Busch's Nationwide run amazing, but ...
If you look up the word "part-timer" in the dictionary, you get "a person who works, attends school, etc., less than full time."
Friday night in Bristol, Kyle Busch continued his amazing season by scoring his 10th Nationwide Series victory in 2010. Amazing because he tied the series record he already shared with Sam Ard? No. It's because he's done it in only 20 races.
The 25-year-old Busch is racing at such a high level that he'll most likely establish a new mark in the series, despite the fact that he hasn't run the full 24 races in 2010. He's expected to compete in at least nine of the remaining 11 races.
What Busch is doing brings back memories of NASCAR yesteryear, when some of racing's biggest names would compete on a partial or "part-time" schedule.
1972: A.J. Foyt
Prior to 1972, open-wheel superstar A.J. Foyt had been making stops on NASCAR's Grand National scene for several years.
He had already scored five victories, including back-to-back Firecracker 400 wins in 1964 and 1965. In the first year of NASCAR's "modern era," the man called "Super Tex" would make six starts.
After a season-opening DNF at Riverside, Foyt would finish no lower than fourth in his remaining five races. His biggest highlight came on Feb. 20, when he led 167 of 200 laps to win the Daytona 500. He won again on March 5 at Ontario Motor Speedway in another dominant performance.
Foyt then suffered a broken leg and missed three months of action, but he returned in the fall and scored top-5s at Charlotte and Texas World Speedway.
1973: David Pearson
During the 1960s, David Pearson won 57 races and three Grand National championships.
When the 70s came along, the Silver Fox started scaling back his on-track schedule. His lack of track time, however, did not diminish his lack of time in Victory Lane.
Competing in just 186 races, Pearson won 47 times, the third-highest total of the decade. In 1973, Pearson competed in just 18 of 28 races. In a show of utter dominance, the 38-year-old Pearson won 11 times. What is truly staggering is that in the 14 races in which Pearson did not have a DNF, he finished no lower than third.
1984: Cale Yarborough
After narrowly missing a fourth NASCAR Winston Cup points title in 1980 (19 points behind champion Dale Earnhardt), Cale Yarborough announced he would compete part-time for the rest of his career.
He remained a factor on the track despite his limited schedule. He won at least two races each season since going the part-time route. In 1983, racing for Harry Rainer, the three-time champ won four times, including his third Daytona 500.
He returned to the Hardee's Chevrolet in 1984 and captured his fourth Daytona 500 crown. Unlike 1983 (four wins, eight DNFs), Yarborough's '84 campaign was solid. In 16 starts, he recorded 10 top-5 finishes with an average finish of 7.4.
Let's keep this in perspective. When it's all said and done in 2010, Kyle Busch may have between 15 and 19 wins, which would be a great achievement. However, Busch is also competing in a series in which maybe three or four drivers have the equipment to run with him.
The three aforementioned drivers had to compete against the likes of Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip, and Earnhardt. Unlike Busch, they were not competing nearly full-time in an inferior series. They did it in the superior series.
Chris Lees is a researcher who covers motorsports for the ESPN Stats and Information Group.
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