NASCAR Racing Returns To Daytona: Sprint Unlimited Tonight, Daytona 500 Qualifying Tomorrow

The first command of the season for Sprint Cup drivers to start their engines will come tonight for the Sprint Unlimited Race at the Daytona International Speedway. The race showcases some of the racing series’ best drivers, specifically those who won races in 2014 or won a pole at Daytona. Some drivers were allowed in the race by making it on points from last year as well.

The Sprint Unlimited is basically an exhibition race, as there are no points on the line that will count toward making it into the Sprint Cup Chase for the championship. However, the winner of this race will win $200,000 and bragging rights going into the regular season. It will be an interesting race to see, as this is the first time drivers will be in the cockpit since the last race of the season at Homestead last year.

NASCAR has banned testing sessions for 2015 and some feel that they could be at a disadvantage. Danica Patrick, who drives the #10 GoDaddy car, has a new crew chief, Daniel Knost, this season and they need the extra track time to work together to iron out any kinks in their new partnership. However, as the Sporting News reported, Patrick is certain they will be able to work out problems despite the testing ban.

“I think that no testing is probably a little bit of a handicap in a new relationship team wise. We’ll get through it, and I’m sure we’re not the only ones that are in that boat.”

Many drivers are dealing with crew chief changes including Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, and Denny Hamlin. Carl Edwards is dealing with an entirely different team, as he made the move from Roush Fenway Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing.

Along with tonight’s Sprint Unlimited race, which will include only 25 drivers, tomorrow every driver running in the Daytona 500 will get their chance to drive for the first time this season as they qualify for the February 22 race. Qualifying for the Daytona 500 is always a bit different than it is for other Sprint Cup races, as it includes two Budweiser Duel races that help set the field. Group qualifying, also known as “knock-out” qualifying, will be run to help set the starting front row for the Daytona 500 and the starting positions in the Budweiser Duel races.

As Fox News reported, some drivers are concerned about using group qualifying for the Daytona 500, including Denny Hamlin.

“Now that single-car qualifying is gone, you’re probably going to see more wrecks in practice because people are going to be trying that strategy of running a fast lap and seeing what it takes to run that fast lap, so you’re going to have guys running caution speed and real speed all on the same track in a green condition. I don’t know. Somebody is going to make a mistake for sure.”

As the Inquisitr reported, the Budweiser Duel is a 150-lap race that will take place on February 19. The Sprint Unlimited Race takes place tonight at 8 p.m. ET on Fox and group qualifying for the Daytona 500 starts at 1:35 p.m. ET, also on Fox.

[Image via about.com]