Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Big Night for Backup Cars; Drivers Will Get the Kinks out Tonight in Season-Opening All-Star Race

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Big Night for Backup Cars; Drivers Will Get the Kinks out Tonight in Season-Opening All-Star Race

Article excerpt

Byline: DON COBLE

DAYTONA BEACH -- No team in tonight's Budweiser Shootout all-star race will use its best car. Those will be parked inside the Daytona International Speedway garage area waiting for Daytona 500 pole qualifying on Sunday.

Just because there isn't a lot of effort spent on tonight's race (8:30, TNT) doesn't mean it's not important to the drivers. While it pays at least $212, 000 to win, its greater purpose is officially starting the Nextel Cup Series season.

"It's a fun race; I like the format," Elliott Sadler said. "It's a race you don't have to worry about points. You can go out there, it's under the lights, and you can just try to win and try to do certain things that can make you or break you.

"It's a great way to get started. It's good practice for the pit crew. It's great practice for Tommy [Baldwin, new crew chief] and I to work together."

The race is open to pole-winners from last year and former Shootout winners. The race is 70 laps, but it starts with a 20-lap run, followed by a 10-minute intermission. The final 50-lap segment will require at least one pit stop.

The starting lineup was determined in a blind drawing. Ken Schrader drew the pole position, and it will mark his first race in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford.

"It would be neat if we were starting on the pole because of qualifying, but if you're going to draw like they do for that race, you've got to start somewhere, so I'd just as soon start up front," Schrader said.

Teams can work on strategy for the 500 tonight, but what they learn with the car will be of little help. The best test session for the 500 will be Thursday's 150-mile qualifying race.

"The 150s are our best test session for the 500, and this is another whole race before that. It's a short little race that pays a lot of money," Schrader said.

What Kenseth likes about the all-star race is there are only 21 cars in it -- and all of them are fast. …

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