Daytona Shootout: Pre-race notes, schedule

Shootout Showdown: Drivers Ready for First '07 Event Exclusivity A Hallmark of Shootout Participation Knowing When To Sprint A Crucial Shootout Strategy Denny Hamlin (right) and team owner J.D. Gibbs celebrate their win in the 2006 Budweiser...

Shootout Showdown: Drivers Ready for First '07 Event

Exclusivity A Hallmark of Shootout Participation Knowing When To Sprint A Crucial Shootout Strategy

Denny Hamlin (right) and team owner J.D. Gibbs celebrate their win in the 2006 Budweiser Shootout.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 6, 2006) -- With an accompaniment of off-season expectations and optimism, this Saturday night's 29th annual Budweiser Shootout at Daytona marks the first on-track event of the 2007 season.

But only for 21 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams.

Exclusive by design -- all Budweiser Pole Award winners from the previous year along with former eligible event winners -- the Shootout's excitement is guaranteed, and its benefit is enormous.

Why? It's the first time drivers hit the track under race conditions, and although a non-points exhibition, perhaps no laps are more anticipated than the first.

"It's going to be fun to see exactly what we have," said three-time event winner Dale Jarrett (No. 44 UPS Toyota), the 1999 series champion. "It's the first time to [do so.]"

Unpredictability is inherent. Witness last year's upset by victory by eventual Raybestos Rookie of the Year Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet). Then unproven, Hamlin and his team used the win to jump-start what would be a phenomenal rookie run.

"Because of last year and the great boost it gave our team, the Budweiser Shootout means a lot to me and will for the rest of my career," said Hamlin, who finished third in the final 2006 series standings.

No rookies are eligible for this year's field, but 11 past Budweiser Shootout victories are sprinkled among the 21 eligible drivers, including two-time event winners Ken Schrader (No. 21 Little Debbie's Ford), Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), and Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet).

The Shootout also marks Toyota's on-track debut; Jarrett has the honors. "Looking forward to it more than usual, actually," he said. And drivers with other, important wins hope for their Shootout trophy.

"I'm really looking forward to the race," said Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's/CARQUEST Chevrolet). "This is a fun race. It doesn't count toward points. It's all about going out there and having fun. Of course (though) we want to win."

<pre> Eligible Drivers -- 2007 Budweiser Shootout At Daytona

Driver         '06 Poles         Driver          '06 Poles
Greg Biffle       2              Bill Elliott      *
Jeff Burton       4              David Gilliland   1
Kurt Busch        6              Jeff Gordon       2
Kyle Busch        1              Denny Hamlin      3
Dale Earnhardt Jr.*              Kevin Harvick     1
Driver        '06 Poles          Driver          '06 Poles
Dale Jarrett      *              Scott Riggs       2
Jimmie Johnson    1              Elliott Sadler    1
Kasey Kahne       6              Boris Said        1
Mark Martin       *              Ken Schrader      *
Ryan Newman       2              Tony Stewart      *
Brian Vickers     1

* -- Eligible as a former Budweiser Shootout winner.

</pre> ***

Budweiser Shootout Specifics: How It Works; Who's Eligible

A February tradition since 1979, the Budweiser Shootout marks the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series' return to the track.

The non-points exhibition kicks off the event-packed week leading up to the season-opening Daytona 500, plus the season-opening events for NASCAR's other two national series -- the NASCAR Busch Series and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

The Shootout format has been modified through the years -- it began as a 20-lap sprint in 1979 -- but has kept its current format since 2001.

Here are the particulars:

A 70-lap race that begins Saturday at 8:30 p.m.

The first segment is 20 laps, followed by a 10-minute "pit stop," when crews will be allowed to make normal pit-stop adjustments on their cars.

The second and final segment is 50 laps, hence the "Shootout" label.

Drivers earn Budweiser Shootout berths one of two ways. The first is by winning a Budweiser Pole during the previous season. The second is by being an eligible past winner of the Shootout.

This year, the field is comprised of 15 Budweiser Pole winners from 2006 and six former Shootout winners. Former winners must have finished in the top 50 of the final 2006 series standings to be eligible for Shootout competition.

***

In The Loop: Statistics Favor A Denny Hamlin Repeat

No wonder Denny Hamlin pulled off the stunning upset victory in the 2006 Budweiser Shootout at Daytona. Hamlin dominated much of the Loop Data stats, including the all-important Driver Rating category.

A rookie last year, Hamlin posted a Driver Rating of 125.0, nearly six points higher than second-best Tony Stewart (119.1).

