Budweiser Shootout begins what could be a wild week at Daytona

5:00 PM, Feb 9, 2011   |    comments
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Daytona Beach, FL (Sports Network) - Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Saturday, February 12. Race: Budweiser Shootout. Site: Daytona International Speedway. Track: 2.5-mile tri-oval. Start time: 8:10 p.m. (et). Laps: 75. Miles: 187.5. 2010 winner: Kevin Harvick. Television: FOX. Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.

A new season in NASCAR is upon us again. This weekend's Budweiser Shootout will be the first NASCAR race at Daytona International Speedway since track officials spent $20 million to repave its 2.5-mile surface last year.

Once again, eligibility requirements for the Budweiser Shootout have changed. Criteria are based upon the following qualifications, with eligibility based on a driver having competed in the Sprint Cup Series within the past two seasons:

-The 12 drivers who qualified for the 2010 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

-Past NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions.

-Previous Budweiser Shootout winners.

-Past Daytona 500 champions and previous July race winners at Daytona (Coke Zero 400, Pepsi 400 and Firecracker 400).

-NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie-of-the-year drivers from 2001-10.

In all, 30 drivers are eligible for this year's non-points race at Daytona. However, 24 drivers have been listed on the preliminary entry list, which was first released on Tuesday. John Andretti, Geoff Bodine, Bill Elliott, Terry Labonte, Sterling Marlin and Ken Schrader were those eligible drivers not listed.

Since 2009, the Budweiser Shootout has been divided into two segments, with the first at 25 laps and the second a 50-lap sprint to the finish. A 10-minute intermission is scheduled after the first segment, as teams can change tires, add fuel and make normal chassis adjustments to the car. All green-and-yellow flag laps count in both segments.

The Budweiser Shootout will allow many Sprint Cup teams to gather information under race conditions, in preparation for the February 20 Daytona 500. It also will help drivers familiarize themselves with Daytona's new surface.

Last month, Sprint Cup teams participated in a three-day test session at Daytona. Drivers praised the surface and predicted this year's Speedweeks events, including the Daytona 500, will be a thriller.

"The surface is going to be pretty exciting for everybody just for the fact that it's really smooth and it's got a lot of grip," said Kevin Harvick, who has won the Budweiser Shootout the past two years. "They did a great job paving the racetrack."

The new surface will allow for wider drafts, which will make for racing identical to Daytona's sister track, Talladega Superspeedway.

"We'll most likely see the two-car breakaways at Daytona like we see at Talladega," said Jeff Gordon, who has won the Daytona 500 three times and the Budweiser Shootout twice. "I don't think we'll have these breakaways during the entire race but, more than likely, it's going to come down to these two- car breakaways at the very end."

The starting lineup for the Budweiser Shootout will be determined during a random drawing held Friday evening at Daytona. Saturday's race is scheduled to start at 8:10 p.m. (et).

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