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Late Move Helps Kurt Busch Win Bud Shootout

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, February 12 2011

Kurt Busch celebrates in Victory Lane at Daytona after winning – with a little help from a friend – Saturday night's Bud Shootout. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Saturday night’s 75-lap Budweiser Shootout ended in a push.

The push, which came from drafting partner Jamie McMurray, enabled Kurt Busch to put a move on race-leader Ryan Newman in the final couple of hundred yards and win the the 24-car, non-points-paying Shootout at Daytona International Speedway by a matter of just a couple of feet.

McMurray, the winner of last year’s Daytona 500, finished second. Newman, also a former winner of the 500, was third. Defending series champion Jimmie Johnson was fourth.

Denny Hamlin, who finished second to Johnson in the point standings last year, actually crossed the finish line second, but he was bumped back to 12th because he made a pass below the yellow line as the cars of Busch, McMurray, Newman and his jostled their way toward the finish line.

Hamlin claimed after the race he went low to keep from creating a huge wreck. And, he said, his belief was that there was no yellow-line rule en route to the checkered flag. NASCAR officials didn’t blink, however.

It would not have affected the situation in Victory Lane, though, as replays showed that Busch had beat him to the finish line.

The victory was the first for Busch in the event which marks the official beginning of Speedweeks at Daytona. It came with new sponsor Pennzoil on the hood, and new number 22 on the doors of his Penske Racing Dodge.

“What an amazing win,” Busch said. “To get to victory lane for Shell/Pennzoil is incredible. This Dodge Charger was fast and I have to thank my “teammate” Jamie McMurray so much.

“(McMurray) was the man tonight. He stayed with us. He stayed true. I can’t thank him enough for doing that tonight. I hope it was the show the fans wanted to see.”

Busch, the 2004 Cup champion and a two-time race winner and Chase driver last season, described his winning move.

“I wanted to give those guys a push hard getting into Turn 1 and I never got to them,” he said. “Then my game plan changed to take whatever I could get. I knew the 11 (Hamlin) was going to split away from the 39 (Newman). I was hoping he would do it soon enough. It worked out in our favor at the end because McMurray stayed with us. For Shell/Pennzoil to believe in Penske and me, this is unbelievable to deliver them a victory in this 22 car.”

If the race had a signature, it was the continuance of two-car drafts in plate races – with the two cars maintaining bumper-to-bumper contact for extended periods. The result was 10 leaders and 28 lead changes.

“What an unbelievable experience – this two-car draft,” Busch said. “I had no idea what to expect going in. I was just going to take it one lap at a time and see how it plays out. I wanted to learn as the race went on how this Shell/Pennzoil Dodge raced.

Carl Edwards said to expect more of the same in next Sunday’s 500.

“It’s just gonna be two cars teamed up,” he said.  “It’s really difficult.  You have to really trust the guy that is pushing you.  We had our wreck right there in their normal pack, but once you get groups of

Kasey Kahne, left, and Kurt Busch talk before Saturday's Shootout. Busch went on to win the race. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

cars running that last lap, it’s just all about trust.”

Matt Kenseth, Edwards’ Roush Fenway Racing teammate, said he did not especially enjoy the two-car drafting.

“It’s not really that great having a whole bunch of groups of two and when you can’t do anything without that it isn’t really that much fun,” Kenseth said. “If you’re the pusher, you can’t see a thing and with going 207 miles an hour and pushing someone when you can’t see, it’s not a lot of fun.

At the end there I was the odd man out because I couldn’t get with a group of two.  Everybody was grouped up in twos and if you can’t get with one other car in a group, you’re pretty much done and you’re just gonna fall back.  It may be a little different next Sunday with more cars, but I don’t know.”

Edwards added,  “The problem is if you’re the guy pushing you can’t tell what’s going on in front, so you almost need to be on the same radio channel as the guy in front and that’s really hard to do.”

Steve Addington, Kurt Busch’s crew chief, said good or bad, the two-car draft played a huge role in the race.

“We felt like we couldn’t push like the other guys,” Addington said. “We got hooked up with Mark Martin there in the beginning and Kurt said that he was going to go talk to him (during the break). We decided to add some tape to our car because we couldn’t push and felt like if we were going to be pushed all night long, we needed to add some tape to the front of it. We did that. We got separated from Mark and then he got in trouble – he and the 18 car got together – and we lost him.

“I thought that we were in trouble. When Juan (Pablo Montoya) got knocked out and Jamie (McMurray) was out there by himself, he committed himself to us and that helped us. They can say what they want about the pusher, but the guy driving that car leading that tandem has to know what’s going on and pay attention. Kurt did an awesome job tonight.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. started the race from the pole but lost the lead to Tony Stewart on the second lap. Clint Bowyer, being pushed by Earnhardt, took the lead on the third lap and so it went as leads were never safe in this race.

When the first segment of 25 laps of the two-segment race ended, Jeff Burton had the lead and would guide the 24-car field to the green flag to start the second, 50-lap, segment. He had started 15th.

His Richard Childress Racing teammate, Kevin Harvick was second while Earnhardt was third.

But none of that mattered a bit.

Burton’s lead lasted less than a lap as the second segment featured more pass-o-rama action.

What plate race would be complete without a Big Wreck? Saturday’s occurred three laps into the second segment when Ragan Smith chopped down on Carl Edwards and Edwards clipped Earnhardt.

“Me and Jimmie were trying to work together … and I got hooked in the right rear quarterpanel,” Earnhardt said. “It was pretty fun. A new style racing for sure.”

A couple other smaller wrecks would soon start sending other contenders to the garage.

A lap after the restart, Kyle Busch was spun by Mark Martin, bringing out another caution.

“I was having a blast,” Martin said. “I can’t figure out why that happened. We were going good and I was having a good time.”

Next to crash was Michael Waltrip, who was spun by Stewart, a three-time winner of the event.

As expected, speeds quickly shot up to over 200 mph in the race. Like up to 7 mph faster than 200 mph.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, February 12 2011
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