It’s a magic number in stock-car racing, one of only a handful of numbers recognized across the sport as carrying significance without any explanation needed.
It’s the number only one man accomplished. Richard Petty’s 200 wins is one of the most secure records in all of sports.
No one will ever approach it.
David Pearson couldn’t come close. Nor did Jeff Gordon. Nor will Jimmie Johnson. And certainly not Kyle Busch.
Which makes this week’s discussion about Busch winning for the 200th time in NASCAR’s three divisions a bit awkward. Take nothing away from him. He did it. It’s cool. But it’s only cool because of the number. Not the accomplishment.
On one hand, it’s a nice gesture to the King, a way to commemorate the untouchable record.
But it’s also an insult.
Petty addressed the occasion about the way you’d expect him to.
“He’s won over a hundred races in 2-A and 1-A,” Petty told Fox Sports. “OK? So he went backwards. Instead of coming up through that deal, we went back to it. I’m not taking away from his driving ability But the big deal is that the competition in the other two leagues, it’s not there.”
Petty added that Busch would’ve been right there with “all the greats” had he raced during Petty’s days.
We’ve seen this once before when Rick Hendrick won his 200th race as a team owner. Jimmie Johnson’s win in the 2012 Southern 500 was lauded as a great achievement for Hendrick, and it was. But it had nothing to do with anything other than the hallowed number itself.
Johnson said after the race that there had been a lot of pressure on the team in the weeks leading up the 200th, and team officials had been carrying around truckloads of merchandise commemorating the win, just waiting for it to happen.
The number 200 rings through the ages.
The night Petty won his 100th race, at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, his father Lee asked “what’s next?”
“Two hundred,” Petty replied. “After we won our 200th, he asked me again what’s next, and I said ‘201’.”
There will never be a 201.
Hendrick Motorsports has now won more than 250 races, but nobody’s counting anymore. And Busch will win more races, too. But nobody will be counting.
The No. 200 is retired in Level Cross.
End of argument.