DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Kyle Busch was "100 percent" certain he had a car good enough to win the Daytona 500.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. made sure Busch never got the chance.
Busch was caught up in a massive wreck triggered by Earnhardt with 75 laps remaining at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, smashing the front of his No. 18 Toyota and ending a weekend of frustration.
"I think we were the best car out there," said Busch, who finished 41st.
"We were awfully good and just running out front and biding our time. I don't think we fell worse than sixth or fifth the whole time out there. Just a really sad feeling."
One that has become all too familiar for Busch.
He won a 150-mile qualifying race Thursday, then finished a close second to Todd Bodine in the truck race Friday when his attempt to bump Bodine out of the way on the last lap propelled Bodine to victory instead.
Busch found himself in the exact same position on the last lap of Saturday's Nationwide Series race, getting right on Tony Stewart's bumper heading into turn three in an effort to send Stewart up the track. Stewart held on to win while Busch faded to fourth.
"I was frustrated going into this race," Busch said. "This is about a 15 on a 10-scale."
One that might escalate one of NASCAR's blossoming rivalries.
Busch is the hot-tempered, hard-charging malcontent who seems to embrace his role as NASCAR's resident villain. And Earnhardt, one of the circuit's most popular drivers, cost Busch a job at Hendrick Motorsports after the 2007 season when owner Rick Hendrick lured Earnhardt away from Dale Earnhardt Inc.
Busch landed at Joe Gibbs Racing and has become one of NASCAR's most successful drivers.
Yet the Daytona 500 continues to tease him.
He led 86 laps during last year's race but stumbled down the stretch while trying to work with then-teammate Tony Stewart, finishing fourth.
On Sunday, Busch wasted little time zipping to the front and seemed to be able to do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted.