Dating to 1979, the Budweiser Shootout has been a fixture at the beginning of the NASCAR’s Daytona Speedweeks. The non-points race traditionally has featured Sprint Cup pole winners and past event winners. Much like the rest of the sport, the Bud Shootout format has gone through a big change. A rundown:
31st annual Budweiser Shootout
When: Saturday, 7 p.m. (Central)
Where: Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway (2.5-mile tri-oval, 31 degrees banking in turns)
TV: Fox, prerace coverage includes music by country star Dierks Bentley
Race length: 75 laps (187.5 miles), divided into two segments (25 laps, 50 laps), 10-minute pit stop in between segments. Green- and yellow-flag laps count in both segments.
2008 winner: Dale Earnhardt Jr., above
Pole winner (by draw): Paul Menard
What’s new: Coors Light took over the official sponsorship of the Sprint Cup pole award at the beginning of last season. Budweiser, NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway wanted to continue the Bud Shootout, but could no longer use pole winners to fill the field. The new format features the top six cars from each of the four manufacturers based on 2008 car owners points. A wild-card provision pushes the field to seven cars per manufacturer. The wild card allowed any owner outside the top six who had an active past Cup champion to have a spot in the field. If a manufacturer didn’t have a past champion to fill that spot, then the next eligible owner filled the wild card.
Did the mergers affect the field? Yes. The lineup was supposed to be based on 2008 points, but since some Sprint Cup owners merged and/or switched manufacturers, their eligibility vanished. Example? Juan Pablo Montoya was qualified for the race in a Dodge, but since his Chip Ganassi Racing team merged with Dale Earnhardt Inc. this winter and switched to Chevrolet, Montoya is out. Robby Gordon ran Dodges last season, but switched to Toyota during the winter. Unlike Montoya, Gordon — who owns his team — made a deal with Toyota to run a Dodge one more time for this race.
Did my favorite driver qualify? At 28 cars, the 2009 Bud Shootout field is the biggest ever. The previous high was 23. Eight drivers are getting their first crack at the trophy. The field:
Chevrolet: Jeff Burton (No. 31), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88), Jeff Gordon (No. 24), Kevin Harvick (No. 29), Jimmie Johnson (No. 48); Casey Mears (No. 07), Tony Stewart# (No. 14)
Ford: Greg Biffle (No. 16), Carl Edwards (No. 99), Matt Kenseth (No. 17), Bobby Labonte# (No. 96), Paul Menard* (No. 98), Jamie McMurray (No. 26), David Ragan* (No. 6);
Dodge: AJ Allmendinger*# (No. 44), Kurt Busch (No. 2), Robby Gordon* (No. 7), Kasey Kahne (No. 9), Elliott Sadler (No. 19), Reed Sorenson (No. 43), David Stremme* (No. 12)
Toyota: Kyle Busch (No. 18), Denny Hamlin (No. 11), Joey Logano* (No. 20), David Reutimann* (No. 00), Scott Speed*# (No. 82), Brian Vickers (No. 83), Michael Waltrip (No. 55)
Past winners in the field: Five (Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Hamlin, Johnson, Stewart)
*Shootout rookies, #wild-card entrants
-- Michele Vincze
Photo: Getty Images