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Several drivers in this Sunday’s Daytona 500 have captured a NASCAR points title. However, these past champions remain winless in the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s signature event. Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney are all champions seeking to end their droughts at the Great American Race.

It’s a particular struggle for Busch and Truex Jr. given their success and longevity in Cup.

Truex Jr. will make his 20th start in the Daytona 500 this year. As such, he is the active driver with the most career starts in the race without a victory. Truex Jr. placed second in the 2018 race and was fourth in 2020. Superspeedway racing isn’t his forte. He has an average finish of 19th at Daytona and 20th at Talladega. Still, the 2017 champion doesn’t downplay the significance of winning NASCAR’s premier race.

“Obviously I want it,” he told Fox Sports. “It would be great. It would be amazing.”

Truex Jr. suggested a Daytona 500 win would not define his career, but said, “It would be huge to win, that’s for sure.”

Kyle Busch, love him or hate him, is easily in the upper echelon of most successful NASCAR drivers in the sport’s 75-plus year history. He’s won 229 races in the sport’s top three series. He leads all active drivers for most Cup Series wins and is a two-time Cup champion. However, a win in NASCAR’S crown jewel hasn’t come to fruition.

Busch has spent two-thirds of all Daytona 500 laps in the top 15 since his debut in the Great American Race in 2005. That’s second only to Austin Cindric, who has made just three starts in the event.

“I would love nothing more than to win the Daytona 500,” Busch said.

Busch said he’s been in contention for the win on several occasions, but his luck has been “feast or famine.” One such occasion was the 2023 iteration of the 500. Busch was leading late when a caution forced the race into overtime. He was shuffled back after two overtime restarts and was caught up in a wreck that ended the race.

Keselowski, the 2012 champion, said he feels like the Daytona 500 winner is practically “chosen.” He suggested sometimes the race isn’t won by a particular move, rather, it falls “into (the winner’s) lap.”

Brad Keselowski ahead of the 2023 Daytona 500
Brad Keselowski | Jared C. Tilton via Getty Images

The troubles in securing the Harley J. Earl trophy are more pronounced for Busch, Truex and Keseslowski. The three drivers are all in the latter part of their careers. Past champions like Larson, Elliott and Blaney likely will have many more attempts ahead of them. But as the careers of the veteran champions have shown, it’s still no easy task regardless of the number of attempts.

Famously, Mark Martin never captured a Daytona 500 win in 29 starts despite coming so close, much like his championship career. Martin finished second in the final points standings five times.

Martin was in the twilight of his career in 2007 when led late at 500. He held off the pack after an overtime restart before a massive wreck exiting turn four on the final lap. A caution likely would have secured Martin’s win. However, only the checkered flag flew. Martin finished just 0.02 second behind Kevin Harvick’s Chevrolet.

Like Martin, Ricky Rudd made 29 starts in the 500 without a win.

Of course, none of these drivers are alone in being premier stars of the sport without a Daytona 500 victory. Terry Labonte is a two-time Cup champion and made a staggering 32 starts in the Daytona 500 without a win. Tony Stewart captured four championship titles but zero 500 wins in 17 starts.