Countdown to Daytona: Mark Martin’s heartbreaking 500 finish

Our long national nightmare is almost over: The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series off-season is nearing its conclusion.

The Daytona 500 is now just 23 days away, set for Feb. 26 at 2 p.m. ET on FOX.

So with the Great American Race coming up in 23 days, we go back to 2007 and one of the greatest Daytona 500 finishes of all day.

The 2007 race was the 49th Daytona 500, but it does have special significance for the number 23.

You see 2007 was the 23rd Daytona 500 for future NASCAR Hall of Fame member Mark Martin, who at that time was competing in his first race for car owner Bobby Ginn.

Heading into the last lap of the 500, Martin had his No. 01 U.S. Army-sponsored Ginn Racing Chevrolet out front ahead of Kyle Busch, who at the time was driving the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

Lurking back in fifth place when the white flag waved was Kevin Harvick in the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

As they headed down the backstretch, Harvick got a great run with the aid of a push from Matt Kenseth.

Harvick went high into Turn 3, briefly taking the lead as he and Martin battled furiously for the win.

As the field exited Turn 4, Busch and Kenseth crashed behind Martin and Harvick, triggering a melee that would send Clint Bowyer’s RCR Chevrolet upside down while catching fire.

But the green flag stayed out and at the start-finish line, it was Harvick by just 0.020 seconds, which to this day remains the second-closest Daytona 500 finish since the advent of electronic timing and scoring in 1993.

A heartbreaker for Martin, for sure, but an incredible finish.