NASCAR: Harvick steals win in Bud Shootout
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. ó Thrilling finish, dramatic wrecks and a record number of lead changes.
It was just what NASCAR wanted, and needed.
Kevin Harvick boldly passed Jamie McMurray on the last lap of the exhibition Budweiser Shootout to give a sparse Saturday night crowd at Daytona International Speedway reason to want more.
“There’s nobody who can leave today and say they didn’t see an exciting race,” third-place finisher Tony Stewart said.
NASCAR has taken a beating in the three months since last season’s finale, as the economic crisis forced teams to slash budgets, lay off employees and even cease operations. Unemployed crew members are scouring the garage for work, sponsorships are hard to come by and everyone in NASCAR knows 2009 may be its toughest season ever.
“With the economy the way it is and the amount of layoffs ó it’s almost depressing right now to turn the news on,” second-place finisher McMurray said. “I get up at 6 a.m., I turn the news on and the headline is how many people are getting laid off from major corporations. I think it will be a tough year for us to sell tickets.”
Harvick and McMurray did their part to promote next week’s season-opening Daytona 500.
“For the fans, the price of admission was well worth it,” winning car owner Richard Childress said.
When the crash-plagued Shootout finally became a shootout, Harvick used a huge push from Denny Hamlin to grab a come-from-nowhere victory that mimicked his Daytona 500 win two years ago.
“That was some wild racing,” Harvick said from Victory Lane. “What a race. That was wild as heck there at the end.”
“That was a lot of built-up race-car drivers really looking to hang something out on the edge,” Harvick said of the record eight cautions and 23 lead changes.
It was Harvick’s first victory in 71 races, dating to the non-points All-Star race in May 2007.