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Shootout getting drivers' attention

By KEVIN KELLY

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 11, 2001


DAYTONA BEACH -- More than in previous years, today's Budweiser Shootout means something to the 18 drivers competing this season because of the new aerodynamic rules in place for the Daytona 500.

"In the past, it was almost a hindrance because you had to bring another car, you had to bring more people," Jeff Burton said. "It's an advantage to be in the shootout this year. I think we'll learn more (today) to apply to next Thursday (Gatorade 125s) and next Sunday (Daytona 500) than we ever would without running it."

The format of the race, which begins at 2 p.m., is different than the past 22 years. The race has increased from 25 laps to 70, drivers must make one pit stop under the green flag, caution flags count toward the final total and the race must finish under green. The field is made up of pole winners from last season, former event winners and a wildcard.

"With 70 laps, I think we can really mix it up and race hard," said Dale Jarrett, who will start third. "If you jump out of line and try to make a pass and go backwards, you've still got time to make that up."

Seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt mastered the old format with an unprecedented six wins. He will start second beside Ken Schrader, a two-time winner.

Mark Martin and Steve Park round out the top five.

"We'll find out (today) Sunday what we need to be working on for the rest of the week," said Ricky Rudd, whose best finish was sixth in 1996. "Did your car get loose in the draft? Did it get tight in the draft? Now you've got Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday to work on it."

ALMOST GONE: Stacy Compton almost missed out on a career day thanks to engine trouble and NASCAR inspectors.

Unhappy with its qualifying engine, the team changed engines following morning practice. Already behind, NASCAR delayed the team more when it had questions about the spoiler on Compton's No. 92 Dodge.

The team wasn't penalized and missed its original qualifying spot because it was so late getting on pit road.

"They're doing their job," crew chief Chuck Knaus said of the NASCAR inspectors. "Everybody's trying to get everything they can because the competition is so tough. This is the biggest race of the year."

SAFETY, SAFETY: When drivers came to Daytona for testing last month, each manufacturer held seminars to discuss safety and ways to improve the race car.

On Saturday, Ford aerodynamics manager Paul Stanecki shared some of the data drivers were presented.

"We know what's wrong with the NASCAR cars right now, it's not much," he said. "We need to work on the seat and we need to work on the driver's environment."

Stanecki said a wreck can exert a force of up to 140 G's on a driver. A fighter pilot, by comparison, blacks out at 6-7 G's. Injuries to drivers usually occur in a 30-millisecond timeframe, less time than it takes to blink.

ODDS AND ENDS: Lakeland native Joe Nemechek qualified eighth in the No. 33 Chevrolet at 182.116 mph. His best finish in the Daytona 500 was 27th in 1997. ... Justin Hobgood led the final 26 laps to win the AC Delco 200. There were seven cautions, including one for a five-car wreck on Lap 76. No drivers were injured. ... Clearwater's Donnie Morelock will start 38th in the Discount Auto Parts 200. The ARCA race starts at 11 a.m.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "We've got crew members making more money than 30-year IBM executives. It's crazy." -- Rusty Wallace on the escalating salaries of shop employees.

Speedweek schedule

DIRECTIONS: Follow Interstate 4 east to the I-95 North exit on the left toward Jacksonville. Merge onto the I-95 North exit and follow to the U.S. Highway 92 exit (No. 87) toward DeLand/Daytona Beach. Merge onto U.S. 92 East until you see the speedway.

Schedule

Events at Daytona International Speedway:

TODAY: Winston Cup Bud Shootout, ARCA Discount Auto Parts 200.

MONDAY: Winston Cup, Craftsman Trucks, IROC practice; Winston Cup second-round qualifying.

TUESDAY: Winston Cup, Busch Grand National practice; Craftsman Trucks qualifying.

WEDNESDAY: Busch Grand National qualifying; second-round trucks qualifying; IROC practice.

THURSDAY: Winston Cup Gatorade 125-mile qualifying races; BGN practice/second-round qualifying; IROC practice.

FRIDAY: Craftsman Trucks Daytona 250, IROC race, Winston Cup, BGN practice.

SATURDAY: Busch Grand National NAPA 300; Winston Cup practice.

SUNDAY: Winston Cup Daytona 500, noon.

TICKET INFORMATION: Call (904) 253-7223 or check http://www.daytonaintlspeedway.com.

Today's weather

Mostly cloudy with a high of 70 degrees in Daytona Beach.

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