Winning the Daytona 500 is every racer’s dream. Forty drivers will have a crack at realizing that dream today.

In order to conquer the biggest race in NASCAR, all of the stars must align. The car needs to have speed, the driver needs to be able to work the draft and avoid crashes, and the pit crew need to mitigate any mistakes on pit road. Even then, things don’t always work out even for the biggest stars of the sport.

It took Dale Earnhardt 19 years of trying before he was able to capture the super bowl of stock car racing. The biggest race of the year is also one of the most unpredictable and challenging, considering all of the chaos that usually takes place over the course of 200 laps at Daytona International Speedway. Sometimes it takes luck, or divine intervention, to win this race.

Some legends of the sport completed their driving career without ever having won the iconic race. Tony Stewart, Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin, Ricky Rudd, Terry, and Bobby Labonte all came up short in their 500-mile pursuits at Daytona.

Three of the sport's most accomplished drivers are still searching for their first Daytona 500 victory. Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr, and Brad Keselowski have a combined 45 starts in the 500 but none of them have won the Great American race.

Kyle has won at Daytona before, taking the checkered flag in the Coke Zero 400 in 2013. He has led 473 laps in his 33 starts at the speedway but has failed to finish the last four races. His average finish of 19.7 is aided by four runner-up finishes. One of those came in the Daytona 500 back in 2019. His accolades are well-known but this is the one race he still has yet to check off his list of achievements.

Busch has won three Duel races in his career and his 91.9 driver rating at Daytona is the best in the series. His 13.7 average running position is second-best. He also has 4,445 quality passes, which ranks second in the series. If he leads at least four laps this afternoon, he will pass Tony Stewart for 12th on the all-time laps led in this race. Hamlin is the only active driver ahead of him.

Truex has not yet won a superspeedway race of any kind. In fact, he has the distinction of finishing runner-up in the closest Daytona 500 finish in NASCAR history back in 2016 when he crossed the line 0.010 seconds behind Hamlin. The two are now teammates, and while Hamlin has three Daytona 500 victories, his three Joe Gibbs Racing teammates are all still searching for their first.

Like his teammate in the No. 18 Toyota, Truex has started 33 races on the high-banks of Daytona. He has just five top-ten finishes though, and has led a grand total of 119 laps entering this weekend. The 2009 Daytona 500 pole sitter leads all active drivers with the most starts (17) without a win.

After more than a decade of driving for Roger Penske, Keselowski has stepped into a driver/ownership role this season with RFK Racing. They are off to quite a start, as Keselowski won the first Duel race on Thursday, and his teammate Chris Buescher completed the sweep for the newly-branded team. It was the first time a team won both races since 2015 when Hendrick Motorsports accomplished the feat.

Should the driver of the No. 6 Ford find victory lane this afternoon, he would become just the third driver/owner ever to win the Daytona 500, and the first since Richard Petty in 1981. The only other person to do it was his father Lee Petty, who first accomplished the feat in 1959.

Keselowski has led 230 laps overall at Daytona, and won the 2016 Coke Zero 400 but has yet to claim the big one. This will be his 26th start at Daytona and his first in a non-Penske car since his rookie year in 2009. His best Daytona 500 finish is 3rd, back in 2014. He also has a 4th place finish in the Great American Race but would love to rectify that this weekend.

Chase Elliott is another big name that has not tasted victory in this iconic event. The 2020 Cup champion has six starts in the 500 and finished runner-up last year. His teammate Kyle Larson has 10 starts but has never finished inside the top five. The reigning series champion will start from pole position today.

These five drivers have combined to win 154 Cup series races. They have all won a Cup championship as well. Even with all of those accolades, their careers will not feel complete until they add the Harley J. Earl Trophy to their resume.

This race is always unpredictable, and even more so this year with the Next Gen car and all of the driver and team changes. All 40 drivers have an opportunity to etch their names into the history books later today. It could be a former champion. It could be another underdog story. One thing is certain; it will absolutely put on an incredible show.