Rookie Hamlin wins Shootout

Rookie Hamlin wins Shootout

The rookie of the year race just got a lot more interesting. Denny Hamlin made his mark in the Nextel Cup series by wheeling the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet to a victory in the Budweiser Shootout. Race winner Denny Hamlin ...

The rookie of the year race just got a lot more interesting. Denny Hamlin made his mark in the Nextel Cup series by wheeling the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet to a victory in the Budweiser Shootout.

Race winner Denny Hamlin celebrates.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
"I can't believe it," said Hamlin. "I wasn't the most optimistic person before the race started I didn't think I was going to have any help. We put ourselves into position that last half of the race, my pit crew did a great job and got me out. I didn't think I was going to be able to hold Tony (Stewart) off there in the end but Jimmie Johnson gave me a push.

"A couple of guys near the end got beside me, but I just held my line."

The 25-year-old held off teammate Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to grab the win in his first try at Daytona International Speedway. It is Hamlin's first victory in the Nextel Cup series.

"I didn't think I was going to have any help at all out there," Hamlin said. "I just wanted to earn respect for next Sunday."

Earnhardt earned second, "We had a pretty good car. We started at the back and it was a little difficult to pass, we really couldn't find a way to the front .We got involved in that mess on the backstretch.we came in and straightened out the dent and we were fast after that.

"I was real glad to be able to get second I didn't think we'd be able to get into the position to get second."

Reigning Cup series champion Tony Stewart was third and had strong comments regarding the excessive bump drafting that went on during the race and how dangerous it made the race conditions.

"Someone is going to get killed out there," said Stewart. "I just hope that I am not around for it. I was watching the TV today and they were doing a tribute for Dale Earnhardt, and I was thinking out there today that five years from now they are going to be doing a tribute for someone could be me, it could be Dale Jr.

"We're going to hurt somebody really, really bad next Sunday if we don't find some way to calm this down soon."

Scott Riggs and Jimmie Johnson complete the top five.

Ken Schrader leads the field.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
After being delayed a day for rain the Budweiser Shootout roared to live Sunday afternoon at Daytona International Raceway. Ken Schrader piloting the Woods Brothers No. 21 Ford brought the field to the green flag for the initial 20 lap segment.

Schrader led until lap 13 when Johnson fueled by the Hendrick power plant in the No. 48 Chevy cruised past.

A multi-car accident erupted on lap 15 when Ryan Newman and Brian Vickers made contact collecting Kasey Kahne in the process. Earnhardt, Jr., Riggs and Dale Jarrett also caught a piece of the wreck but sustained minimal damage.

Kevin Harvick's team pushed him into the garage under that caution after he complained of smoke filling the cockpit of the No. 29 Chevy several laps before the yellow.

"We had trouble with it all weekend," said Harvick. "We thought we had fixed it.but every lap there we just kept getting slower and slower.then the cockpit started filling up with hopefully it is just this motor. Not a good start, but better today than next Sunday."

Schrader was scored as the leader under caution when the 20th lap of the first segment was completed. That brought the cars to pit road for a ten minute break for the crews to work on their race cars.

When the second fifty-lap segment began, Schrader remained the leader. Carl Edwards had dipped below the yellow line during the closing laps of the first segment, which is a no-no in NASCAR-land. So, the No. 99 Ford was sent from fourth to last on the restart.

Johnson quickly past by Schrader to regain the lead on lap 22, just behind teammate Jeff Gordon blew the engine on the No. 24 Chevy bringing out the yellow.

"I was hoping it was just a tire," said Gordon. "We know we have a better car next week."

The field restarted on lap 29 with Stewart getting around Johnson briefly for the lead. It didn't last long, as Johnson managed to get by, but Stewart fell back and gave Kyle Busch a push that got the No. 5 Chevy into the lead.

Busch led until lap 36 when Michael Waltrip charged the No. 55 Dodge to the front.

Elliott Sadler, Carl Edwards and Jamie McMurray.
Photo by Bob Harmeyer.
A brief altercation on track that bunched up cars forced Edwards to once again dip below the yellow line. NASCAR black-flagged the Roush Ford but Edwards refused to pit. NASCAR called the driver, crew chief and car owner post race to the hauler and pulled Edwards score card.

Edwards eventually did make his way to pit road to take his penalty even though he did not improve his position by going below the yellow; in fact he lost three spots. Unfortunately, he was too fast entering pit road amassing another penalty from NASCAR.

Johnson found the front of the field again at lap 47. Several front running cards pitted putting Scott Riggs into the lead until lap 52 when rookie Hamlin found the front. With seven to go, Hamlin continued to pad his lead as Stewart, Earnhardt and Waltrip locked in a dogfight for second.

Stewart got some help from Johnson with four to go allowing him to regain the catbird seat. Just as the No. 20 got out front, the caution came out for debris after Ryan Newman brushed the wall and left some of the No. 12 Dodge on the racetrack.

That set up a green/white/checker finish with the No. 20 Chevy out front on the restart. It was the Gibbs teammates of Stewart and Hamlin battling for the win with a little pressure from Earnhardt. But, in the end, rookie Hamlin made his mark in NASCAR winning his first Budweiser Shootout.

There were three cautions for 13 laps and nine lead changes among 14 drivers.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Ken Schrader , Kevin Harvick , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Scott Riggs , Kasey Kahne , Brian Vickers , Carl Edwards , Eric Gilbert , Elliott Sadler , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch