Feb 11, 2014, 10:14 AM EDT
A field of 18 cars is expected for this Saturday’s Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway, the non-points race which gets the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 2014 season officially underway.
Sixteen 2013 pole winners and two past Sprint Unlimited champions – Tony Stewart and Terry Labonte – make up the lineup. Stewart, of course, is making his heralded return to the cockpit for the first time since his accident last year.
Additionally, this race will be the first time Stewart’s two new teammates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch race under the same roof at Stewart-Haas Racing, and will also be former SHR driver Ryan Newman‘s first race for Richard Childress Racing. With Austin Dillon and Paul Menard ineligible, Newman will be RCR’s only flag-bearer in the “Unlimited.”
The rest of the field: Jamie McMurray, Brad Keselowski, Marcos Ambrose, Danica Patrick, Denny Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Carl Edwards.
They’ll be racing at the mercy of what the fans decide. A full breakdown is available on the Sprint Unlimited section of NASCAR’s website, but here are the options fans can vote on through Saturday.
- Race format: 75 laps, three segments. But it could be 30-35-10, 30-30-15, or 30-25-20.
- Starting order: Most career poles, 2013 driver points standings, or final Sprint Unlimited practice speeds.
- Restart order for final segment: Fastest lap over first two segments, most laps led during first two segments, or mandatory pit stops determine the lineup.
With this being a non-points race, it does afford the flexibility and ability for NASCAR to get fans directly involved in the race. But half the battle Saturday night will just be keeping track of the votes.