Sometimes history can in fact repeat itself. In a scenario very similar to the one that allowed Kevin Harvick to win the Daytona 500 back in 2007, a lane opened up on the high side at the end of the backstretch on the final lap.
Harvick took advantage of the hole, took the lead away from Jamie McMurray on the last lap, and then benefitted from a crash that froze the field to claim victory in Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout. However, it was not that easy. Harvick hit the wall early on in the race and lost the draft, but was saved by the second caution, when David Reutimann and David Stremme crashed.
Harvick lost the draft a second time on lap 43, when Michael Waltrip was pitched into the outside wall on the backstretch. Harvick was stuck behind Waltrip on the apron while Waltrip slowed down. By the time Harvick passed Waltrip, the leaders were gone. Harvick was saved again when Stremme and Elliott Sadler collided on lap 56, causing another yellow.
In victory lane, Harvick was very happy with the outcome.
“The first thing I want to do is thank the fans,” Harvick said in victory lane. “Man, if you don’t enjoy that, that was some wild racing.”
Later on, after the telecast on FOX ended, Harvick expanded on how he got in position to win.
“I think on the next-to-last restart, I guess it would have been, we wound up restarting fourth. Just wound up going to the bottom, then back to the middle. Then the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) gave me one final shot down the backstretch and we were able to get by the [No.] 26 (McMurray).
Despite getting passed at basically the last second, McMurray was still pleased with the outcome.
“It was a good way to get our weekend started,” McMurray said afterwards. “You feel like a sucker when you’re in the front of this deal. You get away from the guy so much in the corner that you have to drag the brake a little bit to try to keep him close enough, but when you get the white flag, it’s hard to drag the brake.”
New car-owner Tony Stewart finished third in his No. 14, followed by Jeff Gordon and AJ Allmendinger to round out the top five. Kasey Kahne was sixth, followed by Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth. The Busch brothers, Kurt and Kyle, rounded out the top 10. The results are still unofficial and are subject to change due to the freezing of the field on the last lap. Official results are released on Monday.
In the future, this 31st edition of the Budweiser Shootout will be remembered for the incredible amount of competition, and also, for the sheer quantity of wrecks in the event. In the 78-lap race (195 miles), 14 of the drivers (half the field) led a lap, and the lead changed 23 times. Most of the race featured two- and three-wide racing. However, the cars seemed to be very skittish and swervy in this situation, making for a very unstable racing environment.
Because of this unstable environment, the race had eight cautions for 23 laps, slowing the average speed to a relatively pedestrian 127.243 mph. Seven of the eight cautions were for crashes of various sizes. Because of the incidents, only 13 of the 28 starters officially finished the event. Of the 15 DNFs, all but Reed Sorenson’s was because of crash damage. Sorenson blew an engine, which caused the only non-crash yellow of the race.