NASCAR just can't stop fiddling with the Bud Shootout.
Last season, NASCAR announced that the season-opening exhibition race would no longer feature pole winners from previous seasons -- in large part because Bud is no longer the sponsor of the pole award.
Instead NASCAR changed it to feature the top six teams in owner points from each manufacturer.
But apparently that's not enough. Now they've tweaked the rules to add "wild cards."
There's two ways a team/driver becomes a "wild card" with the former trumping the latter.
1. Any owner outside of the top six in year end 2008 owners’ points whose driver is a past NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion that attempted to qualify for all of the 2008 events (only one position will be filled per manufacturer and will be based on the most recent past champion per manufacturer).
2. If an owner/manufacturer does not have a past champion driver, the next highest eligible owner outside the top six in year end 2008 owners’ points from each manufacturer will be eligible to compete in the event.
Was this really necessary?
May as well just come out and call it the "Tony Stewart rule." Could it be any more obvious? With his switch from JGR's Toyotas to the Chevrolets of his own Newman-Haas operation, Stewart was going to miss the show. But now one of the NASCAR's more popular drivers will be able to debut his new team in the Shootout and get that little extra seat time in preparation for the Daytona 500.
Because of all the mergers and such, the lineup is still in a bit of flux, but here's the tentative lineup for each manufacturer:
Chevrolet -- No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson), No. 29 (Kevin Harvick), No. 07 (Clint Bowyer/Casey Mears), No. 31 (Jeff Burton), No. 24 (Jeff Gordon), No. 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.). Wild card: No. 14 (Tony Stewart)
Though Casey Mears is in the 07 car this season, it's possible owner Richard Childress lets Bowyer drive the car in the Shootout since he was the driver who earned the points. I don't know that I've heard a firm plan as to which driver RCR will put in the car for the race.
Ford -- No. 99 (Carl Edwards), No. 16 (Greg Biffle), No. 17 (Matt Kenseth), No. 6 (David Ragan), No. 26 (Jamie McMurray), No. 28 (Travis Kvapil). Wild card: No. 96 (Bobby Labonte).
Dodge -- No. 9 (Kasey Kahne), No. 12 (David Stremme), No. 2 (Kurt Busch), No. 43 (Reed Sorenson), No. 19 (Elliott Sadler), No. 7 (Robby Gordon). Wild card: No. 10 (TBD)
Even though Gordon is driving a Toyota this season, supposedly NASCAR is going to allow him to run a Dodge in the Shootout. (I don't know how that makes any sense, but whatever.) AJ Allmendinger is the leader to drive the No. 10 car in 2009, at least on a part-time basis, but is not yet under contract.
Toyota -- No. 11 (Denny Hamlin), No. 20 (Joey Logano), No. 18 (Kyle Busch), No. 83 (Brian Vickers), No. 44 (David Reutimann), No. 55 (Michael Waltrip). Wild card: No. 22 (TBD)
The new owners of the No. 22 car may elect not field a car for the race (and probably the season). If that's the case, the spot would go to Scott Speed in the No. 82 car.