DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start eighth in the Budweiser Shootout, while his Hendrick Motorsports teammates will line up inside the top 18 for Saturday’s exhibition event at Daytona International Speedway.
The Hendrick Motorsports teammates participated in the traditional draw party on Friday night and are eligible for the 75-lap non-points event because they finished the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup season ranked inside the top 25.
Overall, Hendrick Motorsports has six wins in the Shootout. Most recently, Earnhardt went to Victory Lane there in 2008 during his Hendrick Motorsports debut driving the No. 88 Chevrolet.
The 75-lap exhibition event will be divided into two segments. There will be a 25-lap feature followed by a 10-minute break. The race will conclude with a 50-lap finale. Tune in to FOX at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday, Feb. 18 to watch the race live.
Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet
Qualifying draw: 19th
Shootout stats: Kahne will be making his Hendrick Motorsports debut when he lines up the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet in Saturday’s Shootout. Kahne’s best recent Shootout finish happened in 2010, when he charged from starting 19th to take runner-up honors in the 75-lap event. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, Kahne has posted the fastest laps under green during the last six Shootout events held at Daytona. His average finish is 12.5 and his speed under green is 188.914 mph during that time.
Kahne says: “I’m really interested in seeing how the engines run and how hot they run and how much we can push and how much we have to get in line. Usually it is a little bit cooler during the Shootout than what it will be during the Daytona 500. We will have to think about that also, but just how the cars are going to handle with the smaller spoilers and different aero package. Everything is a little bit different this year. I think it is going to be a lot of fun. It is a little bit bigger deal since I’m with a new team, but we had a really good test down here so I think we will be off to a good start right away we had a fast car at the test. We just have to try to learn it and figure it out; ultimately we want to win Saturday night.”
Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet
Qualifying draw: 14th
Shootout stats: A two-time winner of the Shootout, Gordon is entering his 20th season of NASCAR competition. The driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet won the 1994 and 1997 events. Gordon has finished inside the top 10 in every exhibition event since 2008, when he joined his teammates in the top four. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won that race, Jimmie Johnson finished third and Gordon was fourth. According to NASCAR’s loop data, Gordon ranks second among drivers in the closing category in the last six Shootout races. His average finish is 10th during that stretch of time, when he improved on average 2.3 positions for a total of 14.
Gordon says: “I think that this year is an unknown. Different rules and package than we had here last year, and I think the Shootout is going to tell us a lot about how strategy, patience, aggressiveness all that’s going to work together in order to get you the victory.”
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet
Qualifying draw: 18th
Shootout stats: Johnson has one win in the exhibition event at Daytona International Speedway. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet went to Victory Lane in 2005 after leading 16 laps at the 2.5-mile superspeedway. According to NASCAR’s loop data, which was compiled during the last six Shootout events, Johnson ranks third in running position (8.259) and has the seventh-best driver rating with a score of 92.7. His average finish during that time is 7.2.
Johnson says: “I think we are going to learn a lot. We didn’t do any multi-car drafting during the test last month, so we will certainly see what our Lowe’s Chevy will do. We were happy with what we saw at the test and I’m excited to get back on track. I think we will be competitive and I think it’s going to be a great show for the fans. We may see a few tweaks to the rules after the Shootout, but that’s what’s great. It will only make the Daytona 500 that much better.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet
Qualifying draw: Eighth
Shootout history: Earnhardt won the 2008 Shootout when he made his debut driving the No. 88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. During the last six exhibition events, Earnhardt ranks fourth in average running position (8.680) per NASCAR’s loop data statistics. His average finish during the last six races is 10.8, and Earnhardt has the third-best driver rating with a score of 97.9. Earnhardt also ranks first among laps led during that six-race timeframe, pacing 75 total.
Earnhardt says: “(Daytona 500) Practice might be just a small taste of what is going to happen. I think in the Shootout it will matter enough to everybody. Once you get out there and you get the drivers out there, nobody is going to hold back. Nobody is going to put anything in their pocket and save it. We want to win. We want to do whatever it takes to win, and you forget about who is watching, who is listening and all that stuff.”