Martin, Stewart seeking 1st Daytona win
February, 26, 2012
By Matt Willis | ESPN.com
Jason Smith/Getty ImagesMark Martin hopes to take home his first win at the Daytona 500
Martin will be making his 28th Daytona 500 start on Sunday, rolling off from the 22nd starting spot. But for all Martin’s accomplished in his career, he’s never won a Daytona 500.
When you think Martin and the Daytona 500, you have to think of 2007, when he lost by the slimmest of margins to Kevin Harvick, as cars wildly spun behind him. But the heartbreak goes deeper than that.
Martin is tied for the fourth-most Daytona 500 starts without a win. Only Dave Marcis, Terry Labonte and Ricky Rudd have made more 500 starts without a victory.
The problems go deeper than just in the 500. Martin’s actually never won a Cup points race at Daytona, going 0-for-53.
However, he has seen Victory Lane at Daytona before, winning a Trucks race in 2006, the 1999 Budweiser Shootout and two IROC races.
It’s easier, and probably very apt, to compare Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt’s Daytona record.
Those two have the most wins at Daytona, Stewart’s Gatorade Duel win on Thursday gave him 17, and only Dale Earnhardt has more with 34.
Sunday will be Stewart’s 14th attempt at the Great American Race. Dale Earnhardt won in his 20th Daytona 500 start, the most 500 starts a driver has ever made before winning it for the first time.
Kurt Busch enters the season with a lot of questions, but while the main questions have been about the level of success he can have with Phoenix Racing and whether he can hook up with one of the power teams for next season, for this week at least, you can add in “Will he ever win a Daytona 500?”
Last year, Busch got his first wins at Daytona by taking the Shootout and his Duel, but he again came up just short in the 500, getting his fifth top-five finish in 11 career starts.
Three of those top fives have been runner up finishes, coming home second to Michael Waltrip in 2003, Jeff Gordon in 2005 and then-teammate Ryan Newman in 2008.
In Daytona 500 history, only two drivers have finished second in the Daytona 500 more than Busch, Dale Earnhardt and Cale Yarborough. Although both of them also won the 500.
At least Busch has company in his misery, as he and Terry Labonte are the only drivers with three Daytona 500 runner-up finishes without a win.