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It's Sunday morning, and oh what a Shootout hangover for these guys, oh, the bruises...

  How in the world did Kyle Busch recover from this disaster? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   The morning after the night before, and a lot of NASCAR drivers are nursing bruises.
   Trevor Bayne turned 21 Sunday…and maybe his best birthday present actually came Saturday night – when he got to watch the Bud Shootout and all that mayhem from the top of the infield hauler, rather than having to play in the game and probably lose a race car.

   Maybe Bayne and the Woods actually made the smart move by skipping the Shootout.
   "It looked like there was a lot of action going on that I didn't want to be in on," last year's Daytona 500 says.
   His analysis of what lays ahead in SpeedWeeks? "Staying alive in these races, that's going to be the big deal," Bayne says.
   Bayne and the Woods skipped the Shootout for economic reasons. Putting a Shootout car on the grid for the weekend is a $200,000 deal, and without a specific sponsor, they'd have to rely on purse winnings to make it work. The purse is just over $1 million for the 25 drivers, and the winner earns just over $200,000.
   The math, the Woods say, just didn't work.
   And, hey, considering how many stockers were destroyed in the Shootout, how much lighter are team owners' billfolds today? Roger Penske and Rick Hendrick may be limping....
   Still not having the Daytona 500 winner in the Shootout did seem odd.
   Not surprisingly then NASCAR Sunday announced new eligibility rules for next February's SpeedWeeks kickoff, with the field to feature this year's pole winners plus past Shootout winners who run at least one race in 2012.

   Kyle Busch edging Tony Stewart at the finish (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Actually the Shootout was initially designed for pole winners when it debuted back in 1979, sponsored by Anheuser-Busch. But three years ago Bud decided not to sponsor the weekly Sprint Cup pole runs (Coors took that sponsorship), creating a dilemma – a marketing dilemma. And the Shootout entries became a mish-mash.
   Last season 18 drivers won poles. Using the new system wouldn't have changed the lineup here, though; Mark Martin and David Reutimann would have been in the race, and Clint Bowyer, AJ Allmendinger, Paul Menard, Marcos Ambrose and Jeff Burton wouldn't have made it.
   This Shootout, with NASCAR's new rules, was more than wild. Yes, it was more 'big pack' racing….and more 'big ones,' those scary multi-car crashes that tend to occur in such tight quarters.
   "I don't think the 500 is going to be much different," Denny Hamlin worries.
   NASCAR executives said they "liked what we saw," and drivers, with all the wrecks, may simply be rusty at pack racing. "It's in their hands," NASCAR's Robin Pemberton says.
   The shorter rear spoiler, however, is one principal area of concern. That makes the rear of the car much more loose, particularly going into the corners, and rivals took advantage of that, spinning other cars out in bump and runs.
    After the two hours of carnage, the Shootout came to a two-man battle, with Tony Stewart seeming to have the edge. But Busch, though his car was raining sparks and his tires were smoking, was right on. ( http://bit.ly/xcvOHr )



Kyle Busch had a rough Saturday night, very rough, extremely rough. And he not only survived stuff like this, but he even rallied to win (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


  The win, though, wasn't even the highlight of the night. Busch made some miraculous saves just to get to the finish, and more than once he appeared all but out of it. One of the most dramatic came in the final minutes, when Jeff Gordon turned him: ( http://bit.ly/xcvOHr )
   "With Gordon behind me, I don't know what the deal was there,"  Busch said, perhaps more than a bit miffed. "I would like to talk to him about it, because we came off two and he had me sideways and then all the way down the backstretch I was still sideways, left, right, left, right and everywhere. 
   "We drove off into three, and he turned me sideways again.  He was on my left side of my bumper instead of the right. 
    "I don't know if he was just watching his mirror and he was getting pushed and couldn't control it or what.
   "I don't know how many times I spun out, and didn't spin out. 
   "Stab and steer -- that's what you do -- and some braking."
   Busch was one of several drivers racing a backup car in the Shootout after a Friday crash. Stewart, ironically, crashed Friday too, but Greg Zipadelli's crew clearly did good repairs.
   And Dave Rogers, Busch's crew chief, clearly gave his driver a heck of a strong car, to withstand that kind of beating and not only survive but win.   
   Rogers, though, was giving Busch all the praise: "He's eliminated all questions of who deserves credit.  That thing was wrecked twice and he saved it and still drove it to victory lane.
   "This was a backup car that had never seen the track until the start of the race.  It started in the very back, Kyle drove to the front, and made two amazing saves."
   Another note: it was the first race with NASCAR's new electronic fuel injection systems…and Toyota engines, though the oldest design on the tour, were stout enough to take the measure of the Hendrick-powered Chevrolets.
   And for Rick Hendrick the Shootout was a very bad night: all four of his official drivers destroyed their cars.

   While Stewart – the series' defending champion – and Busch and third-place finisher Marcos Ambrose all praised the new rules, the rest of the drivers were grumbling pretty loudly.
   The two-car drafting might not have been that popular with some fans, but drivers widely considered that type of racing much safer here than the big pack racing that leads to so many big crashes.
    "It was typical for Shootouts -- a wild one," Hamlin said. "It was tough doing that…tough to race at times.
   "Everyone was worried about their (engine) temperature;  I'm sure NASCAR will address it. We were pegged on 300 degrees, so I couldn't get up in there and mix it up like I wanted to."
   Clint Bowyer, caught up in one of the big crashes, like Hamlin, was also circumspect about the new Daytona package: "The fans wanted pack racing back, and NASCAR listened and delivered."
    One of the night's most impressive drivers was Joey Logano, though he got nailed by Marcos Ambrose while running third and didn't finish. "Right when you thought you were all right, you get turned around," Logano said.
   Even teammates weren't immune. Martin Truex Jr. conceded he inadvertently spun Bowyer around, "just flat out spun him pushing him. 
   "He said his car was really loose with guys pushing him. I wasn't expecting that; I started shoving on him, and the next thing you know he was turned around."
   But the public line by many drivers was the 'company line.' Michael Waltrip: "Now we're all in a glob. I'm a fan of it…(though given the carnage) that doesn't make any sense right now.
    "The fans didn't like it the other way. This is a lot different. NASCAR accomplished their goal.
    "Now it's up to the drivers to manage it."


     Jeff Gordon (24) ran well enough to contend for the Shootout victory...but he pushed Kyle Busch (M&Ms) too hard at this moment and not only crashed himself out but took out teammate Jimmie Johnson and several others (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

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