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From the Marbles

The Daytona 500′s top five surprises and shortfalls

Jay Busbee
From The Marbles

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Trevor Bayne's unlikely Daytona win / Getty Images

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Anyone who wins the Great American Race becomes a NASCAR immortal, but not every NASCAR immortal has won the Daytona 500. Here, we present the most successful drivers in NASCAR who haven't won racing's biggest prize, as well as drivers who had the greatest race of their lives at exactly the right time.

The best never to have won:

1. Tony Stewart (13 races): The three-time champion has won 17 times in stock cars at Daytona, but the biggest victory continues to elude him. He's got his best shot in years in 2012 ... but thanks to tandem racing and pack racing, so, too, does everyone else.

2. Rusty Wallace (23 races): His best finish was a third in 2001; Rusty never could quite get it done at Daytona.

3. Ned Jarrett (7 races): His son won this race three times, so at least the Jarrett name is etched into the marble of Daytona.

4. Terry and Bobby Labonte (43 races combined): The brothers have been all over this track but never quite able to bring home the big dog.

5. Mark Martin (27 races): He came within a hairsbreadth of winning in 2007 but saw Kevin Harvick snatch it right from his grasp on the final straightaway.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have:

1. Trevor Bayne: Put on a masterful two-lap performance of tandem drafting en route to NASCAR's unlikeliest Daytona 500 victory ever.

2. Derrike Cope: Snatched a win at the 1990 Daytona 500 after Dale Earnhardt hit debris and cut a tire on the final lap of the race.

3. Michael Waltrip: Won the 2001 Daytona 500, breaking NASCAR's longest losing streak even as Earnhardt fatally crashed behind him. But he picked his spots; of his four career wins in 766 races, two were Daytona 500s.

4. Mario Andretti: In 1967, not even his own team wanted him to win, preferring for No. 1 driver Fred Lorenzen to take the checkered flag. But despite being held in his pits for a few extra seconds by his own team, Andretti caught and passed Lorenzen to win under caution.

5. Ward Burton: Snatched the 2002 Daytona 500 but later plummeted to 25th in the standings that season.

Whoever takes the Daytona 500 will live forever in NASCAR history ... but it's up to them to determine if their story ends there.

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