Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Sprint Unlimited at Daytona - A shootout-style clash


Finally, NASCAR Sprint Cup racing has returned to Daytona International Speedway. 

At 8:10 p.m. tonight the green flag flies for the Sprint Unlimited. Despite its name, the race is limited to only those drivers who won poles during the 2012 season as well as former event winners who participated in at least one Sprint Cup event last season. That means 2012 Sprint Cup champ Brad Keselowski and second-place points finisher Clint Bowyer won't be racing. Keselowski, however, will be in the broadcast booth, adding his unique brand of commentary to the spectacle. 

Last year, Kyle Busch beat Tony Stewart at the line for the closest finish in event history. The other Busch brother, Kurt, won in 2011 by the second-closest margin. Tonight, Jeff Gordon ties Mark Martin's record for most consecutive starts with 19. Tonight's lineup will include four multiple-time winners: Tony Stewart (3), Jeff Gordon (2), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2) and Kevin Harvick (2). 

Established in 1979 as the Busch Clash, later known as the Bud Shootout and the Budweiser Shootout, this year's race is 75 laps, run in 30-, 25- and 20-lap segments. The race pays no points, only prize money and bragging rights. This year's participants get the added bonus of being the first in the garage to drive the new Gen-6 car under race conditions. For the first time in event history, fan votes determined the length of the segments. 

Until the green flag flies tonight, fans may also vote on whether teams must complete a two- or four-tire pit stop after the first segment. In addition, fans have through the second segment green flag to determine the number of cars to be eliminated at the end of that segment: zero, two, four or six. Finally, by the third segment's green flag, fans decide which of three firesuits Miss Sprint Cup will wear in victory lane. To vote, visit www.nascar.com/SprintUnlimited or use the NASCAR Mobile ’13 app on any wireless device to have your vote count twice.  

Fans in attendance at the race determine the starting order by voting at special stations at the track or by texting. Information on texting is only posted at the Speedway. The options are: 

1) Number of career wins (most to least)
2) 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final driver point standings
3) The order of when drivers earned their pole position in 2012 (Daytona 500 first place – Homestead-Miami Speedway Ford 400 last place)

Participating drivers are: 
*Previous event winner
(2012 poles won)

Car Driver                                    Team Name
5   Kasey Kahne (4)                     Farmers Insurance Chevrolet
9   Marcos Ambrose (2)                Stanley Ford
11 Denny Hamlin* (3)                  FedEx Express Toyota
14 Tony Stewart* (1)                   Mobil 1 / Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet
16 Greg Biffle (3)                        3M Ford
18 Kyle Busch* (2)                      M&M's Toyota
20 Matt Kenseth (1)                     Dollar General Toyota
22 Joey Logano  (2)                     Shell Pennzoil Ford
24 Jeff Gordon* (3)                     Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet
29 Kevin Harvick*                       Budweiser Chevrolet
32 Terry Labonte*                       C&J Energy Services Ford
42 Juan Pablo Montoya (2)          Target Chevrolet
43 Aric Almirola (1)                     Smithfield Ford
48 Jimmie Johnson* (4)                Lowe's Yellow Chevrolet
55 Mark Martin* (4)                    Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota
56 Martin Truex Jr.  (1)                NAPA Auto Parts Toyota
78 Kurt Busch*                           Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet
88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.* (1)            National Guard Chevrolet
99 Carl Edwards (1)                     Fastenal Ford

AJ Allmendinger won the Coors Light Pole at Kansas in April 2012, but will not be participating. Past winner Ken Schrader steps out of the No. 32 C&J Energy Ford, giving way to past winner and two-time Cup Champion Terry Labonte, who'll be racing that same car in the Daytona 500. 

The Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway airs tonight on FOX, MRN Radio and Sirius XM Satellite NASCAR Radio with the pre-race show beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern. The green flag is scheduled for 8:29 p.m. Eastern. 

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