Kevin Harvick won the Budweiser Shootout in spectacular fashion and took the first big prize of the 2009 NASCAR season at the Daytona International Speedway on Saturday night.
After running at the rear of the 28 car field for the majority of the race and dodging all major wrecks, Harvick drafted past Jamie McMurray with a little help from Denny Hamlin, and made the pass on the last lap entering Turn Three.
Seconds later, the eighth caution of the night was brought out due to a wreck, giving Harvick his first victory at the Shootout where he has never finished better than third in his last four appearances. Richard Childress Racing is now tied with Hendrick Motorsports for six wins each at the conclusion of the 31st Budweiser Shootout.
Harvick's pass and subsequent wreck behind him mirrors his 2007 Daytona 500 winning move.
The ‘09 NASCAR season brings many changes to the Sprint Cup circuit. Nearly half of Saturday’s field has undergone a face-lift. After ten years with Joe Gibbs Racing, Tony Stewart left his No. 20 Home Depot car for the No. 14 Chevrolet of Stewart-Haas Racing. Saturday night marked his first race as an owner and driver of the new team. He finished third in Saturday night’s 28 car slug fest and was pleased with the performance of his team.
“I’ll take that for a debut night. We were in the right spot at the right time finally. We know what we need to work on,” Stewart told Chris Myer’s of FOX.
Teen sensation, Joey Logano takes the place of Stewart in the No. 20 car for Joe Gibbs Racing. Nicknamed “Sliced Bread” by former NASCAR racer Randy LaJoie he is expected to be one of the most promising stories for the ‘09 season. The No. 20 car will be led by top crew chief, Greg Zipadelli who has reportedly said Logano is very mature for his age. Maturity aside, he is still only 18 with very limited experience in big time stock car racing and less in the Car of Tomorrow.
In Saturday’s race an early wreck on Lap Eight ended Logano’s day and fellow rookie’s Scott Speed.
Other significant changes to the circuit includes Mark Martin’s shift from Dale Earnhardt Inc. to Hendrick Motorsports. Martin replaced Casey Mears in the No. 5 Chevrolet car for Rick Hendrick. In addition to Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and Dale Jr., Hendrick felt Martin was the missing puzzle piece for an all-star lineup. Martin rounds out the familiar faced four-car team and Rick Hendrick is confident in his new line up that all four cars will make the Chase for the ‘09 season.
Other championship favorites that cannot be ignored include Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards. After a disappointing tenth place finish in last year’s Chase, Busch and crew chief Steve Addington are looking to repeat Busch’s regular season success. With eight wins in the first 22 Cup races Busch deserves recognition and praise for his accomplishments during his transition year with Joe Gibb’s Racing. The No. 18 team came up short in '08 but there is no doubt that Busch will be even better this year in the regular season and the 10-race Chase for the Championship playoff.
Carl Edwards of Roush Fenway Racing finished second to Jimmie Johnson and was the Cup’s winningest driver in 2008 with nine wins. Edwards and crew chief Bob Osborne were not able to catch the dynamic duo of Johnson and Chad Knaus as they drove to their third straight Sprint Cup Championship which they hope to continue with a fourth.
However, Edwards was recently chosen by the nascarmedia.com poll to end the champion’s stranglehold as the media predicted he would win the ‘09 season by receiving almost double the first-place votes as Johnson.
All these recent changes to the circuit combined with the limited off season of no testing has provided an interesting start to the new season. The official action will begin February 15 in Daytona Beach, Florida for the Great American Race, the “Super Bowl” of NASCAR—the Daytona 500.