Daytona Shootout: Series preview

Go-Fast Time: Budweiser Shootout At Daytona 18 Pole Winners From 2007, Five Former Budweiser Shootout Champions In The Field DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 5, 2008) -- After weeks of preseason testing, 23 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers will take...

Go-Fast Time: Budweiser Shootout At Daytona
18 Pole Winners From 2007, Five Former Budweiser Shootout Champions In The Field

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 5, 2008) -- After weeks of preseason testing, 23 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers will take their first green flag of 2008 Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway. Gone are testing's anonymous gray paint jobs and recycled uniforms.

Here, at last, is competition -- the 30th annual Budweiser Shootout -- the non-points event that kicks off the season, revving both engines and anticipation.

For participants, it marks the first NASCAR race in nearly three months.

"It's a fun race to be in," said Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Mountain Dew AMP/National Guard Chevrolet), the 2003 Budweiser Shootout victor. "Most drivers can't wait to see some action from the off-season."

Both precursor and reward, the race warms up fans and competitors for the season-opening Daytona 500, set for Feb. 17. It is open to the past season's pole winners, along with former Budweiser Shootout winners who finished in the top 50 of the final 2007 NASCAR Sprint Cup standings.

That exclusivity -- always significant -- broadens in importance this season.

Series teams not only will prepare for the 50th Daytona 500, but also their first fulltime season with NASCAR's new car -- the now-generation race car. The golden-anniversary Daytona 500 marks the first new-car event at Daytona, and for 23 teams, Saturday night is an opportunity to research race conditions.

The Budweiser Shootout began in 1979 and has yielded 17 different winners through 29 events. Former NASCAR great Buddy Baker won the first one; two-time series champion Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Toyota) is the defending winner.

Stewart is the last driver to win consecutive Budweiser Shootouts (2001-02). Two others have also done it: Ken Schrader (No. 49 QTRAX.com Dodge) in 1989-90 and Neil Bonnett in 1983-84.

The current record for victories was established by Dale Earnhardt, who won the race six times. Tied for second all-time, with three victories each, are Stewart and Dale Jarrett (No. 44 UPS Toyota). Jarrett, who will retire after the season's fifth points event at Martinsville, is competing in his final Budweiser Shootout.

Another veteran, Mark Martin (No. 8 U.S. Army Chevrolet), is scheduled to compete in his event-record 20th consecutive Budweiser Shootout, and 21st overall.

"I think I may have been in all 30 of them, or at least it feels that way sometimes," said Martin, who won the race in 1999.

The Format ... Although the Budweiser Shootout format has varied since its 1979 debut, the current format has been used since 2003. It begins with a 20-lap segment followed by a 50-lap "shootout" for the win.

A 10-minute "pit stop", when crews may make normal adjustments to their cars, separates the two segments.

First run as a 20-lap sprint in 1979, the event has evolved into a prime-time event that kicks off nearly two weeks of competition leading up to the Daytona 500 and the NASCAR Nationwide Series' and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' season-openers.

The Field ... Drivers earn berths by winning a pole during the previous season, or being a former, active Shootout winner who finished in the top 50 of the previous season's NASCAR Sprint Cup standings.

This year's field includes 18 pole winners from 2007 and five former Budweiser Shootout winners.

The starting lineup will be determined during Thursday's draw party, which begins at 7 p.m., on SPEED Channel's Turn Four stage at Daytona International Speedway.

The 2008 field includes seven former Daytona 500 champions -- including a pair of three-time winners in Dale Jarrett and Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), two-time winners Bill Elliott (No. 21 U.S. Air Force Ford) and Michael Waltrip (No. 55 NAPA Toyota) and 2003 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. and 2006 winner Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet), also the reigning and two-time series champion.

Jarrett, Martin, Elliott, Stewart and Schrader are the former Budweiser Shootout champions eligible for Saturday's race by virtue of their finish in the '07 standings.

First-time pole winners in '07 -- and, as a result, first-time Budweiser Shootout participants -- are Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet), Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Target Dodge), Martin Truex Jr. (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) and J.J. Yeley (No. 96 DLP HDTV Toyota).

Other 2007 pole winners in the field: Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Ford), Dave Blaney (No. 22 Caterpillar Toyota), Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge), Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford), David Gilliland (No. 38 Yates Racing Ford), Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Toyota), Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge), Jamie McMurray (No. 26 Crown Royal-Cask No. 16 Ford), Casey Mears (No. 5 Kellogg's/CARQUEST Chevrolet), Ryan Newman (No. 12 Alltel Dodge) -- plus, Earnhardt, Gordon, Johnson and Waltrip.

The Schedule ... The NASCAR Sprint Cup garage at Daytona opens from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Thursday, for inspection of Budweiser Shootout cars. That's followed by the traditional draw party at 7 p.m., which determines the starting lineup. On Friday, teams will practice twice -- from 4:15-5 p.m., with final practice from 6:30-7:30.

Fast Facts

What: 30th annual Budweiser Shootout At Daytona

Where: Daytona International Speedway
Track Layout: 2.5-mile tri-oval.

When: Saturday, Feb. 9
Time: 8:30 p.m. (ET)

TV: FOX, 8 p.m. (ET)
Radio: MRN; SIRIUS Satellite Radio, Channel 128

Distance: 70 laps/175 miles (20 laps in first segment; 50 laps in second segment).

2007 Winner: Tony Stewart

Drivers: Greg Biffle, Dave Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Bill Elliott, David Gilliland, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Dale Jarrett, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, Jamie McMurray, Casey Mears, Ryan Newman, Ken Schrader, Reed Sorenson, Tony Stewart, Martin Truex Jr., Michael Waltrip and J.J. Yeley.

-credit: nascar

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Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Ken Schrader , Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Casey Mears , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Kasey Kahne , J.J. Yeley , Martin Truex Jr. , Carl Edwards , Clint Bowyer , David Gilliland , Denny Hamlin , Reed Sorenson , Dave Blaney , Buddy Baker , Mark Martin