It didn't take long for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to break in his new car. Junior, who is in his first year driving for Hendrick Motorsports, won his first race in the No. 88 Chevrolet by dominating Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout.
Earnhardt worked his way to the front at Daytona International Speedway via the draft early in the first 20-lap segment. After the 10-minute break in the exhibition race, Junior commanded the majority of the second 50-lap segment by working with new teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon on the outside line.
Tony Stewart was a late threat, but he couldn't overcome the Hendrick freight train. He did manage to slip by Earnhardt for the lead with nine laps to go.
Kurt Busch then brought out the race's fourth caution due to a cut tire with six laps remaining. The top nine cars stayed out while the rest of the field pitted.
On the double-file restart with three to go, Stewart got a strong jump but Earnhardt got a run on the outside with the help of Johnson hooked on his bumper.
Earnhardt grabbed the lead as the draft came off Turn 4 and took the white flag. He kept his car in the middle of the two primary lanes and held off Stewart and Johnson for the victory.
Stewart finished second, followed by Johnson, Gordon and Reed Sorenson. The fourth Hendrick car, Casey Mears, wound up sixth.
It was Earnhardt's first trip to Victory Lane, albeit an exhibition race, since the spring Richmond race in 2006.
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