News & Media

Shootout looms as Speedweeks set to begin

February 18, 2012, NASCAR Wire Service,

Speedweeks is about to get under way in earnest as cars take to Daytona International Speedway starting Friday for Budweiser Shootout and Daytona 500 practices leading up to Saturday night's 34th running of the Shootout. The annual exhibition may shed light on how the new faces will fit in their new places ahead of the season-opening Daytona 500, but plenty of questions still remain.

Some of the asking will start Thursday as the media converge for the 13th annual NASCAR Media Day, where drivers across all three national series will meet the press. Many questions are expected to be directed toward Kasey Kahne, one of the season's biggest wild cards.

The only drivers on more of a tear than Kahne during the home stretch of the Chase last season were title contenders Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards. Kahne could have been content to play out the string as a placeholder driver for the lame-duck Red Bull Racing team, which shut its doors just weeks after the season ended. Instead, he closed out his one-year Red Bull stint with seven top-10 finishes in the last eight races, highlighted by a convincing win at Phoenix International Raceway in the penultimate event of the season.

Momentum may be an abstract concept, but for Kahne, the biggest intangible on his side heading into 2012 is stability. Even though Kahne was a constant at the wheel of a red No. 9 for the first seven seasons of his career, the last four of those were spent in the turbulence of team restructuring as Evernham Motorsports became Gillett Evernham Motorsports, which eventually merged into Richard Petty Motorsports.

With the uncertainty behind him, Kahne enters the season with a four-year deal at one of NASCAR's most powerful teams.

"I have four years here that I know it's going to be stable and be competitive and have great people and a great team around me," said Kahne, who finished last in the 2011 Shootout. "To be able to be a part of all that is something that I haven't had. It's definitely nice to have it, makes you feel pretty good about where you're at. It's taken time. I've had some really good years in Cup and I've learned a lot from everything, and now I'm just in a really solid situation and need to take full advantage of it."

The 75-lap Shootout also will offer a glimpse into how NASCAR's new aerodynamic package will perform in race conditions and whether the two-car push technique will turn, as expected, into a rarely used tactic. Friday's two practice sessions should reveal more.

Budweiser Shootout

2012 Format
• 75 laps broken into two segments (25-lap Segment 1 and 50-lap Segment 2).
• Between segments will be a 10-minute break where crews will be allowed to perform routine pit-stop changes.
• Both green- and yellow-flag laps count.
• 2012 is the fourth season that the race distance is 75 laps and the 11th different format utilized in the 34 years of the Budweiser Shootout.
• Starting positions will be set by a blind draw.
• Drivers who finished in the top 25 in 2011 driver points.
• Past Budweiser Shootout winners, who competed in at least one Cup event in the 2011 season.
• Past Daytona Cup points race winners, who competed in at least one Cup event in the 2011 season.
• Three drivers eligible for the 2012 Shootout are making their first start: Marcos Ambrose, Trevor Bayne and Brad Keselowski. Five drivers won the Shootout in their first start: Buddy Baker, Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett and Denny Hamlin.
• Kevin Harvick, with two wins, is the only repeat winner in the past eight Shootouts.
• Only two of the past nine Shootouts were won from a starting position better than 14th.
• Kurt Busch won last year's Shootout by 0.058 seconds over Jamie McMurray, the closest MOV ever in a Shootout.
• Last year, Kurt Busch, the only Dodge driver in the field, scored the first Shootout win for the manufacturer
• There were 28 lead changes in last year's Shootout, the most ever in the event.
• More than $17,900,000 has been awarded to drivers competing in the 33 Shootouts (since 1979).
• Tony Stewart is the only driver to win more than $1 million in career Shootout winnings; his average finish of 5.08 in 12 starts is the best among all active drivers. Dale Earnhardt Jr. ranks second in career Shootout winnings with close to $975,000.
• The most money won in a single Shootout event is $215,000, by Tony Stewart in 2007 and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2008.
• Jeff Gordon is making his 19th consecutive Shootout start (1994-2012). Mark Martin has the most consecutive Shootout starts(20); Martin competed in every Shootout between 1989 and 2008.
• Mark Martin and Bill Elliott each have competed in 23 Shootouts, most of all drivers. Martin leads all drivers with 17 top-10s; Elliott leads all drivers with 22 lead-lap finishes.
• The final lead change took place with two laps to go or less in nine of the past 14 Shootouts including the last four; five of the 14 ended with a last-lap pass.
• The race winner led only the final lap in seven of the 33 Shootouts, most recently by Kevin Harvick in 2009.
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. led 47 laps in his 2008 Shootout win, the most laps ever led by a Shootout winner. Earnhardt has led 117 career laps in the Shootout, the most of all drivers.
• There were 14 leaders in the 2009 Shootout, the only race with double-digit leaders.
• The driver winning the Shootout went on to win the 500 in the same season five times: Bobby Allison (1982), Bill Elliott (1987), Dale Jarrett (1996), Jeff Gordon (1997) and Jarrett (2000).
• Dale Earnhardt won six of his 12 Shootouts and had 11 top-fives, both tops among all drivers; he had a 2.75 average finish.
• Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s win in 2008 is his only top-10 finish in his past five Shootout starts.
• Carl Edwards has only one top-10 finish in his five Shootout starts; his best finish of seventh came in 2009.
• Jamie McMurray has two second-place finishes and a third-place finish in his past three Shootout starts; he was passed on the last lap by Kurt Busch last season.
• Jeff Gordon has not finished worst than sixth in his past four Shootout starts; he has two Shootout wins but both came in his first four starts.
• 2012 is the fourth consecutive year that Kasey Kahne has competed in the Shootout in a different make.
• Kevin Harvick finished in the top 10 in all but one of his six Shootout starts; his average finish of 6.57 ranks second among all active drivers.
• Michael Waltrip has failed to finish in his past three Shootout appearances.
• Ryan Newman's third-place finish in last years Shootout ended a four-race streak of finishes of 17th or worse.

What the Shootout won't do is necessarily predict a Daytona 500 champion; no one has swept both events since Dale Jarrett accomplished the feat in 2000.