Kevin Harvick started Speedweeks in bed, started the Budweiser Shootout in a backup car and started the final few laps out of the lead.
After all that, he ended up in Victory Lane.
Harvick won the exhibition race for the second consecutive year by moving from fourth to first and passing leader Greg Biffle with two laps remaining in Saturday night's kickoff race to Speedweeks. Biffle's wreck moments later ended the race under caution, giving Harvick his first win since the Shootout victory a year ago.
He hasn't won a points race since the 2007 season-opening Daytona 500, and was not ready to proclaim his Shootout victory a precursor for a possible repeat in next week's 500.
"I know we started last year the same way," he said of the 2009 Shootout win _ the lone bright spot in an otherwise abysmal season for Harvick and all of Richard Childress Racing.
And, the way he started Speedweeks was a reminder of just how topsy-turvy the 11 days in Daytona can be.
He was battling the flu and too ill to travel to Daytona on Thursday for Shootout practice, so teammate Clint Bowyer drove the Chevrolet in the first session. Then it was marred by a seven-car accident that destroyed the No. 29, forcing RCR to pull out its backup car.
Jeff Burton practiced that for Harvick, who was able to get to Daytona in time for Friday's 500 practice. That got rained out after just two laps.
So Harvick was all too aware of the bizarre things that can happen between now and the Feb. 14 race.
"I've been here enough times now that you know this can be a funny week and it can mess with you," he said. "Time after time, hour by hour can bring something unexpected, just like getting sick to start the week. That's not something that you can plan for. And wrecking a car in the first practice with somebody else driving it.
"There's just so many things, so many different variables that can get thrown at you this week. This place can knock you down as fast as it can pick you up. You've got to be able to maintain even keel and be able to keep that focus ... because strange things happen."
There wasn't much in Harvick's way once the race began Saturday night. Although no one could touch pole-sitter Carl Edwards in the first 25-lap segment, Harvick clearly had a strong car and told his team during the break that if he could get out front, no one would catch him.
He was right, too. But Michael Waltrip's accident with five laps left brought out a caution that forced a change of strategy. Harvick wanted to pit, but lost the lead when Biffle and Kasey Kahne decided to stay on the track.
Harvick led most of the 24-car field down pit road, took two tires, and restarted in fourth for the two-lap sprint to the end. He quickly pulled out of line to dive underneath Biffle and claim the lead. He was pulling away when Jeff Gordon rammed into the back of Biffle, triggering an eight-car accident behind the leader.
NASCAR waited several moments before calling caution, presumably to see if the wreckage cleared and the race could end under green. Instead, Harvick passed under the yellow flag and won under caution. Kahne finished second and Jamie McMurray was third.
"For us all to win together, it kind of gives you that team bonding and a little bit of swagger in your step that everybody knows they can win," he said. "We got beat down in the middle a little bit last year and we kind of built that up as we got toward the end of the year. But there's nothing like slinging Budweiser in Victory Lane.
"It just gives those guys confidence and gives us everybody that confidence that we've done it a lot and we can still do it a lot."
There was some confusion, though, as to the rules of the finish. Although NASCAR told drivers in the pre-race meeting there would be just one attempt at a green-flag finish, several drivers believed they saw on television that the race must end under green.
"I did see that I think on TV it said it must end under green," McMurray said. "But, I mean, they would have just kept wrecking."
Harvick was reluctant to celebrate over the radio because he was confused by the procedure.
"I was a little bit off kilter on that one," he admitted. "I read something somewhere that the race will end under green. Maybe it was just on a TV telecast as I was delusional sleeping in bed. I don't know. Maybe I dreamed it."
Kyle Busch finished fourth and was followed by Denny Hamlin, Brian Vickers and Joey Logano. Gordon was eighth, while Tony Stewart and Juan Pablo Montoya rounded out the top 10.
The race had high expectations because of NASCAR's offseason decision to loosen up the rules and allow bump-drafting. The message sent to drivers was "Have at it, boys," and most everyone expected a wild race.
Instead, it was fairly calm and most of the activity was limited to single-car accidents. That took some drivers by surprise, especially since it took less than 30 minutes of practice Thursday for a multi-car accident to tear up several cars.
"It was an anticlimactic ending, that's for sure," Hamlin said.
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