-- Tony Stewart is a Prince of Darkness on the NASCAR circuit because he loves racing at night.
So, the Winston Cup champion couldn't be happier that the Budweiser Shootout -- the first competition of the year for 19 of the sport's biggest names -- will be run under the lights for the first time Saturday.
"It's a perfect time of day for me," Stewart said happily. "When I really get going is when the sun goes down."
Stewart forged much of his early racing success and won his first championships under the lights on short tracks.
The race Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway is the 25th edition of the made-for-TV event that began as the Busch Clash. It will pay $200,000 to the winner.
The non-points race includes the previous season's pole winners and former winners of the event.
This year's field includes the top 11 finishers in the 2002 Winston Cup standings, 15 pole winners and former Shootout winners Mark Martin, Terry Labonte, Ken Schrader and Geoffrey Bodine.
Bodine is the only driver in the lineup without a ride for 2003 and the man who picked the pole position for the race in a blind draw.
Bodine, driving brother Brett's car, finished third in last year's Daytona 500 but was unable to find a ride for this year's race on Feb. 16. Brett, a struggling owner-driver, didn't think to offer Geoffrey his car until last week.
"He deserves to be in the field," Brett said.
Among Geoffrey's competitors Saturday will be the third Bodine brother, Todd.
"Maybe we can team up and help each other," said Geoffrey, a former Daytona winner. "I'd love to see him or me win this Shootout. But this is Brett's car and he is on a tight budget, and I have to be careful."
The Shootout will be the first opportunity for the series regulars to test their new cars under race conditions.