By admin | February 7, 2009
By Richard Allen
Early on in the Bud Shootout at the Daytona International Speedway it looked as Kevin Harvick had been a victim of drivers racing too hard too early. The former Daytona 500 winner brushed the wall in the early going and even lost the lead draft on a couple of occasions. However, the #29 Richard Childress Racing team stayed with it and saved the best for last, making a late race comeback that landed them in victory lane.
The Bud Shootout is meant to be a race in which winning is the only thing that matters. Theoretically, drivers are supposed to run hard since points are of no concern.
However, the format of this year’s version of the Shootout called for a 25 lap first segment to be followed by a 10 minute intermission and finished off with a 50 lap run to the finish.
It might have seemed logical for drivers to take it easy and feel their cars out during the first segment, then go into fuel conservation mode for much of the second segment and finally do some hard racing over the last few laps. That’s not exactly how things worked out.
The first 25 lap segment of the Bud Shootout may have been designed to serve as a practice session of sorts to allow drivers and crews to make needed adjustments during the 10 minute break. Instead, the early segment had some wild racing.
“I don’t know what it looked like on TV,” Jeff Gordon said during the time out period, “but we’ve got our hands full.”
Some drivers had more than a handful during segment 1. On lap 4 Robby Gordon tagged David Ragan in the back after cars in front of them checked up to set off a chain reaction that would also collect Scott Speed, Joey Logano, Greg Biffle and Casey Mears. Only Biffle and Mears were able to continue after the melee.
Two and three wide racing took place throughout segment 1. A number of drivers including Paul Menard, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards took turns at the front of the field.
On lap 22, David Reutimann got a tap from Denny Hamlin which sent the #00 into the path of David Stremme. Reutimann and Stremme went for a long slide across the grass along the backstretch. All those involved were able to continue without losing a lap.
The first segment ended under caution as a result of that spin with Edwards leading.
It did not take long after the green flag to start segment 2 for the craziness to continue under the full moon in the central Florida night sky.
On lap 31 of the 75 lap exhibition event four wide racing led to a wreck that sent Jeff Burton to the garage. Others were involved but were able to continue.
Cautions for Reed Sorenson’s blown engine and Elliott Sadler’s slide through the tri-oval slowed the frenzied racing on two brief occasions.
With 17 laps remaining the race restarted after the Sadler caution with everyone full of fuel and on fresh tires. Considering the hard charging that had taken place in the first ¾ of the Shootout it was not too difficult to predict that the last few laps were going to contain plenty of excitement.
On lap 64 Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Paul Menard and Bobby Labonte suffered significant damage after Menard lost control coming off of turn 4 and collected his two fellow competitors. Earnhardt and Labonte were forced to the garage as a result.
A lap 73 crash involving Biffle and Stremme set up the final green/white/checkered run to the finish.
Jamie McMurray had the lead on the restart and held it for a lap and a half. Eventually, he was unable to block both of the two lines of cars bearing down on him. Harvick blew by on the outside as the cars entered turn 3. Just then, Casey Mears, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers piled up and the race was over once the caution waved and the field was frozen.
“That shows why you never give up right there!” Harvick exclaimed over his team’s radio, referring to his comeback from the early troubles.
Harvick collected $200,000 for his win.
Top 10 finishers
1. Kevin Harvick
2. Jamie McMurray
3. Tony Stewart
4. Jeff Gordon
5. A.J. Allmendinger
6. Kasey Kahne
7. Carl Edwards
8. Matt Kenseth
9. Kurt Busch
10. Kyle Busch
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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