Posted on: February 19, 2012 12:04 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2012 12:05 pm

Shootout returns to its roots for 2013

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - NASCAR has decided to take a page from its past and bring the Budweiser Shootout eligibility rules back to a more elite field of drivers.

Beginning in 2013 drivers eligible for the annual preseason exhibition race will be limited to pole winners from this year's races as well as former Shootout winners who have attempted to qualify for at least one race during the campaign.

The change brings the race back to where it began from 1979 through 2008 and NASCAR hopes will it will return more emphasis to weeky qualifying as drivers shoot for a chance to make the February Shootout.

“Fans have expressed their desire to see this event return to its original eligibility rules,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations. “We listened and decided it would be best to return to the eligibility rules of years past adding further meaning to pole qualifying for each NASCAR Sprint Cup race.”

The announcement comes just prior to Sunday's Daytona 500 qualifying session with the pole winner becoming the first driver eligible for the 2013 Budweiser Shootout.   

Last season, 18 different drivers won a pole.

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Posted on: February 18, 2012 11:40 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2012 9:26 am

Despite wrecks, drivers endorse return of packs

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The pack is back.

And so were the wrecks.

Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout saw the return of pack racing that had been the norm at restrictor plate tracks like Daytona until the advent of the two car tandem, a style NASCAR claims a majority of fans detested.

So after spending the entire off-season trying to find a solution to break up the "love bug" racing including larger restrictor plates, smaller spoilers and cooling system changes, NASCAR hoped the old school packs would return.

They got their wish but it came with a major price in a 75-lap race that saw only a handful of cars finish without damage.

The Shootout is an "all-star" race but there weren't many stars still shining when the checkered flag finally flew over Kyle Busch's electrifying win over Tony Stewart.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick were just a few of the names who saw their nights end in the garage with battered race cars.

“Yeah, I think this is pretty much exactly like it was before the two-car tandem," said Kenseth. "This is kind of like what pack racing is, except we’re going quite a bit faster.  The car has quite a bit of grip and we’re going really fast, the closing rate is really fast, so it’s about what I expected.”  

Gordon, who led late in the going, was involved in one of the night's more spectacular crashes that sent him rolling down the front straightaway several times before finally ending up on his roof.

"I think that's the first time I've ever been upside down in twenty years," said Gordon. "It was wild and I can't say what we saw out there was completely unexpected. There was a lot of aggression and a lot of wild driving out there which is to be expected on a night like this when we have no points to deal with and just the goal of winning on our minds."

But despite the multitude of accidents that punctuated the night, the consensus from the garage was a positive one from drivers.

"It was definitely a lot more fun and you felt a lot more eager to be engaged in the race this way than in the two-car deal," said Stewart. "I actually had fun racing at Daytona again which I haven't had for a while, so I'm really, really appreciative to the work that NASCAR has done in the off-season and the test session and even after the test of the changes that they made to try to make it better for us out there.

"I don't know what the consensus is from everybody else, but I had more fun as a driver tonight than what we've had in the past."

Third place finisher Marcos Ambrose was also on board with being a fan of the return to the more traditional pack racing.

"I agree with Tony, what an incredible job NASCAR has done to get back to this style of racing," he said.  "I think all the drivers appreciate it and it’s definitely a lot more fun.  It’s more entertaining for the fans and more in control for the drivers.  Even though we crashed more tonight, you just feel like you’re in control of your own destiny a little more out there."

Even those drivers who didn't have positive results like Stewart or Ambrose were upbeat about the competition and also cognizant of the fact the exhibition Shootout is far from a points race, particularly next week's Daytona 500.

"This is the Bud Shootout," said pole sitter Martin Truex Jr., a victim of the race's carnage. "So the guys are gonna take a lot more chances than they will on Sunday. The racing was fund and it was a good show. I enjoyed myself."

So the competitors are for the most part happy. But what about the fans, the same ones NASCAR says to the tune of eighty percent "extremely disliked" the two car tandem based on surveys and fan councils? 

Whether the high speed demolition derby that was a by product of Saturday night's pack racing is an accepted replacement for the two car drafting phenomenon is now the question to be answered.

NASCAR is listening…..intently. 

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Posted on: February 18, 2012 4:09 pm
Edited on: February 18, 2012 4:26 pm

Biffle back on top in second Daytona practice

By Pete Pistone


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Greg Biffle remained the fastest driver in opening practice for the Daytona 500.

The Roush Fenway Racing driver led Saturday's second session to back up the fast speed he turned in during the day's opening practice.

Biffle's lap of 193.241 mph was the best of the 49 drivers who took part in the session.

Defending Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne was next on the list with Budweiser Shootout pole sitter Martin Truex Jr. third, Tony Stewart fourth and Mark Martin rounding out the top five.

Qualifying for the Daytona 500 is slated for Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET.

