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The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season is set to take its first green flag Saturday night for the Sprint Unlimited, formerly known as the Budweiser Shootout and the Busch Clash before that for fans that have been around for awhile.
That format change NASCAR came up with a couple or so years ago that changed the qualification requirements never seemed to sit well with fans. You know, that decision that kind of changed the whole meaning of the race, in a way. I mean, sure, a win in the Shootout the last couple of years brought with it bragging rights. After all, it meant you beat the best in the sport. The new qualification criteria did put the previous season’s top-12 drivers in the mix.
But the Shootout was supposed to be a race for pole winners, wasn’t it? At least it was prior to a couple of seasons ago. Gone were the days that one of the main reasons drivers were happy to win a pole was that the pole meant they were in next year’s Shootout.
Apparently, NASCAR realized the error of their ways and returned to that mindset. The fans, and maybe some of the competitors spoke, and NASCAR lessoned. With the new name (Sprint Unlimited) came a return to old ways — well, at least some old ways.
The 2013 edition of the Unlimited is, once again, a race of pole winners, but there’s also a new twist. You know that wedding superstition, “Something old, something new, blah, blah, blah.” You get it. Well, I guess you could say the something old is the return of the old criteria to get in. The something new has to do with fans. For this year’s event, fans have had and continue to have a say in several aspect, from race format, pit stop requirements and even the starting grid. And if that’s not enough, Miss Sprint Cup is letting fans pick out her victory lane wardrobe.
In case you haven’t heard, the format of the event as far as segment lengths go, has already been determined by fans. We’re going to see a 75-lap event made of of three segments of 30, 25 and 20 laps, in that order. In case you’re interested, 55 percent of voting fans made that decision.
The polls are still open to decide what kind of pit stop teams must make at the end of the first segment and how many drivers should be eliminated after the second segment.
Here’s what I think, if you’re interested. I say, don’t require a pit stop after the first segment. No, I’m not trying to take pit crews out of the equation. Given the race length, pit stops are going to be required, but I say let crew chiefs make the call. Give pit strategy a bigger player in this thing.
As far as car/driver elimination after the second segment, the choices are none, two, four or six. For the record, there are 19 cars/drivers on the entry list. This may sound drastic, but I say, go for six. Some drivers have this habit of hanging out in the back, trying to stay out of trouble until “go time” rolls around. Eliminating the back six cars after segment two would, more than likely, cut down on that dramatically.
As far as what Miss Sprint Cup will have on in victory lane, I don’t really have an opinion. Same goes for the starting lineup. I mean, really, does it matter where you start at Daytona?
Catch the Sprint Unlimited at 8 p.m. ET Saturday night on FOX.
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