Gen-6 Car Debuts in Sprint Unlimited
February 16, 2013 | 11:58 A.M. EST
Jimmie Johnson is running a special "Daytona Yellow" paint scheme in the Sprint Unlimited. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The first competitive laps for the new Gen-6 Sprint Cup Series car will take place Saturday night in the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway.
After months of testing and practice, teams will have a chance to see how the new Cup cars react in a competitive environment during the annual exhibition race that official kicks off Budweiser Speedweeks that culminates with the running of the Daytona 500.
“It is like preseason football,” said Joey Logano, who makes his debut with Penske Racing in Saturday night’s race. "Saturday is preseason racing to me. We need to learn as much as we can as a team and it will help us when we get to the 500."
Logano is one of 19 drivers ready to take part in the unique race that began as the Busch Clash before renamed the Budweiser Shootout in recent years. Others who made the field by virtue of winning a pole position during the 2012 season are Aric Almirola, Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, Juan Pablo Montoya, Terry Labonte, Tony Stewart and Martin Truex Jr.
Starting positions will be determined by a vote of fans in attendance on race day with 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.
"We always look at that Sprint Unlimited race as a race to watch to see exactly what's going to happen and what characteristics you have in your race car. It's a learning experience for everybody whether you're in the race or whether you're not in it," Kyle Busch said. "We're curious to see how the car is going to race and how it's going to handle and what it's going to react like. I think the thing that we're going to be most confused about is going to be all the changes happening throughout the race with the fan votes and everything. I think that's exciting for the fans. Excited to see how all that plays out."
The debut of the Gen-6 isn’t the only new wrinkle to this year’s race. Fans also voted for the three-segment format of 30/25/20 and will also have a say in what teams can do on the first trip to pit road after segment one.
Based on what the fans decide teams will have an opportunity to either change two or four tires or perhaps not pit at all.
“I think it’s great for the fans to have such a say in this race,” said Gordon. “It’s a fun way to start the year and I can’t wait to get things starts.”
The return to drivers qualifying their way into the field based on pole wins means Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski and second place points finisher Clint Bowyer did not make the race. Keselowski, who will spend the night working with the Fox television crew, thinks missing the event will be a disadvantage to his Daytona 500 preparation.
“I am disappointed," he said. "I think any driver not in a race is disappointed not to be in it. I think it limits some of your ability to win the 500. Not all of it, but some of it."
Motor Racing Network - "The Voice of NASCAR" - will have live coverage of the season-opening Sprint Unlimited at Daytona non-points special event beginning at 7 p.m. (ET) on Saturday with live streaming at MotorRacingNetwork.com.