The Daytona 500 is NASCAR’s most prestigious race. If you look at the list of winners of the event it is decorated with the biggest names in the history of NASCAR. However, there are a few drivers who for one reason or another never visited victory lane at the Daytona 500. Perhaps the biggest name is Tony Stewart who was 0 for 17 in his career during the Great American Race.
While Stewart is the biggest name, he may soon be surpassed by his former teammate Kyle Busch. Busch’s sixth-place finish in the 64th running of the event on Sunday put the Las Vegas, Nevada native’s record at 0 for 16 at Daytona in February. Busch has 222 career points-paying victories in NASCAR’s top three divisions, yet he has only three points-paying wins at Daytona International Speedway.
With a record like that you have to wonder if Busch will ever win “The Great American Race.” Will Busch become the biggest name to never win the event, or will he eventually find victory lane? Brad Harrison & Clayton Caldwell give their takes.
No Way, Jose!
There is no doubt about the fact that Kyle Busch is a talented racer. His 59 wins in NASCAR’s top division, earning at least one each season since 2005, back that up. But here’s the thing about the Daytona 500: By fate, it at times defies talent. To win a race like Daytona or Talladega, yes, it’s one thing to be in a position to win. But it’s another to have those chips fall your way. There’s no disputing that Busch has done that in stock car racing’s version of the Super Bowl.
But for whatever reason, that has not happened. Sure, there’s that adage that a win at Daytona is more car than a driver, but sometimes, driver talent can go beyond that car. See David Ragan muscling a Rick Ware Racing car to a top-10 finish this past Sunday. Even back to Dale Earnhardt Inc., circa 2002-2004, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s strength on restrictor-plate tracks was shown when he could take the car wherever he wanted to in the draft.
But sometimes, you need some good vibes from good old lady luck to go your way. Mark Martin and Bobby Labonte, for example, have no Daytona 500 wins in their trophy case, but that does not mean they’re less of a driver. Few breaks in the closing lap at Daytona are more gut-wrenching for fans of Martin than – depending on who you talk to – a delayed caution flag in 2007, a hesitancy that Kevin Harvick is grateful for.
You need some luck to win a Daytona 500. When you think of Busch, you don’t think of Superspeedway racing. His record is mediocre at those tracks. That along with the luck is a big reason he hasn’t won the Daytona 500. Given the fact that he is 37 years old, time to find that luck at the right time may be running out in a hurry. – Brad Harrison
He Will Eventually Get There
Kyle Busch is one of the best drivers in NASCAR history. It cannot be overstated. When the book closes on his career, he will be mentioned among the greatest drivers in the history of the sport. There’s only one thing missing from his legacy: A victory in the Daytona 500. I think much like the late great Dale Earnhardt, Busch is bound to find his way into victory lane in NASCAR’s most iconic race. It’s only a matter of time.
After Sunday’s sixth-place finish Busch is now 0 for 16 in the Daytona 500 and while he isn’t nearly as dominating at Daytona as The Intimidator was, it is still surprising that Busch, with all his success, has yet to find victory lane in NASCAR’s biggest race.
Perhaps even more surprising is that he hasn’t really come close to winning the event. Unlike Earnhardt’s streak, which had heartbreaking loss after heartbreaking loss, Busch has rarely been the favorite to win the Daytona 500 and has rarely been in position to win the race. Only twice can you think of a time where he had one of the best cars and had a chance to win. The last time it happened, he finished runner-up to teammate Denny Hamlin in 2019. The first time was in 2009 when he had the dominant car of the race but was taken out in a late-race crash involving the lap cars of Earnhardt Jr. and Brian Vickers.
In fact, Busch has just one points-paying win at the World Center of Racing. That came in 2008 when he edged out Carl Edwards in a race that ended under caution. He has won three of his 17 starts in the Gatorade Duel 150s and has racked up just one win in the Busch Clash (2012). In Cup, that’s a total of five victories, a far cry from Earnhardt’s 30+ wins at the facility.
The question is will Busch ever win the Daytona 500? It’s a fair question. What’s concerning about that is his record at Daytona. He has just one points-paying victory at Daytona in 34 cup starts. He only has one Xfinity Series win and one truck series victory. In all the point races Busch has run at Daytona in all three top divisions he has just three victories. Surprising for someone with as much raw talent and as many wins as he has had in his career.
Perhaps the biggest factor is luck, which in recent times has been a major component of winning. Just look at the amount of carnage that the race has seen in recent years. It has made avoiding wrecks the most important factor of a race at Daytona International Speedway. There’s no doubt there is still some skill and handling involved in winning at Daytona, but the biggest factor is luck and Busch hasn’t had much when it comes to the Daytona 500. The numbers back that up.
He has been running at the finish in 11 of his 16 Daytona 500 starts. In those 11 races, five have resulted in top-five finishes. In the remaining six he was involved in a crash in four of them. So, if you are keeping score at home, Busch has been involved in a wreck or was not running at the finish in nine of his 16 Daytona 500 starts. That means, he’s made it to the end unscathed in just seven Daytona 500s, two of which were when he was at Hendrick Motorsports in 2006 and 2007. In those seven races, he has five top-10 finishes, including all five in which he has been running at the finish for his current team Joe Gibbs Racing.
What all this means is that when Busch finishes a Daytona 500, he’s a lock to finish in the top 10. Every time he’s done that at Joe Gibbs Racing, a top-10 finish has been the result. Eventually, he will be there at the end and get to victory lane. All he needs is some better luck. – Clayton Caldwell
About the author
The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.
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