DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Tony Stewart's mindset for this afternoon's Budweiser Shootout all-star race at the Daytona International Speedway is to treat the 70-lap sprint as a glorified practice session.
Bill Elliott said he thinks the race among the pole winners from 2000 will be a test session for his new Dodge Intrepid race car.
Rusty Wallace said he believes the dash for cash is a great time to try new parts on the car and to try new moves on the race track.
Dale Jarrett said this afternoon's race will be a good preview of what's to come a week from now at the Daytona 500.
Apparently, a $200,000 payday to the winner isn't as important as what can be learned for the future during a 70-lap race among select drivers.
"To me, it's a great opportunity to practice, basically," Stewart said. "We still want to try to win it. But the thing is, you can take the opportunity in 70 laps and try things that you don't necessarily want to take the chance to try in the 500."
This made-for-television (2 p.m., Fox-54) race is open only to the pole winners from a year ago, former all-star winners and one at-large entry randomly selected from all second-round qualifiers.
Elliott won the pole position for this year's Daytona 500 on Saturday. That makes him the first qualifier for next year's Budweiser Shootout.
The starting lineup was determined Thursday in another blind drawing.
Ken Schrader is on the pole, followed by Dale Earnhardt in second, Jarrett in third, Mark Martin in fourth, Steve Park in fifth and Jeff Gordon in sixth.
Stewart will start seventh, while Bobby Labonte is eighth, Joe Nemechek is ninth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is 10th, Ricky Rudd is 11th, Terry Labonte is 12th, Elliott is 13th, Jeremy Mayfield is 14th, Wallace is 15th, Jeff Burton is 16th, Ted Musgrave is 17th and Mike Skinner is 18th.
In the past, the race lasted only 20 laps. Now that it has been expanded to 70 laps, a mandatory pit stop has been included.
The expanded format for the non-points race widely has been accepted by the drivers since it will better provide answers for the other races scheduled on the 2.5-mile tri-oval this week. The 20-lap format of the past didn't afford an opportunity to see how a car would react in longer runs that are more common to the 500.
"Right now, my objective is to go to the race, do the best we can do and come out of it and analyze the good, bad or indifferent so we can go on to the next deal," Elliott said.
Wallace said he likes the shootout because teams can try different things without any ramifications in the point standings.
"Are we going to bust a part? How close are they going to run together? Is three-wide racing here at Daytona a viable deal? I think the Bud Shootout this year is going to be a lot more look-and-see than in the past," Wallace said.
Following the all-star race today, the teams will return to Daytona on Monday for second-round qualifying for the Daytona 500. On Thursday, cars will compete in one of two 125-mile qualifying races that determine most of the starting lineup for the Daytona 500. Three weeks of racing, which included the 24 Hours of Daytona for sports cars earlier in the month, concludes next Sunday with the Daytona 500.
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