Countdown to the Daytona Shootout: Jeff Gordon

Countdown to the Budweiser Shootout: Jeff Gordon 4 Days Until The Budweiser Shootout Gordon: "Anything is possible in the Shootout" (Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2004) -- Looking back, Jeff Gordon still isn't exactly sure how Dale Earnhardt Jr. did it. ...

Countdown to the Budweiser Shootout: Jeff Gordon

4 Days Until The Budweiser Shootout
Gordon: "Anything is possible in the Shootout"

(Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2004) -- Looking back, Jeff Gordon still isn't exactly sure how Dale Earnhardt Jr. did it. All he knows is nothing surprises him when it comes to the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona.

Leading a pack of wolves with five laps to go in last year's Budweiser Shootout -- the first to be held under the lights at Daytona International Speedway -- Gordon seemed impassable. You could pull beside the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, but getting by it was whole other story. Gordon was only 12 miles away from his third Shootout victory.

But a lot can happen in 12 miles, and a lot did.

Dale Jr. was getting impatient. Having already staged two unsuccessful attempts to get by Gordon, the Bud driver regrouped and tried again. Only this time he had help. The draft split into double-file lanes, with Ryan Newman pushing Junior and Kurt Busch backing Gordon. Junior swung the Budweiser Chevy deep into the turns and caught Gordon's No. 24 on the high side. The two were side by side as they exited the turn.

"Once I saw them start to break into double file behind me, I just tried to keep my eyes open on what lane was moving," Gordon recalls. "That's when I saw Junior go high, but I still didn't think he had enough momentum to get by me."

Perhaps alone Junior could not. But a mighty bump from the No. 12 car of Ryan Newman gave Junior more than enough momentum. It put the Bud car in the lead for good.

Gordon finished just .180 seconds behind Dale Jr. But more than a runner-up paycheck was the reminder of how the Budweiser Shootout is nothing more than a crapshoot. Sometimes to win you have to be lucky. Or more importantly, you have to have drafting help.

"I was in great position sitting there in front, but anything is possible in the Budweiser Shootout," he said. "Junior certainly knows how to work the draft."

Gordon will again try for win No. 3 when he makes his 11th Shootout appearance this Saturday. His last win came in 1997 when he held off Rusty Wallace and Dale Earnhardt to the stripe. His first win came in 1994 in his Shootout debut.

SPEEDWEEKS DOUBLE: Only four drivers have won the Budweiser Shootout and the Daytona 500 in the same Speedweeks, and Gordon is one of them, winning both races in 1997. The only other drivers to accomplish such a feat are Dale Jarrett (1996 and 2000), Bill Elliott (1987) and Bobby Allison (1982). Gordon is also one of four drivers to win the Budweiser Shootout and the NASCAR Winston Cup championship in the same season (1997).

The 26th running of the Budweiser Shootout is scheduled for Sat., Feb. 7. It can be seen live on TNT at 8 p.m. ET. For race tickets, call 1-800-PITSHOP or log on to www.1-800-Pitshop.com.

Anheuser-Busch's 12 U.S.-based breweries and network of more than 700 wholesalers reduce delivery time and ensure that fresh beer is in retail accounts shortly after packaging. As it reads on every beer package, Anheuser-Busch beers including Budweiser are at their peak of freshness and taste within 110 days from their "Born On" date.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Rusty Wallace , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman