Tuesday, February 9, 2016

2016 Sprint Unlimited Preview: Think Gibbs again

How about some Hamlin at 15/1?
LAS VEGAS -- It seems like an eternity since I've heard the beautiful sounds of multiple NASCAR Sprint Cup engines purring while running at max RPM's. I know it's only been since November when they last ran, but something is embedded in my system as a NASCAR fan where I need that weekly NASCAR fix, and it almost burns when I don't get it.

Finally, the wait is over. It’s time to go racing again and my first fix of 2016 is Saturday night with the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway.

My first real joy begins Friday at 5:00 p.m. ET when the 25 eligible drivers for the 75 lap non-points race have their first practice. It’s like spring training -- the dawning of a new year. Some wait for the rodent in Pennsylvania to come out of his hole and brilliantly tell them it'll be winter longer, but I know my spring and summer is coming as soon as I hear those badass cars for the first time in practice.

As with most restrictor-plate races, the practices mean very little, and I’ll gain really nothing from watching it. It’s almost like a waste of 55 minutes and then I’ll watch another one an hour later for the final 55-minute session just to hear people talking NASCAR again. For me, it's better than being a kid again and waiting up all night for Santa Claus. Yes, as you can tell, I‘ll be pumped for those couple of meaningless practice sessions. The Broncos cap goes back on the hat rack, and the No. 3 camouflage hat comes back out.

New season. Opening day. Love it.

Of course, if I’m going to watch the race I’ve got to have some action on it, right? The thing I like about the Sprint Unlimited is that it’s a short race with only 75 laps. It’s over in an instant. It’s like a Saturday night special at the local short track. And we get only the best of the best -- drivers that won a pole last season or any Daytona 500 pole, won a past Sprint Unlimited, or participated in the Chase last season. There are no hobos participating -- no jalopies to get in the way. This race is about getting out front quick and trying to maintain good position throughout because it’s over real fast.

There are a few drivers that really seem to like this format, such as three-time winner Kevin Harvick and two-time winner Denny Hamlin. Matt Kenseth won last season and Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won twice, the last coming in 2008.

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