NASCAR StatWatch: Taking stock of Kyle Busch's legacy

Kyle Busch is the first driver in 27 years to record a top-10 finish in each of the first eight races of a Cup Series season. Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire

It's only April, and it already has been a season of accomplishments for Kyle Busch.

Busch catching Richard Petty's record of 200 NASCAR National Series (Cup, Xfinity and Truck series) wins is old news. He already has flown by that, now with 204 wins. That's almost 100 more than anybody not crowned NASCAR king, as Kevin Harvick and David Pearson are tied for third with 106 wins.

So in honor of Busch's three Cup Series wins this season, here's three of the legacy-securing notes Kyle Busch has accomplished this season.

Welcome to the top 10

Busch's three victories this season give him 54 for his Cup Series career. That ties him with Hall of Famer Lee Petty for 10th on the all-time list. Soon enough, he'll knock Petty out of the top 10, and then he'll tie Rusty Wallace for ninth (with 55). Then, we've got a bit of a wait, as Dale Earnhardt is eighth with 76.

But Lee Petty was 46 years old when he won his 54th race, Wallace was 44, Earnhardt was 41. Kyle Busch is just 33 years old.

Of the top 10 winners in Cup Series history, only Richard Petty and Jeff Gordon were younger than Busch at the time of their 54th win. Even David Pearson was nearly a full year older than Busch when he reached 54.

So where the ceiling lies depends on how Busch races as he reaches his mid-to-late 30s. Can he keep winning at this pace, or will his pace drops off, like we saw with Gordon?

Busch's career win percentage is at 10.7 percent, thanks to the occasional down season earlier in his career (he won just once in 2006, 2007, 2012 and 2014). To compare, Pearson won 18.3 percent of his starts; Richard Petty won in 16.9 percent. and Jimmie Johnson is at 13.3.

Of course, over the past two seasons, Busch is winning 25 percent of his starts.

Regular winner

Busch's first full season in the Cup Series came in 2005. He turned 20 during that season, and won twice.

Even though there have been ups and downs throughout his career, Busch has won in every one of his 15 full seasons, including 2019. At 33, it's reasonable to think he can string together a few more seasons of wins.

Only five drivers in series history have ever won a race in more than 15 consecutive seasons. Most recently, it was done by Johnson, who won in 16 straight from 2002-17. Before that, Wallace and Ricky Rudd both had 16-seasons streaks, running mostly simultaneously.

But the top two spots on the list, not surprisingly, belong to the top two drivers all-time in wins.

Pearson won a race in 17 straight seasons from 1964-80. His main rival, Richard Petty, one-upped him by winning in 18 straight seasons from 1960-77.

Can anybody be joining Busch? Brad Keselowski extended his streak to nine seasons with a win earlier this year. Kevin Harvick can reach 10 straight with a win in one of the final 28 races this season.

Kyle has found consistency

A wreck at Bristol couldn't stop Busch from registering a win last Sunday. Busch also recovered from pit issues the previous week at Texas for a 10th-place finish. He has finished sixth or better in every other race this season.

That makes Busch the first driver in 27 years to record a top-10 finish in each of the first eight races of a Cup Series season, since Terry Labonte in 1992. His streak ended at eight, however.

Only three other drivers have registered a top-10 finish in at least the first eight races of the season, and they all reached double digits with their streaks

  • Morgan Shepherd (11 straight in 1990)

  • James Hylton (10 straight in 1972)

  • Lee Petty (10 straight in 1955)

Unfortunately for Busch, there's one thing that Labonte, Shepherd, Hylton and Petty all have in common: They didn't win the championship in their seasons.

One number that seems nearly impossible to pass up -- although who knows what to expect with the other-worldly level that Busch is racing at this season -- is 3.4. That's Busch's average finish this season.

It's downright silly.

The last driver to finish a season with an average finish that good was road-course specialist Ron Fellows in 2004, with a 2.0 mark. But that was in one race. Not a fair sample size.

Nobody has ever run a full Cup Series season and put together an average finish as good as what Busch is doing right now. The closest was Richard Petty in his remarkable 1971 season in which he won 21 of his 46 starts, with a 4.2 average finish position.

Even with just eight starts this season, it's an impressive mark. Only three drivers in series history have ever had an average finish of 4.0 or better in a season in which they ran at least five races.

Marvin Panch (in 12 races in 1963) and Lloyd Dane (10 races in 1957) both had 3.8 marks. The only one with a better mark than Busch's was Speedy Thompson, who had a 3.1 mark in seven starts in 1953.

Rowdy Busch and Speedy Thompson, a pretty select duo.