claims 2nd in Bud Shootout despite worn tires_2/11
Tony Stewart passed Dale Earnhardt with less than a lap and a half
to go and held on to win his first Budweiser Shootout Sunday at Daytona International
Speedway. Third was Rusty Wallace in a Ford. The Fords of Dale Jarrett and Jeff Burton
rounded out the top five.
The race had 19 official lead changes in only 70 laps of
the 2.5-mile trioval. Stewart, however, was strongest when it mattered. He used his No. 20
Pontiac to block an attempted pass by Earnhardt's No. 3 Chevrolet at the end of the
backstretch on the last lap and, after blunting the six-time Shootout winner's momentum,
held on for the win by .01 seconds.
Earnhardt started second, alongside
The race, which was extended this year from a 25-lap sprint
and is now considered a true preview of the 500-mile race, might have been decided on the
25th lap anyway when a handful of drivers, including Earnhardt, made their one scheduled
pit stop. Stewart and most of the other competitors waited until lap 45 for their stops.
"I wanted to wait to the last lap to make my move on
him, but it was the first move I got on him all day," Earnhardt said of his pass of
Stewart on lap 69 going into Turn 3. "With this aero package, you've got to take it
when you can get it.
"His car was strong and his tires were fresher,"
the 1998 Daytona 500 winner added. "I don't know if that (early stop) was the right
call or not. If I could have stayed side-by-side with him, I could have raced him. But I
just couldn't do that."
Asked about the handling of the cars, Earnhardt said,
"I think you saw a better race. NASCAR works hard to keep everybody even and they've
done a good job."
Earnhardt and Earnhardt Jr. drafted
and raced together several times during the 70-lap event.
Up next: Budweiser Shootout_2/3
The race is a lot longer, has a new name and
carries a much bigger purse. But of all the changes for what is now called the Budweiser
Shootout, the one that makes the race fan the happiest is the decision to allow all of the
past winners to compete in the 2001 event at Daytona International Speedway. This means
Dale Earnhardt will shoot for a record seventh victory in this special event that in the
past has been limited to pole winners from the previous season. Earnhardt has missed the
last two races and was not eligible for this year's race under the old rules since he did
not win a pole position during the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup season.
"This has always been a fun race and a great way to begin the year," says
Earnhardt. "I can't thank Anheuser-Busch and Budweiser enough for making all the past
winners eligible for this year's race. I don't like watching the Budweiser Shootout from
the top of the truck."
Earnhardt has won what was called the Busch Clash and then the Bud Shootout in
1980, 1986, 1988, 1991, 1993 and 1995. After winning the race in '80, '86, '91 and '93,
Earnhardt went on to win the NASCAR Winston Cup championship.
"It seems like when I win the Budweiser Shootout, I go on to win the
championship," adds Earnhardt with a sly grin. "That is another reason why I'm
glad I'm in this year's race. It just seems I do well in the championship when I do well
in the Shootout."
Last year's event, won by Dale Jarrett, was made up of two 25-lap races. This
year's event will be 70-lap race, which includes a mandatory green-flag pit stop. Drivers
may put under any yellow flags, but the pit stop will not count as their required stop.
Jarrett earned $36,363 for his victory a year ago. This year's race winner will take home
$200,000 from a $900,000 purse. The other change for this year's Budweiser Shootout is the
race must end under green-flag conditions even if the length of the race has to be
extended. Caution-flag laps will count toward the 70-lap total, but the race can't end
under the yellow.
"I like all the changes," adds Earnhardt. "It will make for a great
start to the season." The Shootout will get the green flag shortly after 2 p.m. on
Feb. 11 and will be televised live by FOX.