The Frontstretch: Race Trax: Budweiser Shootout by Amy Henderson -- Thursday February 9, 2006

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Race Trax: Budweiser Shootout

Amy Henderson · Thursday February 9, 2006

 

On Track
The Budweiser Shootout is NASCAR’s preseason exhibition race for pole winners and previous winners of the event. It is a non-points paying race, one that does not count toward the Nextel Cup championship. Drivers will race the 2.5-mile asphalt Daytona International Speedway for a total of 70 laps (175 miles) beginning Saturday night at 8:30 pm. DIS is located in Daytona Beach, Florida, on the state’s eastern coast. The race is divided into two segments: A 20-lap segment is followed by a ten minute intermission, during which teams may change tires and perform other normal pit-stop duties. The final segment is 50 laps. Caution laps do count toward the lap total in this race, and crews are allowed to work on their cars in the pits or garage during any red flag periods. Starting positions are determined by a random drawing before the race. Last year’s polesitter was Dale Jarrett, and Jimmie Johnson will look to defend the race win.

To qualify for the Budweiser Shootout, teams must have won a pole in the previous season, or won the event previously, in which case they must also have finished in the top 50 in Nextel Cup points the previous year. There are 32 drivers eligible for the 2006 Shootout; 21 are entered. Former Shootout champs Rusty Wallace and Terry Labonte will sit out the event. One rookie, Denny Hamlin, will race in the event courtesy of his pole at Phoenix last fall.

What To Expect
Most of the teams in this race save their best stuff for the Daytona 500. Still, there should be plenty of slicing and dicing for top spots. While it does provide extra seat time for participants, it is not necessarily looked at as an extra practice session for the Daytona 500, because the majority of entrants will not race the same cars, simply because of the risk of crashing their primary car for the 500. Still, it does provide teams with seat time, and they will make the most of it, working the draft and their other competitors over for 70 laps. Look for drivers to work with teammates, as well as veteran drivers like former race winner Ken Schrader.

Curiously enough, unlike its distant cousin, the Nextel All-Star Challenge, the race does not seem to have the constant threat of "the Big One" that other restrictor plate races have. In years past, the biggest culprits for taking teams out of contention early have been engine failures, not multi-car pileups.

Who to Watch
In a race like this? Everyone. Drivers in this race are either the fastest of the fast from the previous year or past event champions, so they can all get the job done. Based on past results, look for the Hendrick Motorsports teams to be contenders. Johnson and Jeff Gordon have won this event in the past, and their young teammates, Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers will show up with their best stuff too. You also can’t count Dale Earnhardt, Jr. out of any race at Daytona; he’s a former event champion, as is Mark Martin. There just isn’t a weak team in this field. Veteran Ken Schrader could well play the role of darkhorse in the Wood Brothers’ machine, and look for the wiser members of the younger generation to work with Schrader throughout the night.

Did You Know:

  • That the Budweiser Shootout has been run as the first race of Speedweeks since 1979?

  • That teams must run the Bud Pole contingency decal to be eligible? Drivers can win a pole and not be eligible for the race based on this, although it seldom happens; only Petty Enterprises currently does not participate in the program. Drivers who are under 21 years of age must run a modified decal that does not advertise a specific brand of alcohol.
  • That among active drivers with more than on start, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. boasts the top average finish of 3.6? The best average finish of all time (2.75) belongs his father, the late Dale Earnhardt.
  • That when the Pole award was sponsored by Budweiser’s sibling product, Busch Beer, it was called the Busch Clash? The name of the race changed in 1998 when Anheuser-Busch changed the pole sponsorship form Busch to Budweiser.

You Don’t Say"¦
“This is our version of ‘Opening Day.’ The last time we raced was in Homestead and that seems like a long time ago. To get out there and start racing again in something as wild and fun as the Shootout is really cool. It’s one of the races everyone anticipates. Winning last year was a great start for us. It’s the equivalent of hitting a home run in your first at bat, or throwing for a touchdown with your first pass. This race can instantly build momentum for your team.” defending race winner Jimmie Johnson

"It is really hard to believe that after my first full season in the Nextel Cup series, I would be invited to run in the Budweiser Shootout. I just hope I can go out there under the lights of Daytona and put the Office Depot team back in Victory Lane. We have an awesome team this season and look forward to starting out on the right foot." first-time Shootout entrant Carl Edwards

“The Alltel team is picked as the favorite a lot of times to win poles, but I don’t think we’ve ever been picked as the favorite to win the Bud Shootout. All of these poles mean a lot to us, but we’d really like to get a Shootout victory as well. We came close last year, but just couldn’t pull it off in the end." *Ryan Newman*, who qualified for the Shootout on the strength of 8 poles in 2005

"There are a lot of things that make this race unique. The tempo, the speeds, the bumpin’ and bangin’, the rock bands before and after the race, the enthusiasm in the stands. It’s a big party, and there’s not too many parties I don’t make myself a part of. I said a couple of years ago, this race is like a bar fight on four wheels. I’m pretty sure when it comes to partying and raisin’ hell, I run harder than any of these guys, so this race suits my style." 2003 Budweiser Shootout winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

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Contact Amy Henderson

Recent articles from Amy Henderson:

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