NASCAR Sprint Cup Bud Shootout: 10 Fun Facts About a Hooligan Race
NASCAR kicks off its season Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway with the Budweiser Shootout.
Over the last 32 years, it has taken many different forms and crowned many different champions, but one constant has remained the same.
It's the first taste of racing on the high banks in advance of the Daytona 500.
Here's a few fun little facts to impress your friends with as you watch the 2011 season begin with the Shootout.
1. It Used To Have Another Name
The Bud Shootout is actually the spawn of a much shorter event that began back in 1979 called the Busch Clash.
It was only 20 laps and was run on the Sunday prior to the Daytona 500, and of course it was held during the day since back then there weren't lights at Daytona for night racing yet.
The early races were so short in fact that it didn't even require a pit stop to make the entire 50-mile distance.
Saturday's even features a 25 lap segment followed by an 10 minute intermission to allow teams to prepare for the 50 lap dash for the trophy.
The 50 lap component assures that everyone will have to make at least one pit stop during competition to complete the distance.
2. Dale Earnhardt Sr. Was the Master of the Shootout
Dale Earnhardt was the undisputed master of NASCAR's season-opening dash for cash.
He won it on six different occasions (1980, '86, '88, '91, '93, '95).
On four of those occasions, he used his Shootout win to launch a champion season in 1980, 1986, 1991 and 1993.
Only Darrell Waltrip (1981), Jeff Gordon (1997) and Tony Stewart (2002) have managed to duplicate Earnhardt's feat of backing up a Shootout win with a season title, and they only managed to do it once each.
3. Winning It In Consecutive Years Is Rare
Kevin Harvick takes his shot at Bud Shootout immortality Saturday night when he guns for his third straight win.
He's one of only four drivers to win it in back to back seasons, a feat that the great Dale Earnhardt remarkably failed to accomplish despite his proficiency in the race.
Tony Stewart (2000-01), Ken Schrader (1989-90) and Neil Bonnett (1983-84) also managed to successfully defend their Shootout crowns in back-to-back seasons. None pulled off the three-peat.
4. Winning from the Pole Isn't As Easy As It Sounds
It's a short race, so it should be easier to hang on to that first position as the event wears on, right?
Dale Earnhardt Jr. should have it in the bag starting on the point.
Not so in the Shootout.
The draft and the cutthroat nature of restrictor plate racing has made this a difficult race to hold a lead.
Only three times in the 32-year history of the event has it been won from the pole.
Darrell Waltrip (1981), Bill Elliott (1987) and Ken Schrader (1989) are the only three drivers to finish the race where they started: first.
Dale Jr. does have one bit of personal history on his side, though. When he last won this race in 2008, he set a record for most laps led by any driver in one Shootout at 47 circuits.
Clearly, he knows how to hang on to the lead if he gets it, and when the green flag drops, he's P1.
5. There's Only One Lap That Really Counts
Seven times in the history of the Shootout, the winner only managed to lead the last lap.
Most recently, Kevin Harvick saved the best for last in 2009.
Dale Earnhardt (1980), Neil Bonnett (1983-84), Rusty Wallace (1998) and Dale Jarrett (2000, 2004) also saved their best work for the last circuit, winning the race by leading the only lap that really pays the big money: the last one.
6. Chevy Dominates
The Bowtie Brigade is tough to beat in the Shootout.
Chevrolets have won the race more than all other manufacturers combined.
On 19 occasions, a Chevy has gone to victory lane in the Shootout, followed by Ford with seven wins.
Buick, Pontiac and Oldsmobile have two wins each.
7. If You Run the Table, You're in Exclusive Company
Winning the Bud Shootout, the Daytona 500 pole and then going on to win the Daytona 500 is a rare feat, accomplished most recently by Dale Jarrett in his dominant Robert Yates Ford in 2000.
It's only been accomplished on one other occasion.
Bill Elliott pulled off the Daytona Speedweeks triple-crown back in 1987.
8. Mark Martin Is the Ironman, Again
With each passing year, Mark Martin's longevity continues to amaze.
His competitiveness just hasn't seemed to wane much over the seasons.
He's at the top of the list when it comes to showing up for the Shootout every year, as well.
He leads all drivers in consecutive Shootout starts with 20 green flags from 1989-2008.
Jeff Gordon is the man behind the longest current streak. He'll have 18 straight starts if he manages to take the green flag Saturday night.
9. Speaking of Ironmen
Ricky Rudd is Sprint Cup's all-time Ironman with 788 consecutive starts.
In 1984, he endured one of the most replayed accidents in NASCAR history during the Busch Clash.
It didn't slow him down, though.
Legend has it that his eyes were nearly swollen shut after the crash and he taped them open the next week to run in the Daytona 500.
10. Kevin Conway and Regan Smith Have a High Bar To Clear
Among the 24 drivers set to start the 2011 Bud Shootout, only Kevin Conway and Regan Smith have never appeared in the event.
If either could manage to win, they would join elite company.
Buddy Baker (1979), Dale Earnhardt (1980), Jeff Gordon (1994), Dale Jarrett (1996) and Denny Hamlin (2006) all managed to win their first time out in the Shootout.
Following in their footsteps wouldn't be a bad way to take your first shot at NASCAR's preseason appetizer.