Kyle Busch has won 100 major NASCAR races. Period.
He hasn't won 100 Cup races, he's only won 22 and sits sixth among active drivers, in that regard. He's nowhere near Richard Petty's record 200 Cup wins or David Pearson's 105, but he's won 100 races.
People are quick to discredit Busch's feat because it hasn't all come at the Cup level. Yet, what everyone seems to be missing is that Busch, himself, has never asked you to view his accomplishment in the same arena.
He just asks you respect his passion and ability as a race car driver.
Busch's 100th NASCAR win came just over a week ago in the Nationwide Series' New England 200 here at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Coincidentally, the win also tied Mark Martin's record of 49 Nationwide Series wins (a series that ironically some fans still refer to as the former Busch Series).
Afterwards, he told the media: "It's been exciting to win as much as we have, all over the NASCAR circuit and to win 100. We're halfway to my number; I always said it was 200. Whether it's relative to Richard Petty or David Pearson, that's not what I'm out here for. It's for myself - to be able to achieve a goal."
As one of the most polarizing figures in the sport, and I'll admit I've never had a true affinity for him either, it's not surprising that fans and experts alike are clamoring for an asterisk on his 100th win.
However, at the age of just 26, the milestone seems to be getting lost in debate. It's not about whether or not he'll be the greatest driver ever, it's just about that already, at a young age, he's a great driver, period.
Richard Petty is widely perceived as the greatest of all-time, and, as previously mentioned, he won 200 races. He also had a 35-year career. Kyle Busch on the other hand is in just his seventh full season as a Cup driver.
Petty started 1,184 races; Busch has entered in 319.
There's no comparison to "The King" and someone that still qualifies as a kid in the Sprint Cup Series. Kyle Busch will be the first to tell you that. But, hate it or love it, a day will come when Busch ascends to the position of a race legend.
In this day and age, there are enough great drivers and well-funded teams that it's unlikely anyone will ever eclipse Petty's milestone win total. It's unlikely anyone will ever win 10 straight races like Petty did in 1967. But, those comparisons are as unfair to Busch as the current ones are to Petty.
Richard Petty was a great race car driver.
Kyle Busch is a great race car driver.
Where I respect Busch most is that his success is born from the same place of all legends in that he has an undying passion for the sport and a fiery drive to succeed. He races in all three major NASCAR series and, last August in Bristol, he became the only driver to ever sweep the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series in a race weekend.
Earlier this month, he won the Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday night and took the checkered flag in a Super Late Model race in Wisconsin the following day. Instead of enjoying a rare vacation from the Sprint Cup this past weekend, he hauled up to Oxford, Maine, for a late model race against some of the American-Canadian Tour's stand outs. He won that race as well.
Now, I ask you, die-hard New England race fan: have you ever been to Oxford, Maine!?
The simplest facts are that Kyle Busch loves racing and that he's darn good at it! If there were events seven days a week, it's likely Busch would race every day...and win on most of them. He even hinted that he had several sponsors hoping for his business if he ever decided to enter INDYCAR's $5 million challenge.
You don't have to compare him to Richard Petty, he's not asking you to do that.
And, you don't even have to like him, clearly by his polarizing nature that doesn't bother him either.
However, you do need to respect the way in which he approaches the sport. Years from now, we'll look back at Kyle Busch as one of the best drivers of his generation.
There's no debating that, and that's all he'll ever ask you to consider.