Tag Archives: Sprint Unlimited

2016 NASCAR Sprint Unlimited Driver Breakdown, Yes it’s confusing

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.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

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

Sprint Unlimited has Been Dominated by Big Team Drivers

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)
AJ Allmendinger
Aric Almirola
Kasey Kahne
Ryan Newman

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.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

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

Terry Labonte and Go FAS Racing exhibit Start and Park

Terry Labonte used his past win in the Sprint Unlimited to get into the NASCAR Exhibition race that fans look forward to signaling the start of Speed Weeks. He ran one lap and parked. The reason given is he had a vibration.

It was reported that Terry Labonte and the No. 32 Go Fas Racing Team is using the same car for the Sprint Unlimited and the Daytona 500. It is fully understandable that they would want to protect the car for the Daytona 500. It is also fully understandable that this underfunded team would do whatever they could to get funding in order to make it in NASCAR. They earned $30,580.00 for their effort.

 Photo by HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevy Racing
Photo by HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevy Racing

This is exactly what the No. 32 team could not afford. Labonte would have certainly been in the middle and they would have lost the car.

But the Sprint Unlimited is an exhibition race; A race that is put on strictly for the fans. It is supposed to be an all-out racing show. Many fans wait all off season to watch this spectacle. One wonders how many old-time Terry Labonte fans tuned in to watch him. This is not what we want to see in any race—especially an exhibition race where excitement and expectation is at an all-time high. That is why the race is called the Sprint Unlimited.

There is hope that the No. 32 team will race in the Daytona 500 and not park. Labonte ran six laps in the first and eight in the second Unlimited practice, about the same number of laps the contending cars ran. They also ran eight laps in the first and second Daytona 500 practices much like the contending cars.

They were 42nd in the first Daytona 500 practice and 39th in the second. Labonte was 42nd in qualifying speed. That speed is probably not enough to rely on alone to get into the race.

Looking at the Owner Points for the No. 32 car they are not guaranteed to make the Daytona 500 but the odds are in their favor. But if there happens to be big wreck in the first race taking out four drivers higher in Owner Points he will have to race in. Since they are in the second race they can make their decision during their qualifying race.

If starting and parking enables them to save the car and make the Daytona 500 then we can forgive them. Especially since restrictor plate racing seems to be an equalizer where those lesser funded teams actually have a chance to compete with the big teams. If they get to the big show and park again, fans will be left disappointed. We don’t want to see this.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

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.

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 http://www.nascar.com/sprintunlimited 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 BehindPitRow.com.

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.