Opening Day is here…for NASCAR fans. Today signifies the first day that NASCAR Sprint Cup teams debut their new paint schemes and rides as practice takes place for the Sprint Unlimited all-star event at Daytona International Speedway.
The race, originally named the Busch Clash and later the Budweiser Shootout, is for pole winners from the previous year along with former winners of the event. Sprint has made the race interactive, having the fans decide certain aspects of the event.
The first major decision was the race segment distances: the first segment will be 30 laps, the second 25 laps and the final segment 20. Previously, the event was a 25-lap first segment with a 50-lap second segment with a pit stop between the two.
Fans have the opportunity to decide what kind of pit stop the teams will make after the first segment and the number of cars eliminated after the second segment.
With the new Generation 6 car debuting in the event, most of the 22 starters in tomorrow night’s race will have to figure out how the car handles in a pack and drafting among each other. In preseason testing, the cars were hard to handle and drafting was difficult in either a pack or a tandem format.
Since the Unlimited is a non-points event, the drivers will be going for the victory or bringing the car back on the tow truck. Many drivers predict crashes with the car and the elimination may be a self-elimination due to carnage.
Look for defending race winner Kyle Busch to have a hand in the result in his M&M’s Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. The man known as “Rowdy” had an off year in 2012, winning only one points paying event among the three major NASCAR series. Busch signed a long-term extension with the team in the off-season, so he will have one focus – victory.
Three-time Sprint Unlimited winner Tony Stewart will debut his Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet in this race, looking for a solid start to his 2013 Speedweeks. The winner of 18 events at Daytona, Stewart is working towards the ultimate goal of winning the Daytona 500 on February 24. However, nobody should count “Smoke” out for victory on Saturday night.
Former race winners, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon will balance experimenting with the draft and handling while attempting to add a big prize and trophy to their mantle.
If you are looking for a dark horse contender, Matt Kenseth is the best choice. The long-time Roush-Fenway Ford driver moved over to Joe Gibbs Racing and the Home Depot/Dollar General team during the off-season.
Kenseth has made an immediate impact. Teammates Kyle Busch and Hamlin have been happy with having a veteran presence who has won a championship. Kenseth is the defending champion of the Daytona 500 but a victory in the Unlimited has eluded him.
It is a great time for motorsports fans as the NASCAR season begins. Enjoy the show and stay here at Double G Sports for more motorsports coverage as the season begins for multiple racing series.