DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — Brad Keselowski led the most laps (42) in Sunday’s Daytona 500. He was leading the race with four to go. He didn’t win…again. Kyle Busch passed Keselowski on Lap 196 and was well on his way to scoring his first Daytona 500 in 18 tries. However, Daniel Suarez spun a lap later and brought out the caution, sending this race into OT.
Busch and Keselowski ended up in the same Lap 212 crash and was scored 19th (Busch) and 22nd (Keselowski) respectively.
Busch is now 0-for-18. Keselowski 0-for-14.
“I think this is the first time I led Lap 200, so I wish it was 1998 rules,” a dejected Busch said outside of the infield care center. “But no, it’s just par for the course. Just used to it and come down here every year to just find out when and where I’m going to crash and what lap I come out of the care center.
“Who won? I don’t even know who lucked into it.”
His comment holds some weight behind it. The last three Daytona 500 winners have been Michael McDowell (1 career win), Austin Cindric (1 career win) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (3 career wins).
Busch, a two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, approached the dais Wednesday during DAYTONA 500 Media Day, he noticed a lottery ticket next to the microphone—a leftover item from the earlier announcement of PowerBall as an official NASCAR partner.
“Better chance of winning that than the DAYTONA 500,” Busch quipped, mindful of his 20.24 average finish in the Great American Race.
He’s only had one top five here since 2017 too and just three of his 18 starts in the Great American Race resulting in a top five finish.
While leading on Lap 180 in 2020’s edition, his car started having problems. A lap later, Busch said his engine blew and would slowly ride around the track. That was partially a blessing in disguise as he avoided the Lap 183 “Big One” two laps later.
“We’ll just keep going down in history of figuring out new ways to lose it,” Busch said that year.
He’s now led the most laps (330) of all drivers who’ve never won the ‘500.
For Keselowski, he just mentioned on Saturday how much the third and fourth cars can control the ending of these races, not the leader.
He led 67 laps in last year’s race and was in the hunt at the end. The year prior, he was running second on the final lap before a crash just one mile from the finish with teammate Joey Logano. Those haunt him. This one likely will too, especially for the fact that RFK Racing was sitting 1-2 with four laps left in regulation.
“The DAYTONA 500, to me over the years, has probably been more focused on the speed of the cars and the willingness of the drivers to make bold moves,” Keselowski said. “I think, accordingly, I haven’t been able to close the 500 out. We’ve had really fast cars and caught some really poor breaks and then there have been some races where I felt like I didn’t execute at a high enough level. I think there’s probably a little mixture of all those things on why I haven’t been able to win this race.”
Keselowski has 37 points paying in NASCAR’s premiere series. 6 of them have occurred at Talladega. He’s also won the Coke Zero Sugar 400 in July of 2016 as well as the Clash in 2019 here plus a Duel win a year ago.
It’s just that the ‘500 has escaped him. If he can get there on Sunday, it will complete the cycle of crown jewel’s on NASCAR’s schedule.
“It’s the last crown jewel I don’t have,” Keselowski added. “I’ve got the championship, the Brickyard [at Indianapolis] and the Southern 500 (at Darlington, S.C.) and the Bristol Night races and the Talladegas. Those mean the world to me, they really do, but the DAYTONA 500 is still the biggest race of the year no matter how you look at it and it still stings to not have it. It stings to have been so close in so many different ways.”
They’re not the only ones with long winless streaks here. Martin Truex Jr. is 0-for-19. Yes, he swept both stages last year, but he also still finished 13th too in doing so. He’s 0-for-74 in drafting races if you include both Atlanta events last season and has scored just 6 top 5’s in those 74 starts. He has 3 top 5’s in 36 Daytona tries at that.
Even the greats take years to accomplish a win in the Great American Race while some never do it. Terry Labonte was 0-for-32. Mark Martin and Ricky Rudd each 0-for-29. Bobby Labonte was 0-for-24. Rusty Wallace was 0-for-23. Tony Stewart (0-for-17), Carl Edwards (0-for-12) and Ned Jarrett (0-for-7) never won either.