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Greatest Drivers to Never Win the 500: Part 2: Mark Martin

January 20th, 2013 at 2:28 PM
By Clayton Caldwell

Mark Martin is definitely one of the best drivers to never win the Daytona 500. While early on in his career, Martin really struggled at Daytona and in the 500 recently Martin has turned a corner and he has come close to some victories in the legendary race as of recently.

Martin ran in his first Daytona 500 way back in 1982 when Martin blew a valve on his #02 Buick. He finished 30th. Martin's first Daytona 500 top ten came in 1993, when he finished sixth. Since then Martin has shown some strength to contend and almost win the Daytona 500.

In 1997 Martin led 52 laps in his Valvoline Ford, only to have his car fade towards the end and finish in the seventh position. It was an impressive run for Martin but he just didn't have enough to pull through to his first 500 victory.

Then came the 2000 Daytona 500 in which Martin had quite possibly his best shot at winning the 500. Martin's car was strong. He led the 65 laps in the middle part of the race and was coming on strong to have a shot at victory. Martin had made a deal with fellow Ford driver Dale Jarrett that the two would stick together no matter what. In the late stages of the event Martin shot high to make a move and Jarrett went with him. Jeff Burton began to move low on Jarrett, and Jarrett closed to door and shot low to block Burton and move to the front. Martin was left high and fell in line deeper in the field. By the time the race was over Martin could not get to the front to make a move and Jarrett went on to win his third Daytona 500. Martin finished fifth and an apologetic Dale Jarrett went to victory lane. Martin's shot at winning the Daytona 500 would have to wait.

In 2006 Mark Martin ran well and finished 12th, leading 19 laps. Martin's 22nd start in the 500 was again close but no cigar. It was a question to whether Martin would ever win the 500 as retirement loomed in the air.

In 2007 Martin was now running for Ginn Racing in the #01 US Army Chevrolet. Ginn bought the team from Nelson Bowers, the owner of MB2 Motorsports. Many people thought Martin's shot at a 500 in 2007 would be minimal at best. He proved everyone wrong.

'Mark Martin' photo (c) 2007, Bo Nash - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Martin ran a great race in the 2007 Daytona 500. In the closing laps Martin got his Chevrolet to the front. Martin shot to the front with just 25 laps to go and held his own as the race was coming down to the finish. Kevin Harvick made a move on Martin and went to the high side. A big crash behind them happened and Harvick got in front of Martin as they headed to the checkers. Harvick nosed his car in front and shot to his first Daytona 500 victory. It was Martin's closet chance at victory and it was a heartbreaking defeat. Martin hasn't come as close to victory as he did in 2007.

Martin will run the 2013 Daytona 500 for Michael Waltrip Racing. It will be his 29th Daytona 500 trying to win it for the first time. No one has ever won their first Daytona 500 in that many starts but it is Mark Martin and he has proven us all wrong before.

If Martin doesn't win the 500 he will go down as quite possibly the greatest driver to never win the Daytona 500.

Tags: daytona 500, Mark Martin, MB2 Motorsports, Motorsports

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