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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Bud Shootout, Daytona 500 qualifying on tap this weekend

The Daytona 500 may not be until February 20, but this weekend will give NASCAR fans an early look at their favorite drivers and racecars with some on-track action at Daytona.

Saturday night will feature the Bud Shootout, whose entry rules have been revamped once again this year to take the focus away from pole winners and more toward an all-star race feel. This short burst of a race (75 laps in two segments), with no points on the line, is a great way to kick off the season, and gives a glimpse of what the Daytona 500 might bring in terms of who will be competitive.

The Bud Shootout now includes:
-- The 12 drivers that qualified for the 2010 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup
-- Past NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions
-- Past Budweiser Shootout champions
-- Past Daytona 500 and Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola champions
-- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie of the year drivers from 2001-2010

Then, on Sunday, fans can watch the Cup drivers make their laps and start the long and convulted process for the Daytona 500 (only the front row is officially set), which will continue on Thursday, Feb. 17, with the Gatorade Duels.
With new cars, a new surface at Daytona, and more new rules than we've seen in a while, I know I'm not alone in saying I can't wait for the season to start.

Bud Shootout by the numbers
-- The number of participants has ranged from a low of seven in 1981 to a high of 28 in 2009 (30 are eligible for this year’s event).
-- The drivers with the most Budweiser Shootout appearances: Bill Elliott (23), Mark Martin (22), Rusty Wallace (19), Ken Schrader (19), Jeff Gordon (17)
-- Mark Martin had appeared in the most consecutive Budweiser Shootout races, competing in 20 consecutive events from 1989-2008. The active leader in consecutive appearances is Jeff Gordon, with 17. This year marks his 18th.
There have been eight multiple winners in the Budweiser Shootout:
-- Tony Stewart has won three of the last 10 (2001, 2002 and 2007).
-- Dale Earnhardt won six events, most all-time (1980, 1986, 1988, 1991, 1993, 1995).
-- Dale Jarrett won in 1996, 2000 and 2004.
-- Other multiple winners: Neil Bonnett (1983-1984), Ken Schrader, (1989-1990), Jeff Gordon (1994 and 1997), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2003 and 2008) and Kevin Harvick (2009-2010)
-- Bonnett, Schrader, Stewart and Harvick are the only drivers to win back-to-back races. No driver has ever won three consecutive Budweiser Shootouts.
-- Buddy Baker (1979), Dale Earnhardt (1980), Jeff Gordon (1994), Dale Jarrett (1996) and Denny Hamlin (2006) all won the first Budweiser Shootout in which they competed.
-- Only five times in the 32-year history of the race has the winner gone on to win the Daytona 500: Bobby Allison (1982), Bill Elliott (1987), Dale Jarrett (1996 and 2000), Jeff Gordon (1997)
By the Numbers: Budweiser Shootout at Daytona
-- .08 –Margin of victory in seconds by Dale Earnhardt over Sterling Marlin in 1995, the closest margin in Budweiser Shootout history
-- 1 – Laps led by Rusty Wallace (1998), Neil Bonnett (1983-84), Dale Earnhardt (1980), Dale Jarrett (2000 and 2004) and Kevin Harvick (2009) in the Budweiser Shootouts they won
-- 2.75 – Average finish by Dale Earnhardt, best by any driver with multiple starts.
-- 5 – Drivers who have won the event in their first appearance (Buddy Baker, 1979; Dale Earnhardt, 1980; Jeff Gordon, 1994; Dale Jarrett, 1996; Denny Hamlin, 2006)
-- 11 – Number of starts before winning, most since race began in 1979 (Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin)
-- 14 – Number of different leaders in the 2009 event, most since race began in 1979
-- 23 – Number of lead changes in the 2009 event, highest number since race began in 1979
-- 27 – Kevin Harvick’s starting position in 2009, the lowest by a race winner in the event’s history
-- 30 – Number of drivers eligible for this year’s event, which would be the largest field in Budweiser Shootout history. The previous high was 28 in 2009.
-- 44 – Laps led by Greg Biffle in 2005, the most by a driver who did not win the event
-- 47 – Laps led by Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2008, the most in a single Budweiser Shootout

Terry Labonte helps out startup team
What do you do if you're a new team trying to get into the Daytona 500? You hire a Cup champion to drive your car, guaranteeing you a spot in the biggest race of the year.

FAS Lane Racing, the new team by Frankie Stoddard, will feature driver Terry Labonte in the 500. Mike Skinner is expected to drive the rest of the year in the #32 Ford.
"We plan to run all the races this year," Stoddard said. "I'm hoping that more funding will come down the pipe and we can ramp up to be competitive."(USA Today), been told the team will not run in the Shootout.

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