Stewart wins Shootout

Saturday, February 10th 2007, 9:36 pm
By: News On 6

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Tony Stewart drove his way into Victory Lane at Daytona - one week earlier than he hoped for.

Stewart won the exhibition Budweiser Shootout on Saturday night, setting himself up as a top contender to win the season-opening Daytona 500. That's the last of the NASCAR crown jewels that Stewart hasn't won, and he reported to Speedweeks intent on adding that win to his resume this year.

He's off to a good start.

Stewart nudged Kyle Busch out of the lead with eight laps to go, then calmly drove to his third victory in the all-star event when runner-up David Gilliland never challenged. As Stewart closed in on the finish line, Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran into the back of Elliott Sadler to start a four-car pileup far from the leaders.

Toyota, making its Nextel Cup debut, had two cars in the field but never challenged. Dale Jarrett started on the pole in his new Camry, but quickly fell to the back of the field and finished 18th out of 21 cars.

Brian Vickers briefly drove his new Team Red Bull Toyota to the front and paced the field for two laps, but faded and wound up eighth.

Stewart, meanwhile, seemed fairly confident he'll be a contender in the Feb. 18 Daytona 500.

Asked if he can carry anything over from this Shootout to the "Super Bowl of Racing," Stewart didn't flinch.

"Absolutely," he said, promising his Chevrolet for the big event would be stout.

"The other one's better, believe it or not," he said. "Everyone says that. Nobody brings their best car to the Shootout."