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Sunday, 9 February, 2003, 04:39 GMT
Earnhardt Jr wins curtain raiser
The pit crew of Dale Earnhardt Jr in the number 8 car, centre, services the car during the only green-flag pit stop
Earnhardt Jr's car during the one green-flag pit stop
Dale Earnhardt Jr took a late lead and managed to hold off four-time Winston Cup Champion Jeff Gordon to win an invitational pre-season Nascar race in Florida.

Earnhardt Jr prevailed by three car lengths in the "shootout" event, which has drivers race a 20-lap sprint, have a ten-minute break, then race 50 more laps at the 2.5-mile (4km) Daytona International Speedway oval.

"It was a tough win" said Earnhardt Jr son of the late seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt.

"I can't remember how I got into the lead."

Earnhardt Jr took the lead with some help from Ryan Newman, Nascar's 2002 rookie of the year, when he took the outside line on the high-banked track in the backstraight on the 66th lap.

"It seemed he almost didn't hit me hard enough," Earnhardt Jr said of Newman's contact with his car that propelled him into the lead.

Matt Kenseth finished third in a Ford, while Newman, who was driving a Dodge finished fourth.

It was Earnhardt Jr's third win at the circuit and he pocketed a purse of $205,000.

This race is the first chance competitors had to get a look at the performance of new American sedan-based 3,400 pound, normally aspirated V-8 powered racers.

Front row qualifying for the Daytona 500, the first race of the Winston Cup season, will be held on Sunday.

It will be followed by two 125-mile races to finalise the field of 43-cars for the race on 16 February.

See also:

03 Feb 02 | Motorsport
01 Feb 03 | Motorsport
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