The NASCAR Offseason is over. OK, not quite over but there will be some NASCAR racing beginning with the Sprint Unlimited exhibition race. Here are the drivers who will be entered into the race trying to get a head start on their week in Daytona and perhaps a jump on a great Daytona 500.
This year’s race will consist of two segments, 25 and 50 laps, with a competition caution coming after Lap 25.
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.
2015 Pole Winners:
AJ Allmendinger, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano
Former Sprint Unlimited Winners:
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (’03, ’08)
Tony Stewart (’01, ’02, ‘07)
Former Daytona 500 Pole Winners:
Austin Dillon (‘14)
Danica Patrick (’13)
Martin Truex Jr. (’09)
David Gilliland (‘07)
Greg Biffle (’04)
2014 Chase Contenders (Not Already Qualified for the Race)
Clint Bowyer, Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard, Ryan Newman
In the Race via Their 2015 Points:
The Sprint Unlimited field is limited to 25 drivers. If for some reason the 25 driver field has not been filled with Pole Winners, Previous Limited Winners, Daytona 500 Pole Winners or Chase Contenders the rest of the field is filed by driver points. This is where the rest of the entry list can get confusing.
There are 23 drivers who are eligible for the 25 driver field. That leaves two spots open for Aric Almirola and Kyle Larson. Jeff Gordon retired and is not entering the race. That adds Casey Mears to the field on points.
Tony Stewart is injured and will not be entering the race. SHR has appealed to NASCAR that on this late date they had prepared a car and spent much money and effort on it. NASCAR has allowed them to enter the race even though the driver may or may not be otherwise eligible. The candidate for that car is Brian Vickers if he is medically cleared to race and it appears he may have.
If any other driver does not enter the race then the next driver on the bubble would be Ricky Stenhouse Jr. followed by Sam Hornish Jr. and David Ragan who both do not have a ride. Trevor Bayne, who does have a ride, would be next. At this point in time that driver would be David Gilliland who as of this writing does not have a ride. If he is not in the race then Ricky Stenhouse Jr. would be.
This race has been won by only nine 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), #18-Kyle Busch (12), and #20-Matt Kenseth (15).
As for the race itself and what to expect it gets much simpler. Those drivers who somehow excel at restrictor plate racing will figure prominently in this race. The odds are very good that one of those nine drivers, who have won this race since 2001, will repeat.
If you cannot get to Daytona International Speedway for the Sprint Unlimited it will be broadcast live on Fox, Saturday February 13th 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: 304913 Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images