Kurt Busch hopes to become the first driver in history to claim a full sweep of victories at Daytona today, following his wins last week in the Budweiser Shootout and the Gatorade Duel qualifying race.
While the winner of the Shootout has also won his duel race 11 times in the 52 years of the Daytona 500, none of them have gone on to take victory the main event as well in the past. Busch could be the first one, although he shrugged off the pressure that comes with being labeled as the favorite to win the 500.
Despite technically starting from third place on the grid, Busch will move up to the front row for the start of the 200-lap race, once polesitter Dale Earnhardt Jr cedes his place during the final formation lap after swapping to his back-up car due to a practice crash.
"I'm not worried about it," said Busch of his favourite status. "It's just nice to get back out and practice today, get back into the swing of things and try to keep it as normal as possible. The normal part will be exciting when we fire up the engines and see Dale Jr. drop to the back and we'll be leading the field to start the 53rd running of the "Great American Race."
"I've got to put all those emotions aside and get into the groove of the 500-mile race. We'll do that during lap one. I hope that Regan Smith and I are tied up together like we need to be and we lead lap one. We'll just settle in after that."
As drivers continue to discover the new drafting technique at Daytona in the track's first NASCAR race since its recent $20 million resurfacing, Busch believes the best place to be when heading into the final turn ahead of the chequered flag will be pushing another car.
Last Saturday Busch won the Budweiser Shootout from third in the order out of the final corner, while in Thursday's duel he was the leader and being trailed by Furniture Row's Regan Smith. The Penske driver anticipates a green-white-checkered finish, just as happened for him three days ago before winning his qualifying race.
"I think that everybody knows that if you're the guy that's pushing, you're in the catbird seat," said Busch. "If you're separated from the guys behind you, that's the position to be in. You really want to be pushing. I really expect a green-white-checkered to happen and we'll see how it all plays out.
"You've got your buddy that you've been with all day long. When you get to the end of the race, you never know who's going to tie up, but everybody wants their best shot at victory and there's no guarantee of anybody staying behind you. If [Ryan] Newman's pushing me and I'm leading and he's second coming off of Turn 4, I've got to expect that's he's going to pass me and win his second Daytona 500. It's just the product of how this two-car draft is."
Busch has never won the Daytona 500 but has finished in second place three times, most recently in 2008 when he pushed his teammate Newman to victory.