Busch On Bud Shootout Pole

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DAYTONA BEACH. Fla. – For years, the pole-winners race at Daytona International Speedway was known as the Busch Clash.

Sunday, the race will have a guy named Busch on the pole. Kurt Busch won the draw Thursday for the 70-lap Budweiser Shootout, getting the No. 1 to appear on a video screen. Drivers flipped a switch to let numbers turn, and then flipped it back to see where they started.

“Just a little voodoo with the bottle,” Busch said.

Busch won the pole for the Southern 500 in his rookie Winston Cup season to earn a spot in Sunday’s race.

“I’ve got a lot of talent their at Roush Racing behind me,” Busch said. “Our bright spot was that pole at Darlington,” Busch said. “Just a great opportunity to be here.

“Growing up as a kid, it was always the Busch Clash. It’s just a dream for me with my last name. Now we’re starting up front.”

Kenny Wallace drew the second starting position, with defending champion Tony Stewart third. Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon, who drew first, will start last, 22nd.

“I told you it wasn’t fair to go first,” Gordon said. “The Bud Shootout is such a fun event. It gets the whole season started. I don‘t care where I start. I’m going to have fun out there. Plus, you have pit stops, so there’s a lot of different strategies.”

The race will be a 70-lap sprint, and drivers will have to make a mandatory green-flag pit stop. It will have a green-white-checkered finish.

There were 23 drivers eligible, but Jason Leffler couldn’t put together a ride. Leffler won the pole at Kansas Speedway last year but was fired from his Chip Ganassi Racing ride and has since moved to the Craftsman Truck Series.

Ken Schrader will start fourth, with Bill Elliott fifth. Sixth through 10th will be Ricky Rudd, Terry Labonte, Ryan Newman, Dale Jarrett and Jimmy Spencer.

Earnhardt Statue Unvelied
Daytona unveiled a statue honoring Dale Earnhardt on Thursday afternoon. His widow, Teresa Earnhardt, and NASCAR chairman Bill France were on hand at Daytona USA, where the 14-foor bronze statue sits on a podium.

The statue depicts Earnhardt celebrating his 1998 Daytona 500 victory. Earlier that day, Earnhardt received a penny from a young female fan, and the same penny is part of the statue.

“On the day this statue celebrates, Dale took time out from all the necessary business at hand, which is a lot during Speedweeks at Daytona, for one penny,” Teresa Earnhardt said. “Look what he wound up with that day: that Daytona 500 victory. What he really took time out for was to care about someone feeling’s who he had met, the little girl with the penny.

“Dale continues to inspire people, this will continue to inspire people to believe in themselves that you get what you give.”

Rival and friend Rusty Wallace was impressed.

“The statue is fabulous,” Wallace said. “His grin, his mustache, his hand signal he did, I knew it was always him. I real happy they honored him in that way. I’m really impressed it was the original penny the girl gave him.”

More Help for Fords?
Rusty Wallace said NASCAR may make more adjustments to the Ford Taurus before the Daytona 500. The Taurus was slower in testing last month, prompting the sanctioning body to shave a quarter-inch off its rear spoiler.

“We’ll see how they run,” Wallace said. “I know we’ve done everything we have to get everything we can out of them. It’s going to be interesting. We’ve got more horsepower, we’ve got a better car than we had testing. We hope it’s enough to get where we need to be.

“NASCAR has definitely left the door open. I said, ‘You’ve never done it in the past, never made a change.’ They said, ‘Well, this is different. We’ll do it this time.’ So we’ll see what happens.”

Haas-Carter Tries to Continue Going
Todd Bodine said Haas-Carter Motorsports is working like it will run the entire 36-race schedule this season, despite losing sponsor Kmart after the Rockingham race.

“We’re preparing and doing everything like we’re going to run the full schedule,” Bodine said. “That’s what we have to do, that’s what Travis (Carter) pays us to do. We’re here to win this one, and we’ll go to Rockingham, and try to win that one.

“It’s a shame that we’re in this situation. Travis is one of the most honest, hard-working people you’re ever going to meet. He’ll do anything for his team and his employees. It’s really a shame to see somebody like that going through this kind of situation.”

Kmart filed for bankruptcy protection last month and is pulling its sponsorship of Haas-Carter’s two teams.

“It’s a distraction,’ Bodine said. “But I tell you, the teams have done a great job of not worrying about it and not letting it bother them. They’ve done an outstanding hob getting these cars ready for Daytona. We’ve actually got some really good cars for here.

“I’ve been through this junk before. I try not to worry about it, let it bother me and just look for the future and what we’ve got to do to secure sponsorship, go down the road and keep Haas-Carter Motorsports floating and running.”

Rudd is Back
Ricky Rudd will be back in a race car Friday for the first time since offseason back surgery. Rudd skipped testing at Daytona and Las Vegas to give his back more time to heal.

But Rudd’s not too worried about climbing back in a car for Friday’s practice.

“The doctor told me the worst-case scenario if it does fail again it’s going to be back the way it was last year,” Rudd said. “I was able to live with that for six months.”

NASCAR Names Medical Liason
On Thursday, NASCAR announced the appointment of a safety analyst and three medical liasons in full-time positions, beginning with the 2002 season.

Jerry Kaproth, a retired Minnesota State Patrol district commander, has been named as the safety analyst. Kaproth's duties will include investigating the results of race incidents and aiding NASCAR's engineering group with accident reconstruction. He'll be based out of NASCAR's new Research and Development Center in Conover, N.C.

Robin Morrisey, Denese Meeks and Lance Davin were appointed as medical liasons and each will be assigned to one of NASCAR's elite divisions - the Winston Cup Series, the Busch Series and the Craftsman Truck Series.

The role of the medical liason will be to gather and maintain detailed medical histories of the drivers and to coordinate medical services with the track, drivers, crew members and local hospitals. The liason's interfacing among the involved groups will enhance overall communication among the different parties.

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