By admin | July 16, 2008
By Richard Allen
Kyle Busch captured yet another checkered flag this past Saturday night with his win in the LifeLock.com 400 at the Chicagoland Speedway. This was his seventh win in the 19 races held thus far in the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.
Busch’s season has the potential to be an historic one on a variety of levels. For the sake of comparison I have chosen outstanding seasons put together by two other drivers in the modern era, the time since 1972, to hold up against Busch’s 2008 campaign.
In 1985 Bill Elliott had one of the most electrifying seasons any NASCAR driver has ever had. He won a total of 11 races in only 28 starts. He also won The Winston Million, a program put together by R.J Reynolds Tobacco Company to reward any driver who could win three of the four biggest races in one year. Elliott won in Daytona, Talladega and Darlington to capture the $1 million bonus.
However, one thing Elliott did not do was win the season championship that year. Darrell Waltrip used consistency and a late season charge to beat Elliott out of the overall title.
To compare Elliott’s 1985 season against Busch in 2008, Elliott had won nine of the first 19 races held that year. So, to this point, Elliott in 1985 was a bit ahead of Busch in 2008.
The other driver I have chosen to compare against Busch is Jeff Gordon in 1998. That year, Gordon won thirteen of 33 races. And, unlike Elliott, he went on to capture the season title. Gordon’s biggest wins that season were the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte and the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis.
Up to the 19th race of the season that year Gordon had won six times. Busch in 2008 is slightly ahead of the victory pace Gordon set in 1998 through this point.
Only time will tell whether Busch’s 2008 ends like Elliott in 1985 without a season title, or with a championship like Gordon in 1998.
Neither Elliott nor Gordon had to deal with the Chase for the Championship. What may well be a huge lead for Busch will essentially be erased after the 26th race in Richmond. For what it is worth, both the 1985 and 1998 seasons would have produced the same champions whether the old point system or the current Chase format had been used.
Here, however, is where the season being conducted by Kyle Busch takes a step towards the historic that neither Elliott nor Gordon can match. To go along with his seven Sprint Cup Series wins this year Busch has added four Nationwide Series wins and two Craftsman Truck Series victories.
In 1985, Elliott did not even compete in what was then called the Busch Series. The Craftsman Truck series was not even created until 1995. Elliott has only one win over the course of his career in the Nationwide Series.
In 1998, Gordon did not compete in the Busch Series. During his career he has won five times in that series. He has never started a Crafstman Truck Series race.
So far, Busch has visited victory lane a total of 13 times in 2008. No matter what happens from here on he has already broken historic ground in some ways. It remains to be seen just how historic this season will ultimately be.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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