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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Jeff Gordon gets his first ride upside down in Bud Shootout; Keselowski starts year with strong finish

Emergency vehicles surround Jeff Gordon's upside-down car after he was involved in a wreck during the NASCAR Budweiser Shootout auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/David Graham)

Jeff Gordon had a rough night, ending up on his roof after a hard hit and a long slide.

“Yeah, this was not how I wanted to start the 2012 season; I’ve never been upside down in one of these cars,” Gordon said. “The hit to the wall was much harder than the rest of it. The roll was pretty soft and pretty easy. The protection we have inside of these cars is amazing because I didn’t even hardly feel any of it. The toughest part is when you’re laying upside down and you can’t get out of the car. The roof was caved-in a little bit and that was no fun.”

He said the cars are built to withstand such rough rides.

“I am fine. The safety of these cars is unbelievable. That is the first time I have been upside down in 19 or 20 years. I am glad it ended the way that it did with a nice soft rollover. It was great racing out there tonight. A wild finish and we were in a position to have a shot at winning this thing. That is what I feel bad about. Our Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet was really strong. I had Jimmie Johnson pushing me; we were looking good then those guys came up there and Kyle (Busch) got in front of me. I was staying with him, but he was wagging all over the place. I thought he was going to wreck so I went wide and collected a couple of guys on the outside of me. I’m sorry to those guys and it turned me into the wall, then Kyle (Busch) ends up winning the race. It was a pretty exciting way to start off 2012, but not the way we wanted to start it off.”

Strong run for Brad Keselowski
Rochester Hills native Brad Keselowski survived the carnage and came home fourth, and was second at the time of the final restart.

He said the pack racing is somethings just crazy.
“You just can't predict what's going to happen.  It's just a crapshoot.  You just hope that you're in the right position and it takes a team effort to do that.  The Miller Lite Dodge team did that today and came up just a bit short,” Keselowski said. “You're just running into each other; just a bunch of angry drivers in a traffic jam.” 
Asked if he likes this type of racing, Brad said:  "I like it when I win.”

His crew chief Paul Wolfe was thinking more about the big race, saying: "What a wild night, a lot of torn up race cars. I hope the 500 isn't this bad. It's just a different style of racing. It's back to the big pack of racing and when you have a mishap, a lot of cars get collected. Overall for the Miller Lite Dodge team, it was a good night. We put ourselves in position to win the race at the end and just came up short."

Bayne drives old Daytona Beach course

Trevor Bayne’s sponsorship situation may be troublesome this year, so much so that the Wood Brothers opted not to even run in the Bud Shootout despite being eligible (smart move; likely would have ended up with a wrecked car).

But he did get to do something very cool this week – as he drove the No. 21 car along the old beach course to Daytona International Speedway.

Considering that course’s role in the history of NASCAR, Bayne was understandable excited about the opportunity.

“This is probably the coolest thing I’ve got to do outside of actually racing on other tracks. As a racecar driver you watch races of the beaches and I wish we could come back here and get the groove all rutted up and try to miss the potholes, but this is an unbelievable feeling – being on the beach where it all started. This is history right here. I almost want to bottle up the sand and take it with me because this is where it started for Daytona, this is where it started for NASCAR and I’m just glad to be a part of it. I’m glad I get to be the first driver to do this because this is a really cool tradition. They also told me I get to do some donuts at an intersection a little later on, so I’m pretty pumped about that. The difference is the police are actually leading me this time, instead of following me when I do them. It would be one thing to drive a street car down this beach, but to be in the 21 car and sitting here I feel like I’m a part of history and that’s pretty cool.”

His team owners, who have ties to the beach races via their dad, were also very excited about Bayne’s ride through history.

Eddie Wood said, “We hear stories from our dad almost daily. I think racing on the beach is probably the one thing that our dad is most proud of. He actually sat on the pole here the last race they had in sportsman and I think he wound up finishing third overall and won his division, but we’ve got a picture like that in our shop of him leading the race, but it’s an honor to be here. I’m really a big believer in history and tradition, so this is about the coolest thing I’ve ever done, besides the Daytona 500 last year.”

I think it would be cool if they recreated a beach race from the old days, as I’m curious who would do well. Most likely the road course aces like Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon, but it would fun to watch it unfold.

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