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Kevin Harvick kicks the flu and kicks off 2010 with a dramatic Shootout victory for Richard Childress

  A chilly night in Daytona...and the Shootout seemed a bit anti-climactic after the Danica Patrick 200 earlier (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   Kevin Harvick, rallying from the flu, ran surprisingly strong throughout the Shootout and then took advantage of a last lap crash, apparently triggered by Jeff Gordon running into Greg Biffle, to win the Saturday night Bud-sponsored Sprint Cup sprint, in a rather confusing finish.
    "When you go through a year like we did last year, and everybody can hang in there.....and I was sick Thursday and didn't even see thing (the first round of practice)," Harvick said after beating Kasey Kahne to the checkered-and-yellow finish.
    Carl Edwards led much of the early race, starting from the pole, and Jamie McMurray, who wound up third, said he felt Edwards had the strongest car in the field "because nobody could pass him."
   But Edwards got shuffled quickly back in the pack after a bump from Juan Pablo Montoya, and he finished a disappointed 17th, in the 24-car field.
   As the first real racing of the season, drivers were rather tentative during the early part of the 1:45 race. Well, except for Tony Stewart, who was the most aggressive.
    When Edwards got kicked back, Harvick took command and held it the rest of the way.
    But Harvick had to survive a late race yellow, and an ensuing round of pit stops (two tire stops), and a gamble by both Biffle and Kahne not to stop for rubber. That gamble put Biffle and Kahne up front for the two-lap shootout, with Harvick fourth.
    However Harvick made a quick charge to the outside to get back up front, and then Gordon and Biffle tangled, creating a seven-car melee on that first lap of green.
    But NASCAR – as it did here in the 2007 500, which Harvick won, with a slow yellow by NASCAR – let the drivers keep racing for nearly a lap before finally putting out the caution, with the checkered. And that came with Harvick holding a clear lead over Kahne.
   Matt Kenseth, in the thick of it at the end, with a good view: "You know you can wreck anytime at a plate race, but you don't really expect it. You're being Jeff Gordon, one of the sport's best, and Greg was on old tires.....I don't know, but one of them got into each other or lost it or something."
   The confusion at the end, with the green-white-checkered finish? "I did see on TV where they said it was supposed to end under green," McMurray said.
   "But in the drivers' meeting they told us there would be just one attempt at a green-white-checkered," Kahne said.
   Harvick was surprisingly strong, both physically and mechanically. But then he noted he started 2009 like this too, and the rest of the season went flat.
    The flu that kept him home Thursday, Harvick said, didn't really last that long: "Felt good when I woke up this morning. The only thing that really worried me was not having much practice.
     "When, before we really got started, I got his by (Ryan) Newman about three times, so I knew we were going to be all right.
     "When Biffle chose the top lane (for the final restart), I knew we had to get a great restart. I knew if I could get up in under him going into one I would be in better shape when we got to the next corner because my tires were better than him. So when I got beside him, I dragged the brakes a little bit, so I wouldn't pull a faster line by him; I want to stay side by side with him.
   "When you run that long (under green) you know you've got to come get tires. And I knew Tony Stewart and most of the rest would be coming for tires. When Biffle took the high lane, that was the key for me."
   The green-white-checkered? TV reported there would be 'multiple attempts' to finish under green, rather than the typical 'one shot.'
   "I was a little off-kilter on that one," Harvick said. I think I heard it somewhere, on TV (more than one green-white-checkered. So I didn't say anything at the end.
    "But my guys knew the deal.
   "And I should have known what to expect, because this is exactly the way this race finished last year."
   And Harvick added a wry warning: "I've been with here long enough, like you, to know that this can be a funny week.
   "There are so many things that can get thrown at you here, you've got to stay on an even keel. We're happy we won; but we know this place can knock you down. Strange things can happen."
   Just ask Kurt Busch, who had another rough night. He got crashed Thursday, and lost a car; and he got crashed again Saturday, and lost a car, when he got squeezed by Mark Martin. "I'm just making more laps in the ambulance than I am on the track," Busch quipped.  
    "I thought that I was in the outside lane, crossed into the middle; I was just trying to figure out the draft with the big restrictor plate.  Man, I’m making a bunch of mistakes I guess.
    "Once I got hit, the hood just popped up and I couldn't see much.  I was just trying to stay out of the wall, but the momentum took us up there.
    "I thought that I was in the high lane and I got on the high side of Mark going through turn four.  I don't know if I pinched him or he wanted to come up.  
    "It's not fun. Sorry, Roger (Penske -- his team owner).  I've got two burned up cars."
    While NASCAR executives have made much during the past few weeks about taking a more lenient approach to policing aggressive driving, the Shootout was rather anti-climactic and relatively smoothly run, compared to the wild ARCA 200 earlier in the evening.
    Of course Thursday's Shootout practice, with a couple of big crashes, and half a dozen men going to backup cars, may have made some drivers a little gun-shy.
   "We talked about just riding around in the back of the pack, after those two crashes in practice (Thursday)," McMurray said. "But we decided to go on up there and race."
    And Edwards?
    Well, in early afternoon qualifying for the Daytona 500 (with different cars), Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. had the strongest cars; but in the Shootout they were  never factors. Edwards, on the other hand, was mediocre in 500 qualifying but all-but untouchable in the Shootout. One possible factor: Edwards and the rest of the Ford drivers in the Shootout were running their old reliable motors, while for 500 qualifying they were all running the new FR9 engine. Ford says its teams will switch to the old motor for the 500 itself but will run the new FR9 in Thursday's 150s. The new engine has very little race time on it so far.
    "I had a lot of fun, we led a bunch of laps...and it was too bad it ended the way it did," Edwards said. "But that (the wreck) was a long time coming."
    Unlike the ARCA 200, the Shootout was marred by very few incidents.
   Denny Hamlin had the only competitive Toyota in the Shootout, but he had a pit stop problem the last time in – "We were going for four tires and then 'audibled' for two, and that slows up your stop."
   And the racing itself? Well, Hamlin is known as one of the most aggressive drivers on the tour: "It wasn't nearly as crazy as I thought it would be. We are running so fast, and handling is such an issue, that everyone was being fairly cautious with each other...and that was good," Hamlin said.
   "You would have liked to have seen a little more excitement. I would have liked to have seen it go green at the end."