But that's not the half of it. The consistent Hamlin earned an Average Running Position of 6.681, third best for the race. He also earned top speeds in Daytona's pivotal Turns 2 and 3. Hamlin had a race-best average speed of 187.912 mph in Turn 2 and a speed of 190.592 in Turn 3, the second fastest of anyone finishing on the lead lap.

Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Tony Stewart, who finished third in last year's Budweiser Shootout, also found himself atop many of the Loop Data standings. Stewart had the best Average Running Position at 3.417, second-best Speed in Turn 2 (187.781 mph) and fastest Speed in Turn 3 (190.772 mph).

Last season's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) had a third-best Driver Rating in the Budweiser Shootout at 114.9, and finish with a second-best Average Running Position of 5.764. Johnson also had the fifth-most Green Flag Passes with 112. He finished fifth in the race.

Loop Data is gleaned from electronic scoring loops embedded in each track. The loops yielded a bevy of telling statistics that serve as solid indicators on just what to expect from drivers week-to-week.

***

Keys To Victory: Avoid A Shutout At the Shootout

The Budweiser Shootout format is just that -- a fun, exciting kick-off to an entire season of racing breathlessness.

Heeding its sprint intent, drivers must decipher how good their car is very quickly, then be able to adjust. Seventy laps sounds like more than enough to coax one's way to the front, but confidence in one's equipment, and plotting one's positioning during the race is just as crucial. It's a given that with four to six laps remaining, drivers will be deciding when and where to make their final Shootout moves -- strategies that guarantee excitement.

Here's why:

*Know Your Opponents: Unlike regular-season events, which feature 43 drivers, the Shootout rewards a smaller, exclusive group that changes each year. Every Shootout varies because its competitors vary every year.

*Pass Go, All The Way: With a smaller field and more room to roam, speed counts most. One key to Shootout success is to run wide-open as much as possible during the entire 70 laps.

*Eliminate Handling Issues: Most Shootout teams use the first, 20-lap segment to dial in set-ups. The last 50-lap segment is all-out sprint.

***

Battle Of '06 Pole Winners: Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne Meet In Shootout

Saturday night's 29th annual Budweiser Shootout may involve a little extra motivation for two drivers -- Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) and Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge).

Both drivers captured a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series-best six Budweiser Pole Awards during the 2006 season, but Kahne took home the season award based on a tiebreaker -- the driver with the highest finish in the final series standings. Kahne finished eighth; Busch finished 16th.

Both are among the 21-driver field for the 2007 Budweiser Shootout, which showcases the previous season's Budweiser Pole Award winners and former eligible Shootout winners, and both seek their first Shootout victory.

"It's a prestigious event that has the top drivers in a drafting session and that's what makes it different," said 2004 series champion Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge). "You're challenging other top drivers in the draft, under the lights, on a Saturday night at Daytona."

"The Budweiser Shootout is exciting and fun," Kahne said. "It has nothing to do with points, so there's none of that pressure. We will go out, have fun and try to win a restrictor plate race. Everybody will be racing for the win.

"I'm very happy to be in the Shootout on Saturday night and not have to wait until the Daytona 500 to race."

***

On Deck: Budweiser Pole Day And The Gatorade Duel At Daytona

While the 29th annual Budweiser Shootout kicks off the 2007 season, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers' first order of official business looms the following day -- Sunday, Feb. 11.

That's Budweiser Pole Day, when teams begin the qualifying process for the Daytona 500. The entire field will qualify that afternoon -- with drivers making their usual, singular two-lap runs. But only the top two qualifiers lock in their spots for the 48th annual Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 18.

Those drivers -- the pole winner and the outside pole winner -- are in. The rest of the field will vie for Daytona 500 starting berths next Thursday in the Gatorade Duel at Daytona -- back-to-back, 150-mile (60-lap) qualifying races.

Jeff Burton (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet), is the defending Daytona 500 polesitter. Jeff Gordon is the defending outside pole winner. Burton finished seventh in last year's final series standings; Gordon finished sixth.

The defending Daytona 500 champion, Jimmie Johnson, also is the reigning series champion.

The Race: Budweiser Shootout
The Place: Daytona International Speedway

The Date: Saturday, Feb. 10
The Time: 8:30 p.m. (ET)

TV: FOX, 8 p.m. (ET)

Track Layout: 2.5-mile tri-oval
Distance: 175 miles (70 laps)

Purse: $1,153,518

2006 Winner: Denny Hamlin
2006 Pole: Ken Schrader

Pre-Race On-Track Schedule: Friday -- Practice,  4:15 -5 p.m.  Final practice,
6:30-7:30 p.m.  Drawing for starting order held Feb. 8 at 8 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Tony Stewart , Ken Schrader , Boris Said , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Scott Riggs , Kasey Kahne , Brian Vickers , David Gilliland , Elliott Sadler , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing