Melling Racing will not field an entry for the Daytona 500 for the first time in 22 years after team owner Mark Melling conceded that his search for sponsorship dollars had come up short.

Once the Superspeedway Kings of the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit, Melling Racing will not field a car in the Daytona 500 for the first time in its history.

In a brief team statement team owner Mark Melling, son of the late Harry Melling who founded the team in 1982, confirmed that the #92 team would not file an entry for the 2003 Daytona 500 but that he was continuing to pursue sponsorship opportunities for the 2004 season and beyond.

Melling Racing have two Daytona 500 victories to their credit (1985 &1987) and were one of the most feared Superspeedway competitors of the 1980's with driver Bill Elliott and the legendary #9 Coors Ford Thunderbird. However the team lost their Kodiak sponsorship at the end of 2001 and entered just three races last year with drivers Robert Pressley and Stacy Compton.

Scraping together enough money through a one-race sponsorship deal with BrandSource, Melling fielded a car for Pressley in the 2002 Daytona 500, which resulted in a 22nd place finish in the team's 21st Daytona 500.

Formed in 1982, Melling won the 1988 Winston Cup Championship with Elliott and the #9 team carried 'Awesome Bill' to the first ever Winston Million, which resulted in Elliott be re-christened 'Million Dollar Bill.' Scoring 34 wins in his ten-year stint with the team, Elliott became synonymous with the #9 plate and the combo still holds the NASCAR record for the fastest lap ever run with a scorching 212.809mph set in qualifying for the 1987 race at Talladega.

However Melling fell on hard times following Elliott and Coors departure at the end of the 1991 season and struggled along for three years with a variety of drivers and little or no sponsorship. Still despite his restrictions, Melling still entered a car for the Daytona 500 every year and was able to make the show.

When Harry Melling passed away in the spring of 1999, control of the team was handed to his son Mark who in turn became the youngest team owner in the pitlane. 2001 saw major changes for the team, who ended their association with Ford in favour of a Dodge and allowed Elliott to take the #9 plate to Ray Evernham's new team.

Although their budget was meagre compared to many others, Melling still showed that it could produce a mean Superspeedway [package as driver Stacy Compton qualified on the front row for the Daytona 500 and notched up two pole positions, both at restrictor plate circuits