Harvick wins wild Bud Shootout

Published 2:35 am Sunday, February 8, 2009

By By JENNA FRYER, AP Auto Racing Writer
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. —Kevin Harvick used a thrilling last-lap pass to steal a Daytona 500 victory.
He’s apparently got the move mastered.
Harvick powered past Jamie McMurray on the outside of the last lap Saturday night to grab a come-from-nowhere victory in the exhibition Budweiser Shootout.
Wild indeed.
It was Harvick’s first victory in 71 races, dating to the All-Star race in May 2007. The only other event he won that year was the season-opening 500, when he nipped Mark Martin in a photo finish. Harvick was winless in 2008.
Now he’s got the momentum heading into next weekend’s Daytona 500, and NASCAR has the start to the season it desperately needed after an offseason filled with layoffs, sponsorship troubles and constant concern about the economic crisis.
Harvick started 23rd in the Shootout, spent most of the race in the back dodging wrecks, then slowly worked his way up toward the front. McMurray seemed headed for the win until a late wreck between Greg Biffle and David Stremme set up a two-lap overtime sprint to the finish.
Harvick was in fourth on the restart, and didn’t seem to have anything for McMurray.
But as they closed in on the finish line, he used a huge push from Denny Hamlin to slide past McMurray on the outside.
Harvick coasted to the win as Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch all crashed behind him.
McMurray knew holding on for the win would be difficult when he restarted in the lead for the final two laps.
Tony Stewart was third in his first race as owner of his race team. He left Joe Gibbs Racing at the end of last year to take over Stewart Haas Racing.
Jeff Gordon was fourth and was followed by AJ Allmendinger, Kasey Kahne and Carl Edwards. Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch rounded out the top 10.
The race used to be for the previous year pole winners and past champions of the event, but NASCAR overhauled the format and opened Saturday night’s exhibition to the top six teams from each manufacturer. Then last month, NASCAR passed “The Tony Stewart Rule” and allowed each manufacturer one wild-car entry.
The joke around the garage was the caveat was added so Stewart, a three-time Shootout winner, could get his new team into the race despite switching from Toyota to Chevrolet this season.
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In all, a record 28 cars competed in the race, which also was expanded five laps to 75.
Some of the participants were eliminated early: A six-car wreck just four laps into the race knocked out rookies Scott Speed and Joey Logano. For Speed, it was his second wreck in as many days.
Logano finished second in Saturday afternoon’s ARCA race, then sprinted to NASCAR’s driver meeting—only to get there as it was wrapping up. His punishment was being sent to the back of the starting field—right where the accident occurred.
Gordon proved why he’s a four-time series champion during that first accident, deftly weaving through the wrecking cars to escape unscathed.
Defending race winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. contended at times for the victory until his night ended 11 laps from the end in a four-car accident.