NASCAR star Kyle Busch can’t seem to figure out the Daytona International Speedway, but that won’t keep him from trying. His races at NASCAR’s most famous track have been plagued with some bad luck and some bad decisions. After 16 starts, Busch remains winless in the Cup’s annual season-opener.
The two-time Cup Series champion has won at just about every stop on the circuit in his decade-plus career. He has even won a few smaller races, including polls and exhibitions, at the famous Speedway; just never after the all-important Daytona 500.
He gets the chance to end the head-scratching skid this Sunday during the 64th running of The Great American Race.
“It’s at the top of the to-do list,” Busch said. “That box has not yet been checked, so it’s the top one. I don’t think there’s anything else higher than that, not even close to as high as that.”
Nothing measures as closely to Daytona because Busch has conquered most everything else NASCAR can offer. He has 222 wins across NASCAR’s top three series, with 59 of those coming at the top-tier Cup level. He has won an incredible eight times at Bristol and six times at Richmond. Daytona, though, remains just out of reach; which must be frustrating, given the clout that accompanies even one 500 win for a career.
“When we check that box, where does it stack in regards to career accomplishments?” Busch asked rhetorically. “I mean, it’s going to be near the top. I don’t know if it’s as much as the championship, but it’s definitely going to be top of race wins for sure.
“It’s a big win, would love to be able to accomplish that. I don’t want to make excuses, but there’s a lot of guys that have been greats in our sport that did not win that race. So I would not like to go down as one of those guys. But we’ll work hard to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Kyle Busch isn’t the only star who struggled for his first Daytona 500
Tony Stewart, Rusty Wallace, and Mark Martin never summited the mountain in their respective careers. Busch’s older brother, Kurt, needed 16 attempts to finally win the big one. NASCAR legend and seven-time Cup champ Dale Earnhardt won in his 20th attempt — one of the great moments in the history of racing.
The talented but oft-controversial Busch will never be a sentimental favorite the likes of Earnhardt, but he certainly has the chops to win. Frankly, nobody would be surprised to see him get off the snide and add to his trophy collection, even if they won’t be pulling for it to happen.
Just last year, Busch was running near the front when Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski took him out (along with a chunk of the field) in the final laps.
“I’ve been in prime position to win it late in the race and just circumstances happen,” Busch said. “I’ve been oh so close, really near the end of a run or end of the race, and just haven’t been able to get it done. It’ll happen when it happens. You can’t force it.
“You can be running third and spin somebody and win. Or you can be running fourth and have the top three get caught up in a wreck and win. So really you just have to try to dodge the wreck at the end because we all know that’s inevitable. It’s going to happen.”