Most of the drivers in Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout still don’t understand all the rules. Some may not even know they’re in the race.
The exhibition race at the Daytona International Speedway will have its 11th format change in 33 years when the green flag waves at 8:10 p.m. This year the field has been extended to the top 25 drivers from last year’s Sprint Cup Series standings, as well as former Bud Shootout and Daytona winners.
A year ago, the race was open only to the top 12 drivers, as well as former Daytona winners.
While the winner will get more than $200,000, everyone will have a special interesting in this year’s race. The 75-lap race – segments of 25 and 50 laps with a 10-minute intermission – will be the first true test for rules designed to break up the two-car tandems, as well as new electronic fuel injection systems.
It’s also a good dress rehearsal for the Feb. 26 Daytona 500.
“We’ll see how the car handles and figure out if there’s anything that we might have misses or can improve upon before the 500,” Matt Kenseth said.
The race used to be for pole position winners from the previous season. That changed when NASCAR signed Coors Light as the official sponsor for pole qualifying. The conflict between beer companies prompted one of the many changes in the format.
Although there are 33 eligible drivers, eight decided to skip the race, including defending Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne. His Wood Brothers Racing team decided to focus solely on next week’s race.
Others who will skip the race include: Mark Martin, Brian Vickers, Bill Elliott, Geoff Bodine, Derrike Cope, Terry Labonte and Ken Schrader.
While the race doesn’t count toward the Sprint Cup Series championship, it has provided a glimpse of the eventual champion. Seven of the previous 32 winners also won the championship, the last coming in 2002 with Tony Stewart.
Kasey Kahne had his second knee operation in 10 months last week, but it won’t keep him from making his Hendrick Motorsports debut in the No. 5 Chevrolet. He had a torn cartilage removed from his left knee. He had the same procedure done to his right knee last April … Venturini Motorsports will bring five teams to Saturday night’s Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona. Mark Thompson will be making his eight career start in the season-opening race for the ARCA Racing Series, while his four teammates will be making their Daytona debuts. The effort marks the 30th season for the Venturinis.