Will this finally be Kyle Busch’s year at Daytona 500?

A year ago on stock car racing’s biggest stage, the auto racing gods finally smiled on his older brother.

Kyle Busch is hoping they saved a small grin for him during Sunday’s running of the Daytona 500.

“The No. 1 most important thing is trying to win the Daytona 500,” the 2015 Cup Series champion from Las Vegas said about his racing goals heading into the 2018 NASCAR season.

That was essentially Kurt Busch’s objective heading into the 2017 season. When Kyle Larson ran out of fuel on the last lap, Kurt zipped by for the win ending an 0-for-15 drought at the Great American Race. The last lap was the only one Kurt led.

Kyle Busch is 0-for-12 in the Daytona 500 with only three top 10 finishes, belying a driver of his talent. Sometimes one has to be good at Daytona. More often one has to be lucky in these restrictor-place races. With the cars running in large packs, racing at Daytona usually comes down to a last lap crapshoot.

That would explain why Trevor Bayne and Jamie McMurray have won the Daytona 500, and Michael Waltrip and Sterling Marlin each have won it twice, while Kyle Busch still is seeking to break through.

So what makes the 500 so difficult to win?

“Because everybody else wants to win it and it’s a race that 40 people have a chance to go out there and win,” said the 32-year-old veteran, who was credited with 38th place last year after being eliminated in a crash.

“You go to Atlanta (next week) and that’s a race where probably 10, 12 guys have a chance to win. But when you show up to Daytona, all 40 people believe they have a chance.”

Busch, who says he has dropped 25 pounds since the end of last season, vacillated about the Daytona 500 being just another race or the biggest race of all.

“I feel it’s like another race, but it is the first race of the year and you want to start it off well,” he said.

“The only way I can explain it is if you ever get excited or the adrenaline starts pumping and it’s just excitement. It could be for people experiencing the birth of a kid, or seeing their kid go through graduation or something like that.”

In other words, it’s still a pretty big deal.

Green, white, checkered

■ There was nothing for nonchartered drivers and teams to stress about as only four were entered in the Daytona 500, assuring all a spot in the 40-car field. Las Vegas’ Brendan Gaughan was fastest among the quartet, posting a qualifying speed of 189.881 mph (31st fastest) in the No. 62 Beard Oil/South Point Chevrolet.

“Our best qualifying run yet,” the semiretired racer wrote on Twitter. “We’ve closed the gap from last year and are still the first open team, so lots of positives. But I’m a racer. I still want more.”

■ A lineup of Las Vegas casinos that will host Daytona 500 viewing parties: South Point, Stratosphere, Sam’s Town, The Orleans, Cannery, Aliante Hotel, Gold Coast, Suncoast, and Fremont.

Each will give away prizes, including tickets to Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s 2018 Pennzoil 400 NASCAR Weekend March 2-4. None made mention of “Daytona Day” in the news release.

■ Spectator passes for the March 7-11 Mint 400 off-road race that starts in Primm are in short supply. They cost $35 and can be reserved by visiting http://tinyurl.com/y7zrynhq.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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