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Harvick Shakes Off Illness, Defends Shootout Win

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Kevin Harvick won the Budweiser Shootout to become the first driver to win the exhibition race back-to-back since Tony Stewart in 2001.

“When you go through the year like we went through with RCR,” said the California native in the customary Victory Lane interview, relating to the winless year endured by the four car Richard Childress Racing squad in 2009.

The driver had been suffering with flu-like symptoms in the run up to the race, with 2010 RCR teammate Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton charged with practicing Harvick's no.29 car in the build-up to the race.

However, after pitting to take two fresh tyres under a later caution Harvick was able to swoop below Greg Biffle, who had opted not to pit, on the restart to take the lead in turn one.

And in turn three the race was over as Biffle, now being pushed by Jeff Gordon half spun, with Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Bobby Labonte, Ryan Newman, Mark Martin and Ken Schrader – in a one-off ride with Team Red – all piled up in the outside wall.

The crash saw the race end under some confusion as the chequered and yellow flags flew together, despite pre-race build up proclaiming the race must finish under green.

Kasey Kahne, the only driver other than Biffle not to pit on the late caution, finished second on his first run in a Ford. “that actually worked out great for us,” said Kahne of the choice afterwards. “I was like, 'Man, the tires aren't too bad.' So I was happy. The Roush Yates Ford engine is definitely an improvement. That's nice to have.”

“You don't really expect it,” claims Kenseth. “When you're behind Jeff Gordon, who is one of the sport's best, and the 16 was on old tires. I don't know, one of them got into each other and lost it or something.”

Replays suggest Gordon bump-drafted Biffle into the corner, spinning the Ford, but it was the only time NASCAR's more relaxed control on bump-drafting caused and accident all night.

Michael Waltrip brought out a pair of cautions, one by spinning solo off turn two and another being tipped into the wall by Ryan Newman, and accident that also involved Jeff Andretti.

However, the most spectacular incident of the night belonged to Kurt Busch who spun into the tri-oval grass off the nose of Mark Martin after 41 laps. It was an accident Martin quickly took responsibility, but not before Busch had slid luridly through the grass, ripping off the front splitter and send the bonnet of his car up over his windshield before hitting the outside wall nose first.

The effect of NASCAR's other change, an enlarged restrictor plate, was less clear.

The race was characterised by long periods of the higher drafting line unable to pass the leader, a fact that saw pole sitter Carl Edwards lead the first 29 laps of the 75 lap event, including the opening segment of 25 laps before the competition caution and ten minute break.

However, the real test both for the new plate and bump-drafting rules will come when the larger races take to the track.

First come the Duel qualifying races on Thursday, before the Daytona 500 itself on Sunday.

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