Eleven times a driver has tried, and eleven times a driver has failed to do what Kurt Busch will attempt to do Sunday.
No driver has ever won the Daytona 500 after first winning his qualifying race and the Bud Shootout in one Speedweeks. Busch, a three-time runner-up in the Daytona 500, looks to become the first after securing his second win of Speedweeks yesterday in the first Gatorade Duel.
His chief threat very well may be 2007 Daytona 500 winner Kevin Harvick, the man who took over the driving duties for Richard Childress Racing after Dale Earnhardt was killed in the Daytona 500 ten years ago.
A victory by Harvick would fulfill a destiny of sorts, given the anniversary of Earnhardt’s death.
His Budweiser Chevrolet carries a black paint scheme with white numerals outlined in red, strikingly similar to Earnhardt’s iconic race car. The Daytona 500 was also the one race he didn’t start in 2001, for obvious reasons.
Destiny, of course, could too be on the side of Dale Earnhardt Jr., though he will have to try to win the race from the rear of the field after his practice crash earlier this week.
Michael Waltrip, winner of that fateful 2001 Daytona 500 as well as in 2003, will start eighth in Sunday’s race. A victory would enable him the celebration he was robbed of ten years ago.
Among the other contenders are outside pole-sitter and three-time Daytona 500 champion Jeff Gordon, sentimental favorite Mark Martin, and Tony Stewart, who will seek his first Daytona 500 win in his 13th try.