This year the NASCAR Offseason seems to be longer than ever. It probably has to do with the fact that there was no preseason thunder testing at Daytona International Speedway. Don’t worry the season is upon us. The NASCAR season begins with the Sprint Unlimited exhibition race.
This year’s race will consist of two segments, 25 and 50 laps, with a competition caution coming after Lap 25.
As for the race itself, there seems to be several different agendas by drivers and teams in this race. Some use it for extra practice to see how they stack up against the competition. Others seem to race but not take any chances if their car isn’t quite right. Regardless of the strategy, the big teams seem to have this race covered and generally win.
This race has been won by only eight different drivers since 2001. #14-Tony Stewart (07, 02, 01), #88-Dale Earnhardt Jr. (08, 03), Dale Jarrett (04), #48-Jimme Johnson (05), #11-Denny Hamlin (14, 06), #4-Kevin Harvick (13, 10, 09), #41-Kurt Busch (11), and #18-Kyle Busch (12).
The Sprint Unlimited consists of those drivers who have won a Coors Light Pole Award the previous season plus former Daytona 500 pole winners. Drivers who entered at least one race last year and have also won a previous Sprint Unlimited can also enter this race.
In December NASCAR expanded the field to 25 drivers adding in all sixteen 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders. If there is still not a full 25 car field then those highest in driver points from 2014 that are not otherwise eligible for the race can enter. Here is the entry list of eligible drivers.
2014 Pole Winners:
Austin Dillon (Daytona)
Brad Keselowski (Phoenix)
Joey Logano (Las Vegas)
Denny Hamlin (Bristol)
Matt Kenseth (Auto Club)
Kyle Busch (Martinsville)
Tony Stewart (Texas)
Kevin Harvick (Darlington)
Brian Scott (Talladega)
Jimmie Johnson (Charlotte)
Jamie McMurray (Sonoma)
David Gilliland (Daytona)
Kyle Larson (Pocono)
Jeff Gordon (Watkins Glen)
Brian Vickers (Talladega)
Former Daytona 500 Pole Winners:
Danica Patrick (’13)
Carl Edwards (’12)
Martin Truex Jr. (’09)
Greg Biffle (’04)
Former Sprint Unlimited Winners:
Kurt Busch (2011)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (’03, ’08)
2014 Chase Contenders (Not Already Qualified for the Race)
Pole winner Brian Scott is not entering the race and Brian Vickers is out due to health concerns. AJ Allmendinger and David Gilliland will also miss the race due to lack of sponsorship. This has opened up the field to four more drivers based on points from last season, Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard, Marcos Ambrose and Casey Mears. Marcos Ambrose is no longer racing in NASCAR leaving Ricky Stenhouse Jr. as the last driver to enter the field.
If you cannot get to Daytona International Speedway for the Sprint Unlimited it will be broadcast live on Fox, Saturday February 14th starting at 8 PM ET.
Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.
Feature Photo Credit: 294756 Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images