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Saturday, February 10
Shootout will be Daytona 500 preview
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The Budweiser Shootout, established 22 years ago as a made-for-TV event, never was taken seriously by drivers getting ready for the Daytona 500.
That's fine with Dale Jarrett, the three-time and defending 500 champion who also won the Shootout last year. Like the others, he's anxious for the first test of the new aerodynamics package that has slowed the cars but given them greater throttle response.
"I think it's going to allow us to do some more racing," Jarrett said. "Whenever it was 25 laps you had to be careful and calculating about any pass that you made because if you went backwards you didn't have enough time to make that up.
"Now with 70 laps, I think we can mix it up and race hard. If you jump out of line and try to make a pass and go backwards, you've still got time to make that up, so I think it's going to be beneficial to better racing."
Rusty Wallace was encouraged by a similar aero package that resulted in an amazing 49 lead changes among 21 drivers last October at Talladega Superspeedway. If the package -- which includes carburetor and body modifications -- works well, the Daytona 500 might be much more than the high-speed, single-file parade it has been in the recent past.
"I think what we're going to see is drivers being able to make a lot of passes," Wallace said.
Ricky Rudd says drivers no longer will have to wait for the 125-mile qualifying races Thursday to determine the effect of long green-flag runs on their equipment. He's not sad to see the old format gone.
"That 20 or 25 laps in the past was tough because you could bolt a new set of tires on a car and run good for about 15 or 20 laps, but you'd get to lap 20-25 and not handle a lick," he said. "Now we'll find out Sunday what we need to be working on for the rest of the week."<
Evernham the educator
Now, he has far more to be concerned with than winning races the way he did while crew chiefing Jeff Gordon to three Winston Cup titles and 47 victories before leaving to become the point man for Dodge's re-entry into NASCAR's elite series after a 17-year absence.
"It's been difficult to get used to my new role," Evernham said. "I don't know what to do except stand around and worry."
He complains that he can't work on the cars anymore, but has trouble keeping his hands off the Dodges being driven by 500 polesitter Bill Elliott and rookie Casey Atwood. The crew chief has become the crew coach.
"I've been telling them what to expect with the changes they've made and what's going to happen on the track," Evernham said. "My goal is to teach the guys enough so I can go do other things as a team owner."
Andretti eats his Cheerios
The ad spot for Red Wings Shoes featured Andretti sitting at a table with a bowl of Cheerios from another of his team's sponsors. A stagehand hidden beneath the table pounded on the bowl's underside, scattering the cereal to create the effect that loud cars zooming close by were disrupting Andretti's breakfast.
Andretti, in a non-speaking role, was directed to look befuddled as the bowl jumped up and down. He succeeded, and was rewarded after the fourth and final take with a round of applause from onlookers.
"It's going to be a really cool commercial," he said.
Andretti didn't mind shooting the ad when he did because racing at Daytona International Speedway depends more on the car than driving skill.
"At any other track, I won't even let people talk to me before qualifying," Andretti said. "If I don't give 100 percent and get 100 percent out of my car, then I've let the team down."
Harvick's schedule set
"Kevin Harvick, with his cool, aggressive style, will contribute a great deal to RCR for many years," said Childress, who also fields cars at NASCAR's top level for seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt and Mike Skinner.
Harvick will have solid backing for the races from Internet giant AOL.
With only seven races on his calendar, Harvick will retain his rookie status for 2002 and be able to take a solid run at the Busch title this year. The former NASCAR truck series driver set numerous Busch rookie records last year while winning three races and two poles, and finishing third in points.
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