Tony Stewart has won just about everything there is to win in NASCAR. However, a victory in the Daytona 500 continues to elude the three-time Sprint Cup Series champion.
That all might change this year, though, as Stewart has underneath what he says is perhaps the best car he's ever raced at Daytona International Speedway. And considering he has won 18 career races at Daytona -- including four in the July Cup race -- that says something about how confident the owner/driver feels about his Chevrolet.
"We've made it through the whole week without a scratch on that car and it's about as ready as it can get for the 500," Stewart said Friday.
"So I'm excited. I feel like we've got a car that's capable of winning the race. It's just a matter of whether the driver does a good job behind the steering wheel and puts it in the right positions."
In fact, Stewart is so happy with his car that he decided to sit out Saturday's final round of practice and told crew chief Steve Addington there was nothing he could to do make it any better -- it was perfect the way it is.
"It's nice from a driver's side to be able to say, ‘I don't know what else to ask you for,'" Stewart said. "I don't know what else I need. So, it's a good scenario. When there's not a scratch on it, it's ready to race."
The side effect of having such a strong car is that Stewart is unusually calm heading into what is NASCAR's biggest race -- one that he desperately wants to win.
But feeling confident heading into the Daytona 500 is not an unusual feeling for Stewart, as many times he has headed into Sunday looking like the prohibitive favorite. Most notably, in 2007 when he entered the 500 after rolling off convincing wins in the preliminary Sprint Unlimited and Budweiser Duels events.
However, Stewart's sour luck in the 500 would rear its ugly head when he and race-leader Kurt Busch tangled with 45 laps to go and instead of winning his first Daytona 500, Stewart was listed 43rd in the running order.
"Sometimes the scenarios just don't work out," Stewart said. "Sometimes you have bad luck that didn't creep up in the first two races. There is just a number of things that can happen on Sunday's race that don't happen, or hadn't happened up to that point in the other two races."
Stewart's happiness also stems the rule changes brought on by the changeover to the Gen-6 car, which has eliminated two-car tandem racing and put more control back into the hands of the drivers.
No longer is restrictor-plate racing as much of a crapshoot, as Sunday's racing will hinge more on driver strategy, track position and who can get their car to handle the best.
"I love it," Stewart said. "I love actually being able to see through the car in front of me and see what's going on and not just being cramped up the bumper of the guy up in front of you and trying to make sure you're in the right spot to try to get an opening of air.
"I like it a lot better than the tandem style that we had. You'll never hurt my feelings if I never have to physically push another car again in the Cup Series the rest of my life."