2012 Bud Shootout Underway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Takes Early Lead

NASCAR's most popular driver jumped out to the lead on the first lap of Saturday night's Bud Shootout at Daytona International Speedway and continues to lead in the early going.

The exhibition race marks the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and serves as a preview to next Sunday's Daytona 500.

Tonight's race is a 75-lap event split into two segments: An opening 25-lap run followed by a 10-minute break and a 50-lap dash to the finish.

Four cars had to start in the rear of the field as the result of damage from a Friday practice crash: Brad Keselowski, AJ Allmendinger, Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch.

The race is a key test to see if NASCAR's rules package has succeeded in eliminating – or at least reducing – the dreaded two-car drafts that fans quickly came to hate when they emerged last year.

Kurt Busch is the defending race winner of the event.

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