The Budweiser Shootout is a relatively short race, but it’s one of the most exciting and well-deserving of its spot as the official kickoff to the NASCAR season. The 33rd annual running of the race will occur on the newly paved Daytona track, which will no doubt lead to several changes in strategy among the drivers. Because it’s a non-points race, drivers are going to be a little looser. We’re likely to see something of a return to old school racing, when a little bumping and grinding was not only okay, but encouraged.
The lineup is strong this year, with several former Sprint Cup champions joining the fray. Beyond that, each driver has to have competed in the Sprint Cup the previous two seasons.
So who’s competing this year?
There are big names, and not-so-big names. The big names:
- Jimmie Johnson
- Denny Hamlin
- Kevin Harvick
- Carl Edwards
- Matt Kenseth
- Greg Biffle
- Tony Stewart
- Kyle Busch
- Jeff Gordon
- Clint Bowyer
- Kurt Busch
- Jeff Burton
You can also expect to see the Labonte brothers, Terry and Bobby, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Michael Waltrip, among others. Fair warning though: It's Jimmie Johnson that everybody will be chasing this race. He's widely favored to win, especially coming off the fantastic season he had last year.
The Shootout is an interesting race. It’s just 75 laps (187.5 miles) and those are divided into two segments -- one of 50 laps and one of 25 laps. Between the segments, each team is allowed a 10-minute pit stop where they are allowed to change tires, make standard chassis adjustments, and refuel. This could mean a much faster race, since teams won’t be circling in to make pit stops mid-race.
Expect raw speed and edgier driving than in more run-of-the-mill races. These drivers want to win, and they aren’t hampered by traditional points-race rules. Even if you aren’t a NASCAR fan, this is a race to watch as drivers return to the excitement of the golden days of racing.
The Budweiser Shootout green flag will drop February 12, at 8:10 p.m. on FOX.
Image via Daytona International Speedway