Countdown to the Shootout: Strategy

Countdown to the Budweiser Shootout: The Route to Victory Goes Down Pit Road (Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2005) -- For the 20 teams competing in the 27th running of the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona, it's not so much the 70-lap sprint that makes this...

Countdown to the Budweiser Shootout: The Route to Victory Goes Down Pit Road

(Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2005) -- For the 20 teams competing in the 27th running of the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona, it's not so much the 70-lap sprint that makes this race difficult. It's the format to which the 70 laps are run.

The Budweiser Shootout is divided into segments of 20 and 50 laps, the latter of which far exceeds the distance for one full tank of fuel. As a result, teams are required to make one pit stop at some juncture of the final segment, leaving the balance of the race not only in the hands of the driver and crew chief, but also the pit crew.

The fuel equation is still relatively new to the Shootout, as the format was altered from 25 laps to 70 laps four years ago. Before that, a car could easily go the distance on a single tank of fuel.

"The pit stop is key," said Tommy Baldwin, crew chief for the No. 9 UAW-Dodge Dealers team with driver Kasey Kahne. "You can only go 37 or 38 laps on a tank of fuel, so it all depends on when and if the caution falls. If the caution doesn't come out, that leaves you with a green-flag pit stop, and then it becomes even more crucial. You've got to have a quick pit stop to have a chance."

Equally important is the split-second decision on tires; more specifically how many to take -- if any at all -- during the pit stop. In 2003, Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s decision to take two paid off. He restarted sixth behind cars that took fuel only and outraced them to earn his first Shootout victory.

Last year's race was especially finicky as various tire strategies following a series of green-flag pit stops went for naught when a nasty wreck brought out a 15-minute red-flag period. Unlike a typical points race, this event allows teams to service their cars during a red flag period. It brought everyone back to even keel for a final sprint to the checkers. Dale Jarrett, racing mid-pack most of the night, came from ninth to first in the final seven laps to win his third Budweiser Shootout.

"It's hard to dictate what's going to happen," Baldwin said. "It's the same as any other race in that you've got to put yourself in position to win. If we do that, we feel pretty confident that the guy behind the wheel can get it done."

This will mark Baldwin's third Budweiser Shootout but his first with the No. 9 team. His driver, 2004 Rookie-of-the-Year Kahne, is one of four drivers making Shootout debuts on Feb. 12.

Also, the 2005 Budweiser Shootout will mark the first race for four new driver/crew chief combinations: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (crew chief Pete Rondeau), Bobby Labonte (crew chief Steve Addington), Jeremy Mayfield (crew chief Slugger Labbe), and Brian Vickers (crew chief Lance McGrew).

The 27th running of the Budweiser Shootout is scheduled for Sat., Feb. 12 at 8 p.m. ET. 3 Doors Down will perform before and after the race, kicking off their 2005 world tour. Race tickets are available by calling 1-800-Pit-Shop or by logging on to www.1800Pitshop.com. For more information on the Budweiser Shootout, including photos, logos, statistics and past news releases from the Countdown Series, please log on to fingerprintonline.com.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Jeremy Mayfield , Kasey Kahne , Brian Vickers , Tommy Baldwin