Credit  Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images

Time for the Wish I Won a Pole 188

It’s that time again race fans for the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Season. Every year at this time we have an exhibition race as a warm up to the Daytona 500. The Sprint Unlimited is 75 laps and consists of those drivers who have won a Coors Light Pole award the previous season. Drivers who drove last year and have also won a previous Sprint Unlimited can also enter this race.

This year those who won a pole and are entered in the race are:

Denny Hamlin (4 poles)
Kyle Busch (3 poles)
Joey Logano (2 poles)
Jimmie Johnson (2 poles)
Matt Kenseth (2 poles)
Ryan Newman (2 poles)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2 poles)
Jeff Gordon (2 poles)
Carl Edwards (2 poles)
Marcos Ambrose (1 pole)
Kurt Busch (1 pole)
Kevin Harvick (1 pole)
Brad Keselowski (1 pole)
Jamie McMurray (1 pole)
Danica Patrick (1 pole)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (1 pole)

Two other drivers Terry Labonte (past winner: 1985), and Tony Stewart (past winner: 2001, 2002 and 2007) are entered.

Mark Martin (1 pole), and Ken Schrader (past winner: 1989 and 1990) are also eligible but are not racing. If they do not race a Cup race this year they will not be eligible for the Sprint Unlimited next year. Both drivers have indicated they will not race Cup again.

The qualifying races or the Daytona 500 have been moved from the day to at night. The Sprint Unlimited may not be important for the Sprint Cup season, but information learned during this race can be used for the qualifying races and perhaps to get a better starting spot and pit selection for the Daytona 500. This elevates the importance of this race as we start the new Sprint Cup Season.

Some drivers who are not in the race will not have this benefit.  Sprint Cup Contenders Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, Kasey Kahne, and Martin Truex Jr. will be watching the Sprint Unlimited from their Motor Coaches or Pit Row.

Sure some of them have teammates in the race but there are no Michael Waltrip Racing Cars in the race.

The importance of this race will be evident after the qualifying races on Thursday. Some of these drivers might be stepping up their qualifying efforts during the next season.

This year fans can vote on the format of the race. Fans can choose the starting order between most career poles, 2013 driver point’s standings or Final Sprint Unlimited practice speeds.

Fans can also choose the length of the segments of the race. Fans can choose from 30/35/10, 30/30/15 or 30/25/20 laps per segment.

The final choice that fans have is what the final restart order is for the last segment. The choices are fastest lap of the first two segments, most laps led during the first two segments or a mandatory pit stop with the cars lining up as they come off of pit road. Visit to vote.

If you can’t get to Daytona International Speedway for the Sprint Unlimited it will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 starting at 8 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary, or on Facebook, Pinterest, and Google.