Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch.
All three were race winners during Speedweeks and all were among the favorites to win Sunday’s Daytona 500.
Yet, one by one, each saw their shot at a 500 victory at Daytona International Speedway come to an early end.
Stewart, who won Saturday’s Nationwide Series race, and has failed to win a 500 despite winning three Sprint Cup Series championships, sounded the most disappointed. He was so confident entering Sunday, he elected not to practice his No. 14 Chevrolet on Saturday.
“The hell with the season, I wanted to win the Daytona 500,” Stewart said after getting involved in a nine-car wreck on Lap 34 of 200.
“We had a car that we could pass with today. We were passing cars by ourselves. I don’t know what started it, but we just got caught up in another wreck.”
Harvick kicked off Speedweeks with a victory in the Sprint Unlimited and then followed that up with a win in one of Thursday’s 150-mile qualifying races.
Harvick, like Stewart, was running well in the early-going when he also got collected in the Lap 34-wreck that began when Kasey Kahne got hit from behind by Kyle Busch.
Harvick attempted to get his No. 29 Chevrolet repaired and back out on the track but to no avail.
“I let off a little bit to miss the wreck. It looked like (Busch) hooked (Kahne), and that kind of just started a chain reaction,” said Harvick, who won the 2007 Daytona 500. “I don’t know who was behind me, but just one of those deals.”
Busch, who also won one Thursday’s qualifying races, got through the Lap 34 wreck pretty much unscathed. He remained in contention for much of the race and was running up front when his engine blew on Lap 153.
Busch’s No. 18 Toyota was one of four from the manufacturer that experienced engine problems on Sunday.
“All of the guys at Joe Gibbs Racing built an awesome piece,” Busch said. “All three of us have been fast since we’ve been down here.
“The best we’ve qualified here in a while, so kudos to all of the guys building these cars, but we’ve got to have engines that last.”