Finishing second in the Daytona 500 is one of the most painful experiences in NASCAR

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Alan Cavanna explains why one of the most difficult things to experience in motorsports is finishing second in the Daytona 500.

- Alan Cavanna here with us now. And Alan, you know, we say it all the time, right? Who remembers when you finish second? No one remembers a second place finisher. However, if it's the Daytona 500, sometimes we do remember who finishes second.

- Well, really, it's the ultimate question for a racer. What is worse, finishing dead last or finishing second? Especially in a race like the Daytona 500, Shannon, second place is good, but it's just not good enough when it comes to the 500.

ANNOUNCER: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Wins, Tony Stewart second.

ANNOUNCER: And Mark Martin, a bridesmaid once again.

- Congrats to Denny. Just got me by a couple of feet.

ALAN CAVANNA: It's only one position, but what a difference it makes. Finish first in the Daytona 500, you're a part of history. Finish second, and it's a lifetime of what ifs.

It's a race that's eluded some of history's best. Three-time series champion Tony Stewart led the most laps in 2004 but had to watch out of his windshield as friend Dale Earnhardt, Jr. took the trophy.

- He has got his now. I'll get mine next year.

ALAN CAVANNA: But Stewart's Daytona 500 win would never come. In 2008, he led at the white flag but could only watch as two others drove by, sending Stewart to third.

ANNOUNCER: Ryan Newman, Roger Penske, win the Daytona 500.

ANNOUNCER: Way to go, guys. Way to go.

ALAN CAVANNA: The closer the finish, the bigger the heartbreak. Mark Martin nearly put the exclamation point on his Hall of Fame career in 2007. He led the race within sight of the finish line, but it wasn't enough.

ANNOUNCER: They're side-by-side right to the line.

ANNOUNCER: Hard crash. Here they come. Checkered flag. Harvick!

ALAN CAVANNA: Kevin Harvick drove by on the outside and into the record books.

- Man, if they would have just thrown the yellow, it was in our fingers, but they waited and they waited and they waited.

Martin's close call somehow topped in 2016 by Martin Truex, Jr. In the lead with just feet to go, Truex ended up on the wrong side of the closest finish in the history of the Daytona 500.

ANNOUNCER: About four inches separated Denny Hamlin from Martin Truex.

ALAN CAVANNA: Last season it was Ryan Blaney who had the front row seat to someone else making history. His final lap charge only good enough for second.

- I don't really try to dwell on races too much. I don't think that's healthy, but I do dwell on that one. You may never get a chance to win another 500. You just never know.

ALAN CAVANNA: The winner that day though was proof your best chance is always your next one. Kurt Busch had finished second three times in the Great American Race, three times watched someone else crowned Daytona 500 Champion.

- Finishing second three times, yeah, it was adding up a little bit. But I felt like that year I pushed my teammate Ryan Newman to win, that maybe it would get paid forward one day.

ALAN CAVANNA: Only a select few will know the agony of coming so close that it hurts. It's only one position, but whether it's an inch or a car length, the distance between Daytona 500 victory lane and second place may as well be miles.