DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (June 25, 2001) - Tony Stewart captured his first NASCAR Winston Cup Series road course victory on Sunday at Sonoma, Calif. On July 7, Stewart will look to crack another win barrier in the 43rd annual Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
A win at Daytona is not just one of the most cherished feats in racing, for many, it's the most elusive. The who's who that have sprayed champagne in Daytona's famous Victory Lane is matched by the elite group of drivers who have yet to make an appearance there.
Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac for Joe Gibbs Racing, is among the top NASCAR Winston Cup Series drivers still shooting for their first points victory at Daytona International Speedway.
The 1999 Winston Cup Rookie of the Year has to be optimistic entering this year's Pepsi 400. He finished sixth in both of his Pepsi 400 starts in 1999 and 2000. In the Daytona 500, Stewart, who sat on the outside pole in 1999, finished 28th and 17th.
During Speedweeks 2001, Stewart got a taste of what it's like to win at Daytona, capturing the Budweiser Shootout. Now, he just has to win when it counts for points.
Rusty Wallace, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford, has also been stymied in this attempt to visit Victory Lane at the "World Center of Racing." With more than 50 NASCAR Winston Cup Series victories to his credit and a Winston Cup Series championship under his belt, it's surprising not to find Wallace's name on the list of winner's for the Daytona 500 and the Pepsi 400.
In recent years, Wallace has begun to rattle the gates of Victory Lane at Daytona. With his third-place finish in the 2001 Daytona 500, Wallace has now posted four straight top-10 finishes in the "Great American Race." In last year's Pepsi 400, Wallace also finished third and has not finished worse than 11th in the last four Pepsi 400s. In addition, Wallace won the 1998 Budweiser Shootout, a non-points event.
"I don't see any reason in the world why we just can't keep getting better and better at Daytona," Wallace said. "I think the record speaks for itself and really says a lot. We had fifth-place finishes there back in 1998 and we've really come on strong during the last year or so. We were fourth in last year's (Daytona) 500 and third there last July. We came back and finished third in the 500 this year, so I'd say that's proof that we're only getting better and better."
Two-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Terry Labonte, driver of the No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet Monte Carlo, is one of the most glaring omissions to the list of Daytona 500 and Pepsi 400 winners. With 23 starts in the Daytona 500 and 22 starts in the Pepsi 400, Labonte has been a frequent frontrunner and has captured non-points wins in the Gatorade 125-mile qualifier in 1989 and in the Budweiser Shootout in 1985.
Labonte has come close to a Daytona 500 win with second-place finishes in 1986, 1990 and 1997 and a third-place finish in 1994. He recorded back-to-back second-place finishes in the Pepsi 400 in 1996 and 1997.
Mark Martin, Ward Burton, 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte, Ricky Rudd and Ken Schrader are also among the sports' top competitors still gunning for the checkered flag at Daytona in a Winston Cup points event.
One driver who ended his Daytona drought was Jeff Burton, who captured last year's Pepsi 400 in the No. 99 Ford. In the 43rd Pepsi 400 on July 7, some other NASCAR headliners will look to do the same thing as Burton and break through Victory Lane at Daytona in a points race.
With the number of different drivers winning Winston Cup Series events, this may be the year for a Rusty Wallace or a Terry Labonte to win at Daytona. Tickets are still available online at http://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling the Speedway ticket office at (386) 253-7223.