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After winning the pole Saturday, Elliott struggles Sunday
By Mark Button, CNNSI.com
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Saturday was a glorious day for Dodge. They qualified for the top two positions for the Daytona 500 after an 18-year hiatus from Winston Cup racing.
Sunday was something else.
Bill Elliott, who won the pole Saturday, finished 12th in the 18-car Budweiser Shootout on Sunday. Elliott's No. 9 Dodge was the only Dodge in the field.
Dodge put four cars in the top 10 qualifying spots Saturday. Fellow Dodge driver Stacy Compton earned the second spot in the 500 with the second fastest qualifying time.
Elliott started in the 13th slot Sunday, and never sniffed the front of the pack. The closest he got to the lead was 11th place on the 64th lap before falling back to 13th place a lap later.
"We've still got a long way to go," said Elliott, who earned $34,722 for 12th place. "I learned we were a little tight. We just need to work on our handling package a little bit."
This was the first time since 1983 that the Dodge team put a car out in competitive Winston Cup traffic. Elliott's No. 9 was not the same Dodge car he ran in qualifying.
Not only was it the first time out in the crowd for Elliott to test drafting and aerodynamics, it was especially difficult for Elliott to find drafting partners since he drove the only Dodge running.
Team owner Ray Evernham, who was Jeff Gordon's crew chief in Gordon's three Winston Cup championship years (1995, 1997-98), said the team also experimented with the chassis setup.
"We just wanted to try it and see if that was a direction we wanted to go in," Evernham said. "We need to go back to where we were before."
Any trace of Elliott and Evernham's giddiness from Saturday was long gone by dusk Sunday.
Kenny Schrader was among a group of drivers that accused the Dodge cars of "sandbagging" earlier in Speedweeks by recording sluggish practice times before their dominant showing in qualifying. When asked if he thought Elliott's poor showing in the Budweiser Shootout would further stir conspiracy theories, Evernham response was simple.
He turned and walked away.