Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Budweiser Shootout Brought the Pack and Fun Back to Daytona

Boys Just Want to Have Fun
Jamie Squire/Getty Images for NASCAR
Fans have been filtering into Daytona Beach all week, hoping for a glimpse of their favorite driver and waiting for the roar of engines and the official start to the NASCAR season.  The Budweiser Shootout, the first race of the season for the Sprint Cup drivers, was worth the wait.

Twenty-five of the best drivers in the series put on a crash-filled exhibition Saturday night that left owners with useless piles of twisted metal and drivers and fans with smiles on their faces.  The fans have been complaining about the two-car tandem since it became the norm when the speedway was repaved.  Saturday night the pack was back.
Kyle Busch, who managed two incredible saves that would have derailed most drivers, gave Toyota its first Budweiser Shootout win when he edged defending Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart by .013 seconds. Only ten cars remained on the lead lap after multiple crashes narrowed the field.

“Man, it was a fun race,” Busch said.  “I thought a lot about how the pack was back.  There's certainly some moments when we were all pushing each other.  It's a tense pack.  It's not like 2000 to 2005 pack where you couldn't really bump each other, you couldn't really get to each other, you were racing around and made holes whenever you could make holes, whatever.
But even in defeat, Stewart, like many of the drivers as they climbed out of their cars, had fun.

“It was definitely a lot more fun and you felt a lot more eager to be engaged in the race this way than in the two-car deal,” Stewart said after the race.  “I actually had fun racing at Daytona again which I haven't had for a while, so I'm really, really appreciative to the work that NASCAR has done in the off-season and the test session and even after the test of the changes that they made to try to make it better for us out there. I don't know what the consensus is from everybody else, but I had more fun as a driver tonight than what we've had in the past.”
Marcos Ambrose came home third but he echoed the fun factor.  “It was a crazy race, that's for sure,” Ambrose said.  “I agree with the Tony, what an incredible job NASCAR has done to get back to this style of racing.  I think all the drivers appreciate it.  It's definitely a lot more fun, more entertaining for the fans, and more in control for the drivers.  Even though we crashed more tonight, you just feel like you were in control of your own destiny a little more out there.”

Even Martin Truex Jr., who finished 14th, echoed the fun theme. “This is the Bud Shootout so the guys are going to take a lot more chances here than they will in the Daytona 500. The racing was fun and I think it was a good show. I enjoyed myself. It’s just a shame that our NAPA Toyota is on the trailer.”
With the crashed cars on the trailers and the Shootout in the history books, the Sprint Cup drivers will now turn their attention to preparing for the Daytona 500, set for February 26.

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