Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished sixth in yesterdays Budweiser Shootout after being one of the dominant players for much of the race. Dale Jr. led three different times for nine laps in his first-ever run in the race that includes last year's Bud Pole winners.

Tony Stewart eventually grabbed his first Bud Shootout victory at Daytona, but was forced to fend off a furious late-race charge by Dale Earnhardt, who finished second in the 70-lap, non-points all-star race that starts the 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup season. The race was run without any yellow flags, and included 19 lead changes among seven drivers.

Starting in the 10th spot, Dale Jr. jumped into the top five by lap three, and stayed among the top five positions until lap 68. He was in second place with two laps to go, but was shuffled back when his father went around him, followed by a long line of cars. Dale Jr. was able to get back in line and gained several positions in the final laps to finish sixth.

"I was happy to be where I was (second place) behind Tony (Stewart), but I just couldn't get anybody to work with me there," explained Dale Jr. afterwards. "If I had to do it again, I still think that's where I want to be. Once dad got past me, I went backwards. I couldn't run up at the top (of the track) like Dad could, so I really couldn't block him when he got a run on me."

Earnhardt Jr. continued: "Tony's one of the good guys that'll work with me. I did what I could to help him and the 18 car (Bobby Labonte). They're both good guys, but there's nobody that's really gonna help ya in the last 10 laps. I guess I'm pretty happy with the race. The car was great, and I'm disappointed that we didn't finish better, but it's nothing that a few cold Buds won't solve."

"It was kinda scary early on in the race," he admitted. "We were running three-wide and I'm just glad we didn't wreck! My car was tight (front end doesn't turn effectively). So, a lot of times I'd duck the left front corner of the car inside of Tony just to get some fresh air on the nose and get the car to turn. We were good down low there."

The Budweiser team were also pleased with the performance of the No. 8 car, and are optimistic that the machine they will race in next Sunday's Daytona 500 will be as good or better.

The brand-new chassis used yesterday had never been raced before, while the chassis that will be raced in the 500 is the same one that ran so well in last year's Winston 500 at Talladega (AL).

Dale Jr. qualified 18th in Saturday's Bud Pole qualifying, but his starting position in the 500 will be determined by his finishing position in Thursday's Gatorade 125 qualifying race.