. As of now, only 52 of Busch’s wins fits that criteria. While hardly “minor league,” the Truck Series and Xfinity Series – where Busch has combined to put his other 147 wins together – are not on the same level.

Embrace, celebrate and marvel at what Busch has done and will continue to do. At just 33-years-old, there’s no telling how many more wins above the 200 mark he’ll accumulate before hanging up his helmet.

However all hail “The King” for his record will never be broken.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.