Daytona Shootout: Budweiser, Earnhardt Jr. race report

Stewart Leads Earnhardt Jr. Across Finish Line at Budweiser Shootout Dale Jr. Leads 20 Laps, Finishes Second in Season-Opening All-Star Tilt Tony Stewart won the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona for the second straight year, beating Dale Earnhardt...

Stewart Leads Earnhardt Jr. Across Finish Line at Budweiser Shootout
Dale Jr. Leads 20 Laps, Finishes Second in Season-Opening All-Star Tilt

Tony Stewart won the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona for the second straight year, beating Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon to the finish in the 70-lap all-star race. Stewart takes home more than $200,000 of the event-record $966,000 purse. Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team were able to launch from a 16th-place starting position into the top five in less than five laps, and stayed among the leaders for the rest of the afternoon. The Budweiser Shootout at Daytona is the season-opening race of the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup season.

Dale Jr. led the Shootout for 20 laps, and ran second to Stewart for the final 23 circuits, but was unable to pass for the victory in the final laps. Earnhardt was able to nudge defending Winston Cup champion Gordon at the finish line by several inches. Since finishing sixth in this race last season, Dale Jr. and the Bud team has finished no worse than second place at Daytona in four races (2001 125 qualifier/2nd place, 2001 Daytona 500/2nd place, 2001 Pepsi 400/1st place.)

The Key Moment: The 70-lap all-star race includes a required pit stop, which the Bud team took on lap 41 while leading the race. The 14.9 second pit stop for four tires and fuel allowed Dale Jr. to return in fourth position. He and the orange car of Stewart soon dueled into the first two positions, where they stayed for the remaining laps.

Dale Jr's Quotes:

"I was doing all I could. That was all I had - and all the car had. I did not have any chance to make a good run at Tony - he was always able to make a move to stop my momentum. I was trying to use my brakes to get the car behind me right on my bumper, and it also took the air off of Tony so he would lose momentum as well. That's how Gordon was able to move up - because I was slowing up, but we never could pass the leader. With about three laps to go, I was sitting there still trying to figure out what I was going to have to do to get past him and then I was just trying to hold off Jeff and Sterling (Marlin) for second place.

"It was a helluva race from second place on back but it was disappointing that the guy in front has such an easy ride. The new rules (new aerodynamic regulations from NASCAR) meant that the top cars, the best cars, could work together to get away from the rest of the field. With the old rules, anybody could run up front, so now it rewards the teams that worked the hardest and it puts more in the driver's hands. I welcome that change: it gives me more control over the outcome.

"Tony and I work well together. We've worked together on the superspeedways the last couple of years, and it seems like our cars draft great together. It seems like I can also work well with Bobby (Labonte, Stewart's teammate). He and I worked together today, but there comes a point at the end of the race when you have to quit working together and everybody's trying to win the race.

"I was happy with the performance today. Last year, we were the dominant team on the superspeedways like this, and I was worried that the changes in the rules would have a bad effect on us. But, I feel great that, in my third year in Winston Cup, I'm considered a favorite or a serious contender for the Daytona 500. Ya know, there are guys that have been out here for 20 years still struggling and trying to be competitive in the 500, so it makes me feel good that my team and I are one of the teams to beat.

Best Radio Conversations
Dale Jr. (joking with the team as he passed the Bud pit area while leading on lap 25) "Hey... what's up guys?!?"

-bud/dei-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart