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Busch wins Shootout after low move by Hamlin

Kurt Busch won NASCAR's 2011 curtain-raiser event after Denny Hamlin was penalised for crossing the line and Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt Jr. crashed out early on.
Kurt Busch won NASCAR's first event of the season, the annual invitation-only Budwesier Shootout at the Daytona International Speedway - but only after Denny Hamlin had crossed the finish line in first place and then been black-flagged by NASCAR officials.

Dale Earnhardt Jr had drawn the pole position for the Shootout ahead of Tony Steward, Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin, with Kurt Busch starting relatively far down in 17th. Earnhardt got a good start but it was Clint Bowyer making the best getaway of all the front-runners, taking the lead from 7th spot before pairing up with the #88 to continue running at the front as the field started to work out that two cars were better than one when it came to drafting on the newly repaved Daytona track.

Denny Hamlin was soon seeking a drafting partner of his own, first trying Kasey Kahne out for size but the #4 Red Bull abruptly faed from contention with an engine problem and headed to the pits on lap 7, leaving Hamlin to knock on Tony Stewart's door to allow the pair to run third and fourth.

The status quo at the front did not last for much longer. Jimmie Johnson, Kurt and Kyle Busch and Jeff Burton were all on the move to the front, and it was Burton who surged into the lead, working with Tony Stewart and briefly boosting the #14 into the lead as well before Dale Earnhardt Jr hooked up with Kyle Busch (of all people) to return to the lead on lap 17. Kyle decided he wanted a turn in front too and led for four laps before Jeff Burton once again took charge into the first yellow of the day at lap 25, a scheduled caution that allowed all the cars to come in for some adjustments and to take a short break before the final 50-lap sprint to the end.

When racing resumed after a ten minute hiatus, Burton led Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson to the green flag - but racing did not last long, as the old idiom "cautions breed cautions" was proven once more.

Carl Edwards went for a particularly aggressive strategy at the restart and paid for it in a big way, initially getting turned by contact with the #78 of Regan Smith that sent him into a major accident with crowd favourite Dale Earnhardt Jr. and spinning it into the wall. With all the cars still tightly packed form the restart, it was inevitable that the wreck would catch out others as well - and Joey Logano, Juan Montoya and Kevin Conway all got collected. Jimmie Johnson also sustained right-side damage, but at least his pit crew were able to fix it up and get him back out on the road.

"We were three- or four-wide back there and I was going between the #88 and the #78, and I don't think the #78 knew I was in there," explained Edwards. "He kept coming down, and I just had enough of my car in there. I laid up against the #88 and then the #78 got me in the right-front."

The race ran under yellow for seven laps before restarting on lap 34, but once again there was a rapid yellow - this time caused by a collision between Mark Martin and Kyle Busch on lap 36 which sent them both to the pits. Although Kyle thought the damage was minimal at first, he pulled in again on lap 42 and headed for the garage, his day done.

The race went green again, and the most effective drafting pair initially proved to be between the leader Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick, while behind them Kurt Busch hooked up with Jamie McMurray and Jimmie Johnson paired up with Greg Biffle to provide the strongest challenges.




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