DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 9, 2008) - Dale Earnhardt Jr. made his debut in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and while he may have a new car number and team, his restrictor-plate dominance is still the same.
The 30th annual Budweiser Shootout at Daytona saw a double-file, three-lap shootout that ended with Earnhardt Jr. capturing a thrilling victory over defending race-winner Tony Stewart and 2006 Daytona 500 champion Jimmie Johnson.
"That was fun," said Earnhardt, who led seven times for 47 laps and set a new record for most laps led in the race. “The Shootout is a neat race. I had a blast those last few laps. I got some great help from my teammates. I didn't win the race without Jimmie (Johnson) pushing me. I hope the fans enjoyed that. Wow, man that was fun. I am so happy. My new team. Victory Lane. It doesn’t get any better.
“Daytona’s a special place. How many times has an Earnhardt won here? That’s a lot of races and I want to keep adding to it.”
Stewart, in the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota, had to start in the back due to an engine change, challenged Earnhardt Jr. for the lead throughout the race.
“It’s hard to beat Dale Jr.,” said Stewart, a three-time Budweiser Shootout champion. “He’s one of the best restrictor-plate drivers there’s ever been. He learned a lot from his dad and I’m not sure if he’s not better than his dad, in all honesty, now.”
Hendrick Motorsports had a strong showing under the lights of historic Daytona International Speedway in the Budweiser Shootout with all four of their Chevrolets finishing in the top six. “It was fun,” fourth-place finisher Jeff Gordon said. “I had a lot of fun pushing my teammates and I had a lot of fun passing them.”
Said Earnhardt Jr. of the teamwork: “That was great looking in the mirror and seeing teammates. I got a lot of help tonight. There just weren’t that many times that we were able to help them because we were out front so much.” Both Johnson and Gordon were running in back-up cars due to an incident during practice Friday night. Johnson had the most adjustments to make, driving a short-track car that they ran at Richmond International Raceway last year and had planned on testing in Nashville next week.
“I felt like Fred Flintstone in this thing,” Johnson said. “I just had a lot of fun out there. I’m glad to see we had a pretty clean race and I’m definitely happy for Dale Jr. getting his victory in his first time in a Hendrick car.” Kurt Busch, who drew the pole at Thursday night’s draw party, also sustained damages to his original car during practice Friday night and was forced to go to a back-up car and therefore had to drop to the back of the field before the start of the race.
After having to make an unscheduled pit stop to fix his fender, Busch was the beneficiary of the third caution of the night and made his way to the front pack with under 10 laps to go, only to have a tire go down, which led to the fourth and final caution of the night.
The Budweiser Shootout is a 70-lap non-points All-Star race that kicks off the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The race features the previous season’s pole-winners as well as past Budweiser Shootout champions. This year’s 23-car field was the largest ever due to 18 different drivers capturing the pole during the 2007 season. They were joined by Bill Elliott, Dale Jarrett, Mark Martin, Ken Schrader and Tony Stewart. The race consists of a 20-lap segment, followed by a scheduled10-minute caution leading to the final 50 lap shoot-out.
Bill Davis Racing’s Michael Annett Captures ARCA 200 At Daytona
Michael Annett’s pit box, the same
one used by Bill Davis Racing when Ward Burton captured the 2002 Daytona 500, proved to be his lucky charm as he wheeled his No. 28 Pilot Travel Centers Toyota to victory at Daytona International Speedway in the 45th annual ARCA 200 ARCA RE/MAX Series race.
Annett was followed across the finish line by the No. 16 Chevrolet of Justin Allgaier and the No. 52 Dodge of Bill Baird, a former series champion.
Annett’s victory in the ARCA 200 is his second career ARCA win and his first trip to “The World Center of Racing.”
“It’s pretty cool,” Annett said of winning at Daytona. “We knew we had a good car for the draft. We got up towards the front and were able to stay there for about the whole race.”
Defending race winner and five-time ARCA 200 champion Bobby Gerhart finished fourth and was followed by fifth-place finisher and nine-time ARCA RE/MAX Series champion Frank Kimmel.
2007 Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti overcame damage to his No. 40 Dodge to finish 10th.
Scott Speed, a Formula One racer turned stock car hopeful, started on the outside pole and led twice for 16 laps. He kept his No. 2 Red Bull Toyota near the front of the pack for much of the race until he was involved in the fourth caution of the day and finished 39th.
Tickets for DIRECTV Speedweeks events are available online at www.racetickets.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.
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