A bout with the flu and a lack of practice time didn't seem to bother Kevin Harvick, who won Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway for the second straight year.
In a green-white-chequered-flag finish, Harvick took the lead on lap 75 and earned the win when caution froze the field after a push from Jeff Gordon's Chevrolet spun Greg Biffle's Ford in turn three and ignited a multicar wreck that trashed the car of polesitter Carl Edwards, among others.
"I was sick on Thursday and didn't even get to see a lap in the car, but this thing was a rocket, man," said Harvick, the fourth back-to-back winner in Shootout history.
Kasey Kahne came home second in the non-points NASCAR Sprint Cup event, followed by Jamie McMurray, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin. Gordon, Joey Logano, Brian Vickers, Tony Stewart and Juan Pablo Montoya completed the top ten, as the race ended under caution one lap beyond the scheduled 75 laps.
A lap 70 wreck sent Michael Waltrip's Toyota spinning hard into the backstretch wall after contact from Ryan Newman and brought out the fourth caution of the race. Biffle and Kahne remained on the track to take the top two positions, as the rest of the lead-lap cars came to pit road for tires.
McMurray was first off pit road after a two-tire stop and restarted third on lap 75, followed by Harvick, Kyle Busch and Gordon. After the restart, Harvick quickly surged into the lead past the two cars on older tyres.
The early stages of the race saw minimal change at the front of the field. McMurray wrested the top spot from Edwards on lap 30 - the first lead change of the race - but Edwards, who led 42 of the first 43 laps, regained the point on the following circuit. On lap 32, contact from Mark Martin's Chevy sent Kurt Busch sliding through the infield grass and into the outside wall near the pit road exit.
Busch had wrecked his primary Shootout car in Thursday's practice and went to a backup car for Saturday's race.
"I'm making more laps in the ambulance than I am on the track," Busch said wryly after leaving the infield care centre.
Polesitter Carl Edwards led wire-to-wire in the first 25-lap segment of the race. The segment ran caution-free until lap 25, when Michael Waltrip spun his #51 Toyota off turn 2. During a ten-minute break between segments, crews had the opportunity to work on the handling of their cars.
"That's the most I've ever led at a speedway," Edwards said during the intermission. "I'm having fun with it."
Indeed. In the first segment alone, Edwards more than doubled his combined 12 laps led in three previous Shootout appearances. But the fun didn't last, as Edwards was shuffled back after losing the lead to Stewart on lap 44. He finished 17th in the 24-driver field.
by Reid Spencer/Sporting News