It's one of the great mysteries in NASCAR history. Why has three time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart failed to win the Daytona 500, time and time again. Stewart had an issue in his fuel system that cost him a chance at victory in last Sunday's 56th Daytona 500. It was Stewart's 16th try in the race and he finished in the 36th position.
Stewart, who has won a remarkable 21 races in his career at the Daytona International Speedway, has always seemed to come up short when it comes to the Daytona 500. It's a story that is very familiar to NASCAR history. Dale Earnhardt went winless in 19 Daytona 500's before winning in his 20th try in the 1998 running of The Great American Race. While Earnhardt's incidents were much more publicized in his quest to win the Daytona 500, Stewart's had some similar issues in his quest to win the Daytona 500.
It started in Stewart's rookie season in 1999. Stewart had some motor issues in his first run in the event and finished in the 28th position. In Stewart's third try at the event in 2001 Stewart was involved in a violent crash that sent him upside on the backstretch in a scary accident. Stewart finished 36th after the lap 173 crash.
Stewart's problems in the 2002 event started just after the green flag. On lap 3 he lost an engine and finished in the 43rd position. He finished runner-up to Dale Earnhardt Jr in the 2004 running of the event, but just couldn't muster enough steam to pass the Kannapolis, North Carolina native. In the 2005 event, Stewart probably had his best chance at winning. He led 107 of the races' 200 laps and had one of the dominate cars but was left hung out to dry late in the going and Stewart found himself in the seventh position when the checkers waved on the event.
The 2006 event was one that Stewart would like to forget when he was near several accidents and got minor damage in many of them. In the 2007 running of the event Stewart crashed while leading. He and Kurt Busch made contact sending both cars into the outside wall. Stewart finished in the 43rd position.
In 2008 Kurt Busch helped wreck Stewart's Daytona 500 dreams again when he pushed teammate Ryan Newman passed Stewart and his teammate Kyle Busch on the final lap. Stewart finished in the third position and was yet again denied the 500.
2011 saw Stewart in the thick of things at the end of the race. During a late race green/white/checkered finish Stewart was running in the second position and was looking to finally win the Daytona 500 in his 13th try. Stewart led the outside lane with Mark Martin in tow. When the green flag fell, so did Stewart. He and Mark Martin could not generate enough momentum to get to the lead and Stewart finished in the 13th position, yet again coming up short. In the 2012 running of the event Stewart got damage after making contact with 500 rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Stewart spun but would continue but would finish in the 16th position.
In the 2013 event Stewart was running up front in the middle of the event when a crash with friend Kevin Harvick put Stewart out the event. He finished in the 41st position. Then came this year where Stewart's problems were well documented and he finished 35th.
Stewart is one of the best drivers in this generation. He has three Sprint Cup Series championships and 48 career victories but has yet to find victory lane in NASCAR's biggest race. He has had his chances but for some reason just could never find victory lane.
Stewart is 43 years old and he has more good years behind him than he has in front of him. It wouldn't surprise anyone to see Stewart getting out of his car in five years and becoming strictly an owner. Is time running out for the Rushville, Indiana native to win the Daytona 500? Will Tony Stewart go down in history as the greatest driver in NASCAR history to never win the Daytona 500?
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