Fortune smiles upon Jarrett

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Dale Jarrett is still at the front in
the Budweiser Shootout.

After holding off favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win last year's
Shootout, the three-time Daytona 500 winner picked the top starting
spot in the 19-car field for Saturday night's race in a blind draw

"The Shootout is the perfect race to have at night because it
is such a spectacle,'' said Jarrett, a three-time winner of the
70-lap, made-for-TV event for last season's pole winners and former
Shootout winners. "It's just about winning. It doesn't matter
where else you finish in this race.

"Obviously, we didn't have the fastest car in that race last
year, but I was able to put our car in front of what was probably
the fastest car at the end, which was Junior's car. So that helped
us win that race.''

The hard-earned victory last year helped the 1999 NASCAR
champion get started on a strong comeback season after a miserable
2003, during which he had only one top-five finish -- a victory in
the second race of the season.

"The Shootout win certainly was great considering the year we'd
had in 2003, so it was a great confidence booster for our team,''
Jarrett said. "It wasn't an indicator of how we would perform at
the beginning of last season but it was a great mood lifter for the
UPS team.''

Starting alongside Jarrett in the front row Saturday at Daytona
International Speedway will be Greg Biffle, with Bill Elliott and
Brian Vickers in the second row, followed by Ken Schrader and
Nextel Cup champion Kurt Busch.

Ryan Newman, who led all qualifiers last season with eight
poles, will start seventh, followed by Tony Stewart, Ricky Rudd,
Jeremy Mayfield, Jeff Gordon, Earnhardt, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin,
Rusty Wallace, Joe Nemechek, Jimmie Johnson, Casey Mears, Bobby
Labonte and Geoffrey Bodine.

The Shootout is divided into segments of 20 and 50 laps. Teams
are required to make one pit stop sometime during the final

Tommy Baldwin, crew chief for Kahne, last year's top Cup rookie,
said the key to the race is the pit stop.

"You can only go 37 or 38 laps on a tank of fuel, so it all
depends on when and if the caution falls,'' Baldwin said. "If the
caution doesn't come out, that leaves you with a green-flag pit
stop, and then it becomes even more crucial. You've got to have a
quick pit stop to have a chance.''

Tires also can play a big part in the outcome of the race.

Earnhardt's decision to take only two tires on his stop in the
2003 Shootout paid off as he restarted in sixth behind cars that
took only fuel on their stops. He outran them all to a victory that
year and now has finished a win, two runner-up finishes and a sixth
in four tries.

"I expect a lot of the same in the Shootout, a lot of pushing,
shoving, blocking and weaving,'' Earnhardt said. "Last year, some
of the guys ended up in the fence, and some of the others crashed
their cars up a little bit. I guess it's my job to make sure we're
not one of them, so maybe we can go out there and win this thing