When it comes to NASCAR statistics and records we’re constantly reminded that the career win total is an insurmountable 200 race wins by Richard Petty. The closest anyone has ever got to the record was David Pearson and his puny 105 wins. NASCAR needs to change their record book to use modern era stats only. It’s only fair to the drivers that competed post 1972 and it’s only fair for the fans that maybe someone can chase the win record.
Richard Petty And The Pre Modern Era
Richard Petty has 200 NASCAR Grand National/Winston Cup wins. An insurmountable amount of wins in today’s NASCAR and certainly not a realistic number that will ever be beat. Petty raced in a time where 62 races a year was the schedule. That’s nearly double the schedule of today’s NASCAR and also double the chance he had to win. Imagine if Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson had 62 races a year. They would both have 200 wins by the time their careers ended. In 1971 the year before the “modern era” Richard Petty racked up 21 wins in 48 races. That’s ridiculously good but also shows how awful the competition was and how many chances he got to win.
In the pre modern era of NASCAR Richard Petty had 140 wins from 1958 through the 1971 season. That’s a remarkable accomplishment and all but it’s not applicable to the modern era of NASCAR. In the modern era Petty recorded only 60 wins from 1972-1992 his final season in NASCAR. When he only had the opportunity to race 29-31 times a year his winning percentage dropped dramatically.
From 1958 to 1971 Petty competed in 565 races winning 140 of them racing on average 40 races a year for 14 years. Those 40 races are still more than any current cup driver races and at times he raced up to 61 times a year. His winning percentage during that era was 24%. A remarkable feat but still not something that correlates to current NASCAR. In the modern era his win percentage was 9% in 619 races. Granted the competition was much stronger but it does to show the difference between modern era and pre modern.
Modern Era Stats
In the modern era of NASCAR Jeff Gordon is the win leader. 93 careers wins is an attainable number that a driver could chase and something NASCAR could build a marketing campaign around. Jimmie Johnson has 82 wins currently and will likely surpass Gordon in the next few seasons. After him though it’s a steep drop off to Kyle Busch.
My point is if NASCAR used modern era stats only then racing for that career win total could become an actual talking point. It could become a legitimate goal for drivers to strive for. “Records are meant to be broken” and they are unless you all ridiculous statistics to be used in a completely different era. Baseball records are broke all the time and they’ve been playing for 100+ years. Why can’t NASCAR records be broken?
This isn’t a knock on Richard Petty, he raced when he raced. This is a knock on the stats and NASCAR for running with that 200 win total for as long as they have. Richard will always be The King but he isn’t the modern era king. He’s more like 8th in line to be kind. If NASCAR is only going to allow drivers to race in 36 races a year their record book needs to be adjusted accordingly.