2010-02-11 / Sports

Harvick Wins Shootout Thriller

By Gerald Hodges THE RACING REPORTER

Kevin Harvick Kevin Harvick DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout lived up to its name. It was a no-holds-barred shootout up until the last lap, and the type finish fans always hope for.

After a caution fell with just six laps remaining in the 75-lap event, Michael Waltrip was turned sideways by Ryan Newman, setting up for the exciting finish.

Kevin Harvick, sidelined with the flu for a week, won the race, taking the lead with just two laps remaining.

The race actually ended under caution when Greg Biffle’s car had a flat tire to trigger an eightcar pileup behind winner Harvick, runner-up Kasey Kahne and third-place finisher Jamie McMurray.

Just before the race, Harvick, who had never run a lap in his car before strapping in for the race, told a national network television audience, “I’ll earn my paycheck tonight.”

And that he did. Harvick ran in front or close to it the entire final 50 laps of the 75-lap race and held off some real challenges by Tony Stewart and McMurray, as well as a pack of other hungry drivers, who bumped and banged each other all night. The night might have been a chilly one but the action was hot and heated.

“I think the biggest thing that we learned for us is our handling package is fairly good,” said Harvick. “Obviously it will change a little bit as we go through the week because everything is going to shift to daytime temperatures for the Daytona 500.”

“Our basic package of car is really good. And tonight, that was what was able to keep us up front. I wasn’t pinned to one groove. I could run the top, bottom or middle. Didn’t have to be picky about who I followed. I could go wherever I want. That’s nice from a driver standpoint to have options like that.”

The win for Harvick and his Richard Childress Chevrolet team was his second in as many years and was worth $200,000.

Carl Edwards appeared to be the car to beat, dominating the first 25 laps, but he was shuffled out of line with about 30 laps to go and was eventually involved in the crash at the end.

Rounding out the top 10 behind Harvick, Kahne and Mc- Murray were Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano, Brian Vickers, Stewart and Montoya.

In other racing news, Danica Patrick finished sixth in her stock-car debut.

Patrick, racing a part-time schedule in the Nationwide Series this season, passed several cars in the closing laps of Saturday’s ARCA season opener at Daytona, and was running with three laps left, but didn’t have enough to catch the leaders. Still, it was a good start for her.

Patrick spent much of the race among the top 10, but she bumped fenders with Nelson Piquet and spun through the infield grass on Lap 54. She dropped to 17th, but worked her way through most of the field.

On a positive note, Daytona International Speedway announced this year’s advance ticket sales were ahead of last year.

Fox Television said the ad sales for the rest of the network’s 13-race schedule are 8 to 10 percent ahead of last year’s.

Fox is seeing advertising sales slowly rebound across virtually all sports. These early returns represent a big relief for the sport and the network considering that last year’s TV ratings were the lowest in a decade.

“We’re definitely going to be in a much better situation than we were last year,” said Neil Mulcahy, Fox Sports’ executive vice president of advertising sales.

Emblematic of the rebounding economy is the automotive category, which Fox said is tripling its revenue commitment from last year. Fox expects to double the amount of auto sponsors that buy into the regular season. Last year, just two autos – Toyota and Ford – bought regular season schedules.

Weekend racing

The efforts of Hendrick Motorsports paid big dividends as Mark Martin won the pole for the Daytona 500 and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was second. The pair will start on the front row for the Sunday’s race.

These are the first teammates to sweep the front row for the Daytona 500 since 2007, when David Gilliland and Ricky Rudd did it for Yates Racing.

Martin, who has never won the Daytona 500, qualified at 191.188 mph while Earnhardt’s speed was 190.913.

Maybe Dale Earnhardt’s fortune has changed. It’s the first time in his career that he has been on the front row for a restrictor plate race, where seven of his 18 career wins have come.

Only the front starting row is locked in for next Sunday’s Daytona 500. The rest of the field must race their way in or use provisionals from last year

Martin Truex Jr., winner of the 2009 Daytona 500, will be with a new team this season. He left Dale Earnhardt Inc. and moved to Michael Waltrip Racing. Truex had several good practice sessions this past week, and looks like he can stay with the leaders in the Sunday race.

“It’s a new start for me,” said the driver of the No. 56 NAPA Toyota. “I have had a couple tough seasons in the last two years, so I’m looking forward to some change. There are a lot of things I have seen going on during the off season that shows me it’s going to be a great deal.”

“All the testing has gone really well. We have a lot of good guys and a lot of ambition. The opportunity is here to succeed. We just have to do every thing we can to take advantage of opportunities as they come our way. It’s a great team and we’ve got a lot of great stuff.”

TV schedule: Thursday’s Gatorade Duel features two 150- mile qualifying races that determine positions 3-35 for the Daytona 500. Provisionals and a complicated process will determine the remaining eight positions. Both races will be televised on Speed, beginning at 2 p.m. (EDT).

Friday, February 12, Nationwide Series 250, starting time: 8 p.m. (EDT). TV: ESPN2.

Sat., Feb. 13, Camping World Truck Series 300, starting time: 1 p.m. (EDT). TV: ESPN2.

Sun., Feb. 14, Sprint Cup Daytona 500, starting time: 1 p.m. (EDT); TV: Fox; defending champion: Matt Kenseth.

Racing trivia question: How many Daytona 500s did Dale Earnhardt Sr. win?

Last week’s question: Name Mark Martin’s three teammates that race with him in the Cup Series. Answer. Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

You may contact the Racing Reporter at: hodgesnews@ earthlink.net.

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