Bud will not be dud Shootout

Feb 8, 2005 12:44 PM

This Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway, the good ol’ boys get back on the track for some real racing.

The Budweiser Shootout is a non-points race, so technically it’s not a real race, but it will be a prelude for what to expect Feb. 20 for the Daytona 500. We’ll get to see just how relative the test speeds from three weeks ago at Daytona are to actual race conditions.

The Bud Shootout is a 70-lap race involving all of last season’s pole winners along with any former past Bud Shootout winners. Just about every big name driver is in the race beginning with Bud Shootout and Daytona 500 favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. All eyes will be upon Junior in this race because of the poor Daytona testing he had last month.

It’s inconceivable to think Junior’s restrictor plate program could have fallen that drastically from last year, but they did have some fluctuation in staff. Perhaps the three-quarter inch reduction on the rear spoiler taking away down force is affecting them more than others. For most, the sentiment is that Junior will be as strong as ever. Word is the Earnhardt bunch were using the preseason Daytona testing to look at things other than just being as fast as possible. Nevertheless, it’s something remains out there as a question mark until we actually see him run in race conditions.

The duo to take a strong look at this week is Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. Last year, they worked extremely well together in plate races and both did very well in preseason testing. Johnson finished in the top 5 in three of the four plates races last season. Gordon won two of them, including the Firecracker at Daytona. Working together is essential in winning plate races and there will be no stronger alliance than Johnson and Gordon.

Actual teammates like Ryan Newman and Rusty Wallace don’t even like each other. The same goes for Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle. If they have an opportunity to leave one or another hanging, they will. Junior doesn’t have his teammate Michael Waltrip running with him in the race because Waltrip didn’t win a pole last year. Even though Junior is well liked in the garages by all, they’ll take any opportunity given to them to breach an alliance.

Dale Jarrett was the fastest in preseason testing and is also a three-time Bud Shootout winner, including last season’s improbable victory. The three-time Daytona 500 winner has said he’ll likely race three more seasons and call it career. There isn’t a classier guy in the series and I can’t help but feel he’ll be in Victory Lane at Daytona at least more time in his career. This week would be a nice start for him and his upgraded Yates program to show everyone that Dale Jarrett is back.

Joe Nemechek is a nice long shot to look at this week and for Daytona 500 future wagers based solely on his plate experience and his lightning quick test speeds there last month. He can be found at 18-1 in the Shootout and around 40-1 to win the 500.

If it is found this Saturday night that Junior is not as good as in the past, the value on drivers such as Nemechek, Childress drivers, and Hendrick drivers go up immensely.

Bill Elliott will be driving a Chip Ganassi entry for this race. The car will be sponsored by Coors, Elliott’s former sponsor back when he was on top of the NASCAR world. It will be in the same nostalgic Red color scheme that we all remember so well. He is a former Bud Shootout champ but that was back in 1987.