Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sprint Unlimited (Shootout): Gibbs Drivers Look to Have a Big Edge

Matt Kenseth looked very fast in testing (Getty)
By Micah Roberts

It seems like an eternity since we last saw some NASCAR Racing, but it's only been two months, and a lot of stuff has happened during that span making this a completely different season from anything we have seen. The main change that will be the storyline for the first two months of the season is how the new Generation-6 car handles on all the differing type of tracks.

We've seen change before with the Car of Tomorrow, but NASCAR gradually brought that car in slowly to certain tracks before unleashing it all at once on a season. Every driver on the track for the next two weeks will all have a major learning curve to figure out how far they can push their cars in the draft and whoever figures it first will have a major edge in next weeks Daytona 500.

For a lucky few, they'll get to test out the new Gen-6 car in competitive racing action Saturday night at Daytona for the Sprint Unlimited, a 75-lap non-points race that used to be known as the Bud Shootout. Drivers who sat on the pole last season or won previous Bud Shootouts are eligible to participate. 22 drivers are eligible, but the top two finishers in points last season -- Brad Keselowski and Clint Bowyer -- aren’t among them.

While it would have been nice to see Keselowski and Bowyer racing, it’s still going to fun watching all the other well known drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon mixing it up.

We got to see the teams test the new car in Daytona last month and I came away highly impressed with all the Joe Gibbs cars. Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and new teammate Matt Kenseth will be a formidable group to contend with this week and in two weeks for the Daytona 500. Busch won this race last season and Hamlin won as a rookie in 2006. All Kenseth has done over his career is win two Daytona 500’s, including last season. Kenseth's the new guy and adapting to that role.

"I've never been in this position, but the first time you walk in a team's shop that has a driver who's leaving and you're coming in to drive that guy's car, there's always that anxiety," Kenseth told USA Today. "'Oh man, that guy, they really loved him. I hope they accept me and like me.' You want to fit in and be one of the guys. ... I feel like the rookie. I've got my ears and eyes wide open, although it doesn't take me long to voice my opinions."

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