Being Daytona bridesmaid no fun for Busch

February, 13, 2009
02/13/09
4:58
PM ET
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Kurt Busch leaned against the wall inside of his No. 2 hauler, thinking about the question that crossed his mind the previous night, before he closed his eyes. "It's weird," he said. "I finished second here in an IROC car, second here in a Truck race, second here in my 150s [qualifying races] and second in the Daytona 500 -- three times.

"It's amazing how many times I've been second."

The 2004 Sprint Cup champion arguably is the best current restrictor-plate driver without a victory in the "Great American Race." He at least has the right for the "Dale Earnhardt Award," given to the driver who has finished second more times without a victory.

Remember, Earnhardt finished second four times before winning in his 20th try in 1998.

Two-time Cup champion Tony Stewart finished second only once, in 2004. The same for sentimental favorite Mark Martin, who was second to Kevin Harvick two years ago.

Busch was second in 2003, 2005 and 2008. He also had a fourth in 2002.

"Each of those times there's really only one where I kick myself," Busch said.

No, it wasn't last year when he pushed then-Penske Racing teammate Ryan Newman to the victory. He knows had he tried to make a move for the lead he might have ruined the momentum for both cars and cost Roger Penske his first 500 win. The one he kicks himself for came in 2005, when Jeff Gordon won and Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished third.

"I had a great opportunity to go high on Gordon down the back straightaway," Busch recalled. "I just saw the draft behind me going low and didn't see anybody coming up high with me. I actually tapped the brake pedal and got back in line and was going to make one more run. When I did that it killed my momentum.

"I never did get to find out who was going to come in behind me. I didn't take that risk. I just went for the given, and that was second."

Earnhardt Jr., arguably the best current plate driver, certainly respects Busch's plate ability.

"A lot of races that I've run good in -- '01, '03, '02 -- Kurt was always there for the win," the 2004 500 winner said. "It takes a certain mentality, I guess, because it's always the same people."

Busch likes being one of those people, but he'd rather be known as a winner and all that goes with it.

"You always catch yourself dreaming about that," he said. "You want this trophy more than any other win. It's the equivalent of winning a championship in one race weekend."

So it's time for Busch to take a more aggressive approach at the end. Nobody will remember 10 years from now that he finished second, even if it's a dozen times.

"I've figured out how to finish second plenty well," he said. "Maybe I need to be a bit more greedy and finish just for me."

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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