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Posted on: February 18, 2012 1:27 pm

Greg Biffle leads opening Daytona 500 practice

By Pete Pistone


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The Ford camp fired the first salvo in Daytona 500 practice as Greg Biffle and Marcos Ambrose put their names on top of the speed chart in Saturday's first session of the weekend.

Drivers spent most of their time in single file laps as they prepared for Sunday's qualifying session.

Biffle turned a lap of 193.395 mph to top the session with Ambrose next at 193.349 mph.

Jeff Gordon, Trevor Bayne and Paul Menard completed the first five.

A second session is slated for Saturday afternoon at which time pack drafting is expected.

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Posted on: February 18, 2012 11:01 am
Edited on: February 18, 2012 11:34 am

New BK Racing team officially announces lineup

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The Sprint Cup Series "mystery team" is no longer mysterious.

BK Racing, which bought the assets of the former Red Bull Racing organization, announced its plans for the 2012 season.

The team will field two full-time entries for the coming season with Landon Cassill driving the No. 83 Toyota and David Reutimann and Travis Kvapil in a No. 93 entry.

Reutimann is set to pilot the No. 93 in the Daytona 500 with Kvapil taking the wheel for the remainder of the schedule.

The team ownership group is comprised of Wayne Press and Scott Gunderson with Harry McMullen serving as General Manager.

"All of us have been involved in the Sprint Cup Series over the past few years," Gunderson said. "However, this is still a new team with a focused outlook of where we want to go. We're going to grow this team with commercial partners that we'll announce in the near future. We feel confident that we can immediately be competitive and only improve as we continue to build the team."

Cassill, who spent last season driving for Phoenix Racing, is excited about this new opportunity.

"BK Racing is already miles ahead of most start-up teams that I've seen," commented Cassill. "The race shop, equipment, ownership group, leadership and crew members are in place for us to race at Daytona, but also continue to be prepared for success for the rest of the season. We have a lot more to do, but there is a strong base here."

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Posted on: February 17, 2012 9:56 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 9:57 pm

Martin Truex Jr. draws Shootout pole position

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Michael Waltrip Racing's Martin Truex Jr. will lead the field to green in Saturday night's running of the Budweiser Shootout.

Truex drew the number one position in the blind draw held by the 25 drivers who will compete in the annual exhibition race at Daytona International Speedway.

Kyle Busch will start outside the front row in the 75-lap event that includes an opening 25-lap segment and a 50-lap finish.


1- Martin Truex Jr.
  2- Kyle Busch
  3- Brad Keselowski
  4- Jamie McMurray
  5- David Ragan
  6- Kurt Busch
  7- Greg Biffle
  8- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  9- A J Allmendinger
  10- Joey Logano
  11- Carl Edwards
  12- Jeff Burton
  13- Ryan Newman
  14- Jeff Gordon
  15- Tony Stewart
  16- Denny Hamlin
  17- Clint Bowyer
  18- Jimmie Johnson
  19- Kasey Kahne
  20- Michael Waltrip
  21- Marcos Ambrose
  22- Kevin Harvick
  23- Matt Kenseth 
  24- Paul Menard
  25- Juan Pablo Montoya

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Posted on: February 17, 2012 8:14 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 8:15 pm

Rain ends second Shootout practice

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Friday night's second scheduled Budweiser Shootout practice session was cut short due to rain showers.

The scheduled one hour session was derailed early when rain his the area only a few minutes into the practice. While NASCAR tried to dry the track, those efforts ended in short order and the rest of the session was aborted.

Jamie McMurray led the brief session with a speed of 197.698 miles per hour. Evening rain shortened Friday’s second practice for Sprint Cup drivers entered in Saturday’s Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway.

Drivers ran only a few minutes into the scheduled one-hour practice before a heavy mist forced NASCAR to red-flag the session. Jet dryers circled the track for a while, but officials soon cancelled the rest of the session.

Jamie McMurray led the brief session with a speed of 197.698 miles per hour. Juan Pablo Montoya, McMurray’s Earnhardt Ganassi Racing teammate, was second at 197.694.

The practice was the last before Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout, a 75-lap race that will mark the first competition of the 2012 season. 

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Posted on: February 17, 2012 6:03 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 6:18 pm

Multi-car accident mars first Shootout practice

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The opening practice session of Speedweeks didn't go very well for a number of drivers.

A multi-car accident broke out in the first Budweiser Shootout practice Friday afternoon that included reigning series champion Tony Stewart and Penske Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and A.J. Allmendinger.

Stewart made contact with the rear end of Kurt Busch's car as the field raced through turn three setting off a chain reaction accident in its wake. Keselowski and Allmendinger both suffered heavy damage in the melee that swept up Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin before it was over.

Drivers tried both tandem drafting and pack style racing during the session as they prepared for both Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout as well as next week's Daytona 500.

Matt Kenseth topped the practice with a lap of 201.760 mph. Jeff Burton was at 201.739 and David Ragan next at 200.151.

A second practice session is slated for later Friday night.

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