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  Kurt Busch didn't make it to the finish. A bump from Mark Martin, for which Martin apologized, triggered this wild ride through the infield grass (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


A very anti-climatic finish

A very anti-climatic finish to a decent race. This new "loosen up the rules" policy is just going to cause even more wrecks, especially on restrictor-plate tracks. Bump-drafting entering and into the turns is something that needs to stop. NASCAR needs to continue working to come up with something (smaller superspeedway motor, bigger spoiler, etc.) to get rid of the restrictor plates. The trucks run without them, and their race is far more exciting. The cars can't get away from one another. There would still be wrecks with no restrictor plates, but they would not take out half the field. As a race fan, I'm tired of seeing half the field get wiped out because of 1 driver's mistake. Get rid of the plates, spread out the field, and let 'em race. They can come up with something to keep the speeds down without having restrictor plates.

fireballroberts is wrong. 1 -

fireballroberts is wrong.

1 - What Gordon did was not "bump-drafting" - you're making the same mistake Biffle made the other day about the Hamlin melee - you're refusing to say "This guy wrecked the field." Gordon wrecked the field, period.

2 - The Trucks are by no means more exciting than the cars at Daytona. "They run without restrictor plates." Never mind that they've narrowed up everything else to where they have little power or throttle response; they might as well run restrictor plates - as it is there's no reason to think they won't eventually get them anyway.

3 - The wrecks are not taking out half the field, and spreading out the field is not racing. The cars are not supposed to get away from one another - they are supposed to be bunched together fighting for the win. Racing is about lead changes, not speed.

Look, smart guy, Jeff Gordon

Look, smart guy, Jeff Gordon himself said in his post-race interview that he "pushed Biffle all the way down the back straightaway and into turn". So it came straight from the horse's mouth. He called it bump drafting, and that's why I did too.

You are too much like NASCAR. If you could somehow get the field 43-wide coming across the stripe, you would be happy with that. It's not possible, and they need to quit trying to do it by bunching up the field with restrictor plates. Riding around in a pack with no ability to pull away even when your car is faster is not racing. It's like tying weights on a horse's ankle to let the rest of the horses run with him. The trucks ARE more exciting TO ME and to many fans who get tired of 10-20 cars being taken out by ONE driver's mistake at these races. They can still use the slingshot move to pass and they can go by on the outside when they get a good run. Can't do that in the cars unless yo are overwhelmingly faster than the other cars.

If racing is not about speed, then why aren't they racing factory spec cars instead of souped up race cars? Racing is all about speed. If the drivers were on 10-speeds riding around the track, maybe 500 people show up to see it every week.

Gordon does it again. He

Gordon does it again. He wrecks people the way Senior used to. This after what happened in practice the other day.

NASCAR needs to get off this phobia it has against suspending drivers for wrecking others.

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