Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Budweiser Shootout and Daytona 500 Qualifying Storylines

Budweiser Shootout is Saturday night on Fox (Getty)
Saturday night’s Shootout at Daytona without a doubt is the greatest preseason spectacle in sports. While preseason games in most major leagues are training or cut-down exercises, the 75-lap, 187.5-mile Shootout is serious business – with virtually every significant player on the field giving 100 percent from the drop of the green flag to the checkers.

No points are at stake; in its place, the glory of victory leading up to the Feb. 26 Daytona 500.

This year’s 34th Shootout field is comprised of drivers finishing among the top 25 in final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings as well as active past winners of the Daytona 500, Coke Zero 400 and Shootout at Daytona. Three-time champion Tony Stewart has won the Shootout three times, most by a 2012 participant. Other Shootout winners entered include Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch.

On Sunday, competitors climb into their Daytona 500 cars for Coors Light Pole qualifying and run qualifying laps to determine the front row positions for The Great American Race and positions in the Feb. 23 Gatorade Duel at Daytona – a pair of 60-lap, 150-mile races that will set the remainder of the 500 field.

NASCAR Media Day gets Speedweeks 2012 started on Thursday during which more than 50 of NASCAR’s stars from all three national series will lay out their 2012 plans before an expected turnout of 300 print, broadcast and online reporters.

Season Starts In Shootout Style
Before the points-paying season gets under way with the Daytona 500, Feb. 26 at 1 p.m. ET on FOX, fans will get to see many of their NASCAR Sprint Cup Series favorites in the 34th annual Shootout at Daytona.

The race distance will again be 75 laps (187.5 miles), consisting of two segments – 25 and 50 laps. Both green-flag laps and yellow-flag laps will count. Between segments there will be a 10-minute pit stop allowing teams to pit to change tires, add fuel and make normal chassis adjustments.

Finishing last in the 2011 edition of this race, Kasey Kahne hopes to follow Denny Hamlin (2006) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2008) and get a Shootout win in his first race for a new team, Hendrick Motorsports. Defending race winner Kurt Busch will attempt to do the same thing as he moves to Phoenix Racing. Kevin Harvick will go for his third victory in four years in this race, extending Richard Childress' record for Shootout wins to eight.

FOX will televise the Shootout live beginning at 8 p.m. ET. MRN and NASCAR Sirius Radio also will provide coverage.

Must Be In The Front Row
Gordon and Junior sat on the front row in 2011 (Getty)
The first two spots in the Daytona 500 will be determined on Sunday as a 10th different driver attempts to take the season-opening Coors Light Pole Award. Hendrick Motorsports has won three of the last four poles.

The pole-winner appears to be due for a victory in The Great American Race. The record for seasons between pole-sitters winning the Daytona 500 is 12 from Cale Yarborough in 1968 to Buddy Baker in 1980 and Bill Elliott in 1987 to Jeff Gordon in 1999. Dale Jarrett is the last pole-sitter to win the 500 in 2000. Will someone step up and win to tie the record or will a new record be set?

Danica Patrick will attempt to become the fourth rookie to win the Daytona 500 pole, following Loy Allen (1994), Mike Skinner (1997) and Jimmie Johnson (2002). If she does so, she'll also become the first woman to win a pole in NASCAR's top series.

Bayne Comes Of Age
Trevor Bayne begins his attempt to become the ninth driver in Daytona 500 history to win more than one 500 and the fourth driver to win back-to-back Great American Races, following Richard Petty (1973-74), Cale Yarborough (1983-84) and Sterling Marlin (1994-95).

Bayne, who turns 21 on Coors Light Pole Day on Sunday, will attempt to drive the No. 21 to its sixth Daytona 500 victory, one shy of the record held by the No. 43 and Richard Petty's seven wins.

Just the Facts And More During Media Day 2012
Hundreds of print, broadcast and online journalists will begin descending on Central Florida later this week with many making their first stop at the annual NASCAR Media Day taking place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday outside Daytona International Speedway. More than 50 drivers from NASCAR’s three national series will be available to media. NASCAR’s broadcast partners will provide coverage during the event with audio transcripts, photography and video available online at Off-site media also can follow via Twitter at #DAYTONA500.

Speedweeks Begin Early For Nationwide Title Contenders
Bayne, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Elliott Sadler and Kenny Wallace figure to be among the favorites to win the 2012 NASCAR Nationwide Series championship. Stenhouse could become the first repeat champion since Martin Truex Jr. in 2004-05. While the majority of the NASCAR Nationwide Series contingent won’t be on track until next week, Bayne, Stenhouse, Sadler and Wallace get a head start as they battle for Daytona 500 front row and Gatorade Duel at Daytona starting positions in Sunday’s Sprint Cup qualifying. Each will be looking for a NASCAR Nationwide/Daytona 500 sweep last accomplished by Kevin Harvick (2007). Others who have won the “double” are Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2004), Darrell Waltrip (1989) and Bobby Allison (1988). The DRIVE4COPD300 will be run on Feb. 25 and will air live on ESPN at 1:15 p.m. ET.

Daytona Jewel Missing From Two NASCAR Camping World Truck Crowns
Neither four-time NASCAR Camping World Truck champion Ron Hornaday Jr. nor inaugural titleholder Mike Skinner has won at Daytona International Speedway. Each attempts to remedy that oversight on Feb. 24 when the 2012 season opens with running of the NextEra Energy Resources 250. Hornaday joins Joe Denette’s second-year team in search of a fifth series championship. Skinner will compete in the Daytona opener for Eddie Sharp Racing. They’ll join two-time series champion and Daytona winner Todd Bodine in what’s expected to be a large field. The race will be broadcast live by SPEED at 7:30 p.m. ET. Several NCWTS competitors have entered Saturday’s ARCA Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 including Max Gresham, Cale Gale, Joey Coulter and Paulie Harraka.

- NASCAR Media Services

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