DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Maybe the new Chevrolets aren't so bad, after all.
Dale Jarrett's intimidating Ford Taurus did nothing Sunday to diminish the defending Winston Cup champion's favorite status for the Daytona 500. But the Chevrolets of Jeff Gordon and Sterling Marlin put up quite an impressive challenge in the Bud Shootout.
''It looks like the Chevrolets are OK,'' Jarrett said after rocketing past the two Monte Carlos on the last turn of the 25-lap, made-for-TV event at Daytona International Speedway.
''I've heard them complaining a little bit this week, but the cars looked awful good,'' he added. ''It's going to be a heck of race next Sunday.''
The completely redesigned Chevrolets were overpowered in Daytona 500 qualifying Saturday, with only one Monte Carlo driver -- Mike Skinner in fourth -- breaking the dominance of the Ford Taurus and Pontiac Grand Prix.
But the Shootout, a race for the previous year's pole-winners, was competitive throughout, and the finish was a Daytona classic -- complete with a wild crash.
To get into the Shootout, Jarrett had to win a 25-lap preliminary event for last year's second-round qualifying leaders.
The two-time Daytona 500 champion won it handily.
Each of the races included a mandatory pit stop with a two-tire change and Jarrett showed the addition of five new crewmen -- acquired from Gordon's elite Rainbow Warriors -- had given him another weapon.
The pit stop in the qualifying race moved Jarrett past Ricky Craven into first place, and he sped away to win by just over five seconds -- nearly half a straightaway on the 2 1/2-mile oval.
Through the first nine laps, Jarrett, who started last, remained at or near the rear of the tightly bunched 15-car field. But, when the rest of the drivers drove onto pit road at the end of lap 10, Jarrett and Bobby Labonte remained on the track.
''You have to slow down considerably to pit with all that traffic,'' Jarrett said. ''We just figured if we waited and the two of us came in together, we could get in and out a little quicker and draft together to get back to speed.''
Jarrett and Labonte pitted a lap later on an almost empty pit road.
When everyone was back up to speed, Marlin was in front and Jarrett was third, just behind new Robert Yates Racing teammate Ricky Rudd and just ahead of defending Daytona winner Gordon, who led until the pit stops.
Two laps from the end, Jarrett moved alongside Rudd on the backstretch. As the Fords remained side-by-side, Gordon made his move on the front straightaway, racing around Jarrett at the top of the banking before diving almost to the infield grass to move into second before the first turn.
The last-lap scramble was dramatic, Gordon and Marlin getting side-by-side and Jarrett, with a little help from Labonte, shooting into the lead on the top of the high-banked track coming off turn four.
Jarrett beat Gordon by 0.261-seconds -- about three car-lengths. The winner averaged 182.334 mph.
''I had me a run,'' Jarrett said. ''I said, 'The car's working pretty good on the outside, so let's give this a try. If it doesn't work, we're not going to lose any points today.'''
The big crash came as Jarrett was taking the checkered flag.
It began when Marlin banged into Labonte's Pontiac as they neared the finish line. Labonte got sideways in front of Rudd, whose car hit the wall and was then pinched by Kenny Schrader's Pontiac. The Ford sailed into the air and wound up sliding down the front straightaway on its roof.
Rudd quickly slid out of the car and walked away uninjured.
It was weird because I slid on the roof a long way and it was never a hard hit,'' said Rudd, who will start alongside Jarrett in the 500.
The competitive Shootout blunted fears that the new Monte Carlos would be at a huge disadvantage in the race.
''The Fords still have us a little bit on speed, but I think the 500 is won by handling and strategy and who can have good pits stops and get in front,'' said Gordon, who also has won NASCAR's biggest race twice.
Marlin's Chevy wound up third Sunday, followed by the Pontiac of Tony Stewart, Kevin Lepage in a Ford, Schrader's Grand Prix and the Taurus of Rusty Wallace.
Mark Martin, who got the Shootout pole in a blind draw, wound up last, completing only 10 laps.
Martin, racing for the time since spinal fusion surgery last November, slid into his jackman as he made his pit stop. The crewman came away with only a bruised leg, but Martin parked the car.
''We just didn't have enough brakes there. I couldn't get it slowed down,'' the shaken Martin said. ''He was trying to get around the car and I was just helpless. I just had to sit there and watch it.''
The only other accident of the day came on the first lap of the qualifying race when Kenny Wallace hit the wall coming off turn four and started a chain reaction that caught Rick Mast and Stanton Barrett. None of the drivers was injured.
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