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Promising Shootout Ends Early for Dale Jr.

By Mike Davis, JR Motorsports | Race Report Published 2/18/2012
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Dale Earnhardt Jr. led the Budweiser Shootout twice for 12 laps before being caught in a multi-car accident on lap 55 ending the night for the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet.

Race: Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Raceway
Track Specs: 2.5 miles; superspeedway / 75 laps
Weather: Partly Cloudy; 64 deg.
Race Winner: Kyle Busch

Dale Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 12 laps and was in the top-five with 21 to go when he was collected in one of the Budweiser Shootout's three big multi-car crashes Saturday night en route to a 20th-place finish. Driving the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, Earnhardt Jr. started eighth but had already taken the lead by the time the field of 25 had reached the backstretch for the very first time. He led the first three laps and maintained steady position through the first segment. Earnhardt was simply riding in fourth place in a single-file breakaway draft on lap 54 when Marcos Ambrose, in third, hit second-place Joey Logano and caused a chain reaction wreck that collected nine cars. That ended the night early for Earnhardt Jr., who was looking to score his third Budweiser Shootout victory. Kyle Busch capped a miraculous driving performance by saving his car twice from potential spins and drag-racing passed Tony Stewart to win the season-opening non-points race. Stewart finished second and Ryan Newman third.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet:
"It was silly to wreck that way because we were running single file. I'm not sure what happened. There wasn't really anywhere to go. I hate it for Steve Letarte and the guys on this Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard team. This was a good race car and we ran up front with it. It was just a crazy race and a lot going on out there. It was fun.

"The chance to overheat was easy, even when you weren't pushing people. We'll all take a look at that this week. I was getting hot, and I saw guys in front of me pushing water out. I was moving all around Kurt (Busch) and had to get away from him and get into some cleaner air. I was just too hot.

"I liked (this package) better. At least I know what to expect. I feel like I have a better chance with this style than what I had last year. These cars have massive closing rate. When you get out front your car just bogs down, and they come flying by you. You just really have to be on your toes, because they get to you really quick. There's really no place to block. When guys would catch up with me, I wouldn't try to block... we just raced it out. But I feel really happy with all the work NASCAR has done in the off-season. It can get better, and I hope they strive to improve. But they should be excited about what they saw tonight.

"I expect more of the same in the 500 (next Sunday). Maybe guys will use a little more patience with it being a much longer race. It's a heavy-duty race and a big deal to win. Guys will be pretty excited if they're around at the end with a chance to win. It's still a lottery. We'll just see how it works out."


Budweiser Shootout Race Report
Start 8th
Finish 20th
Laps Complete 54 of 82
Points
Standings
Pitstops Lap 26 & 33
Condition Out (Crash on lap 55)

 

Standings
After IRWIN Tools Night Race
Rank +/- Driver Points Behind
1 -- Jeff Gordon 845 0
2 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. 818 -27
3 -- Brad Keselowski 776 -69
4 -- Joey Logano 761 -84
5 -- Matt Kenseth 751 -94
6 +1 Jimmie Johnson 726 -119
7 -1 Kevin Harvick 721 -124
8 -- Carl Edwards 716 -129
9 -- Ryan Newman 710 -135
10 -- Clint Bowyer 699 -146
11 -- Greg Biffle 694 -151
12 +2 Kyle Larson # 668 -177
Full Standings