There is a certain security in being
While change in baseball allowed the most hallowed of baseball records, the lifetime home-run standard, to fall, change in racing has fortified the most sacred of NASCAR accomplishments. Athletes cannot transcend when the game does not allow.
Longer seasons, smaller ballparks, expansion and the increased use of performance-enhancing drugs helped pull down
"You look at Richard's 200 wins, but that was accomplished when you could win 20-25 times in a season, and that's not going to happen anymore," said
Petty, who passed his father,
Petty won 200 times in 1,185 races over 35 seasons, a 17-percent success rate. Gordon has 81 wins in 523 races over parts of 17 seasons, at 15 percent. He'd have to win at that pace until he was 55 to catch Petty.
Gordon, who turns 37 in August, is the defining driver of his generation and is just four wins from becoming the modern-era leader and third on the all-time wins list at 85. A four-time series champion, he has a better chance of catching Petty and
No longer is a perfect campaign needed because of the Chase for the Championship format instituted in 2004, just a top-12 standing when the playoffs begin in the 27th race of the season. Gordon would have won a fifth title in '04 under the old points system, but missed the playoffs in '05. Gordon, who's finished outside the top 10 just twice in his previous 15 full seasons, thinks the new system gives him a title chance every year, but he's said he wouldn't stay in the sport at old age simply to chase records.
"If it was doable," he said in '05. "There are a lot of ifs, ands and buts there. If we had seven championships and things are still going well ... I want to stay in this sport as long as I'm healthy and competitive and I'm enjoying what I'm doing. It has nothing to do with numbers. But if I just came off of winning seven championships, I'd probably want to go try for that eighth one."
But 200 wins and seven championships may not be the most iron-clad of records.
Rudd avoided injury during a violent flip at Daytona in '84 and drove despite torn ligaments in his leg after slamming the wall in the '88 all-star race. Owner
The synergy of safer race cars and drivers making their Sprint Cup debut younger would seemingly make Rudd's record attainable, but it's actually created an environment for getting in and out healthy and wealthy. Fewer successful drivers envision driving at 40.
"When NASCAR first started running, drivers like
The King, forever.
What are the chances some of NASCAR's most hallowed records will fall? Let's assess the chances: