Bud Shootout kicks off 2004 season

Bud Shootout kicks off 2004 season

The official start to the 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup season isn't until the Daytona 500 next Sunday, but for several drivers, the green flag drops on 2004 at Saturday's Bud Shootout (7:30 p.m. ET on TNT). It's the first time in 2004 that the cars hit...

The official start to the 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup season isn't until the Daytona 500 next Sunday, but for several drivers, the green flag drops on 2004 at Saturday's Bud Shootout (7:30 p.m. ET on TNT). It's the first time in 2004 that the cars hit the track in truly competitive form.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Boris Said.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
"What's cool about the Shootout is that you get to start drafting immediately," commented Dale Earnhardt Jr., who won the exhibition gala last year in his Budweiser sponsored Chevy. "Most of what we do all through the month of January is run by ourselves. You're ready to race somebody."

The Bud Shootout features 21 drivers who either won poles in 2003 or are former winners of the event. Drivers use it as a warm-up for the qualifying events held over the next five days. The first two positions for the season-opening Daytona 500 are set by lap times on Sunday. The next 28 spots are contested in a pair of 125-mile qualifying races on Thursday and the field is rounded out by qualifying time and provisionals.

"I kind of feel like the drivers who are in the Shootout have a little bit of an advantage because we have one race under our belts before the 125's," Stewart stated. He won back-to-back Shootouts in 2001 and 2002. "(It's) a warm-up session to get the first race under your belt. When we come and test, we run by ourselves and don't even see anybody on the track hardly. Now, all of a sudden, we're going to be all in a big bunch."

For the competing drivers, the Bud Shootout is a welcome sprint before the grind of the long points races start next week. The Shootout is held under the lights on Saturday night and its all-or-nothing nature reminds racers of their roots on regional short tracks.

Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
"It's a great race," stated Jeff Gordon, winner of the Shootout in 1994 and 1997 and was leading the event last year with five laps to go before Earnhardt drafted by for the win. "There is a lot more pressure in the 125's because your starting position in the Daytona 500 counts on it, and you don't want to tear anything up. In the Shootout, you can go for broke and it doesn't really matter other than the win."

Earnhardt dominated Speedweeks at Daytona last year, picking up wins in his 125 race and the Busch Series race to go along with his Shootout victory. His late father won the Shootout six times and had wins in the 125 races for 10 consecutive years from 1990-1999.

"I love Speedweeks," Junior continued at the Draw Party. "I spent the off-season feeling like an unemployed bum, so it's great to get to the track and get used to the spectacle of the races again. By the end of every season, you're begging for it to end. But, once the off-season is a few weeks old, you're begging to get going again.

"It's like all of the off-season energy gets bottled up and it's ready to explode by the time the Shootout gets here."

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Boris Said , Kevin Harvick , Eric Gilbert