Brad Keselowski, gets a bye in the Daytona opener (Photo: GettyImages for NASCAR)
By Mike Mulhern
Champion Brad Keselowski and tour runner-up Clint Bowyer will get the night off, and they may be just as glad to be on the sidelines watching Daytona's SpeedWeeks kickoff.
The Daytona kickoff, now billed as the Sprint Unlimited, formerly the Daytona Shootout, will have some quirky new rules, and the precise format for the made-for-TV 75-lap (187 miles) race Saturday night Feb. 16th is still up in the air...because the stock car tour's sponsor will set some key parts of the format by fan vote.
As in the All-Star race, each May at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the Daytona sprint will be divided into three segments.
Fans can vote on the length of each segment: either 40 laps/20 laps/15 laps, or 35 laps/30 laps/10 laps, or 30 laps/ 25 laps/20 laps.
Fans can also vote on whether or not teams will be allowed a pit stop after the first segment, and whether or not that would be a two-tire stop or four-tire stop. (If fans vote no stop, NASCAR says drivers will not be allowed to pit after the first segment.)
Also, fans can vote to eliminate cars after the second segment, either two, four, six, or none.
Voting for the segments runs until Wednesday Feb. 13. Voting for the pit stop runs till the green flag of the first segment. Voting for eliminations runs till the green flag of the second segment.
The race has 22 driver entries: last season's 18 pole winners, plus four past winners of the shootout.
The 22: Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Martin Truex Jr., Tony Stewart, AJ Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Joey Logano, Ken Schrader, Marcos Ambrose, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, and Juan Pablo Montoya, all pole winners last year, plus Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Bill Elliott and Terry Labonte.