Daytona 500 speedweek is here. Well, that wasn’t a long offseason was it? The so-called “silly season” won’t be long now as another year of NASCAR racing is about to commence.
Ten days of high-speed activity begin today with practice for Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited, a non-points race for 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Coors Light Pole winners in which the new Gen-6 car will debut. All competition during Daytona 500 Speedweek leads up to the year’s signature event, the 55th Annual Daytona 500 at 1 p.m. ET Sunday, Feb. 24.
The “Great American Race,” won in 2012 for a second time by Matt Kenseth, will be broadcast live by FOX with additional coverage by MRN Radio and SIRIUSXM NASCAR Radio.
This year’s Speedweeks marks the first time competitors from every NASCAR division – domestic and international – will have a place to race at the World Center of Racing. The inaugural UNOH Battle at the Beach – three races on a 0.4-mile oval for NASCAR’s grassroots and touring drivers – joins the festivities in 2013.
The Sprint Unlimited begins at 8:00 p.m. ET Saturday and will be broadcast live by FOX. FOX also will cover Daytona 500 qualifying at 1 p.m. ET Sunday, during which the Daytona 500’s front row starters will be determined. The UNOH Battle at the Beach takes place Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 18-19, with feature races beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET live on SPEED.
The Duel at Daytona – twin 60-lap, 150-mile qualifying races to set the Daytona 500 starting grid – takes place Thursday, Feb. 21. (2 p.m. ET live, SPEED). Championship points racing begins Friday, Feb. 22 with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series NextEra Energy Resources 250 (7:30 p.m. ET on SPEED). The NASCAR Nationwide Series takes the spotlight Saturday, Feb. 23 in the DRIVE4COPD 300 (1:15 p.m. ET live, ESPN).
Gen-6 Car Debuts in Sprint Unlimited … This year’s traditional opening event is more than just a preview of the Daytona 500. The Sprint Unlimited marks the racing debut of the much-anticipated Gen-6 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car – Chevrolet SS, Ford Fusion and Toyota Camry.
The renamed The Sprint Unlimited returns to its original, 1979 concept – a non-points race for drivers who won a Coors Light Pole last season along with previous event winners who participated in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup race in 2012.
The 187.5-mile/75-lap race will be run in three segments. How those segments break down will be determined by fans’ voting on three choices: 40 laps, 20 laps and 15 laps; 35 laps, 30 laps and 10 laps; and 30 laps, 25 laps and 20 laps. Balloting is open through 11:59 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Feb. 13.
Starting positions will be determined by a vote of fans in attendance on race day. They’ll have three choices: Number of career wins (most to least); 2012 final NASCAR Sprint Cup driver point standings and order in which drivers won their first Coors Light Pole last season, beginning with last year’s Daytona 500.
Kyle Busch is the defending winner of the Sprint Unlimited. Other former winners in this year’s field are Kurt Busch, Harvick, Earnhardt, Stewart, Hamlin, Johnson, Martin, Gordon, Schrader, Elliott and Labonte.
Qualifying sets only Daytona 500 front row … Sunday’s Daytona 500 Coors Light Pole qualifying is unique in that only the top two positions will be guaranteed. Remaining qualifiers are seeded by qualifying speed into Thursday’s Budweiser Duel, two 150-mile races from which the majority of the final starting grid for the Daytona 500 is set.
The most recent Daytona 500 pole winner to win the race was Dale Jarrett in 2000, one of two drivers (Bill Elliott is the other) to sweep The Sprint Unlimited, pole and race in the same season.
What: 35th Annual Sprint Unlimited
Where: Daytona International Speedway
Track Layout: 2.5-mile tri-oval
When: Saturday, Feb. 16
Time: 8:10 p.m. (ET)
TV: FOX, 8 p.m. (ET)
Radio: MRN; SIRIUS/XM NASCAR Radio, Channel 90
Distance: 75 laps/187.5 miles (run in three segments, lengths to be determined by fan vote)
2012 Winner: Kyle Busch
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, a Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Fox Sports, MSN, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Chicago Now
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