The first announcement at NASCAR Media Day Thursday was the race format for The Sprint Unlimited, Saturday night’s season-opening event at Daytona International Speedway. In a vote that ended Wednesday night, fans decided the first component – the length of the race’s three segments – will be set at 30 laps, 25 laps and 20 laps.
The winning combination for the segment lengths for the Sprint Unlimited received 55 percent of the votes, while the option for 40 laps, 20 laps and 15 laps and the format consisting of 35 laps, 30 laps and 10 laps were almost evenly split with 23 and 22 percent of the votes.
Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited will open the NASCAR season at Daytona International Speedway and also mark the racing debut of the Gen-6 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars. The Chevrolet SS, Ford Fusion and Toyota Camry are designed to look more like the models available at dealerships.
This is the first time fans have decided several key components of the Sprint Unlimited, a race that will include pole winners from last season and previous winners of the race.
“By giving the fans the power to decide the length of the three segments in the Sprint Unlimited, we feel there will be an unprecedented buzz surrounding the event,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition. “The 30-25-20-lap format the fans voted for will create three distinctly different segments that will keep fans enthralled throughout the race.”
Drivers in the Sprint Unlimited include Aric Almirola, Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Mark Martin, Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Stewart, Terry Labonte and Martin Truex Jr.
Kyle Busch is the defending winner of the Sprint Unlimited. Other former winners in this year’s field are Kurt Busch, Harvick, Earnhardt, Stewart, Hamlin, Johnson, Martin and Gordon. Almirola is the only driver making his Sprint Unlimited debut.
Sunday, the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers will take to the track for qualifying laps to determine the front row for the Feb. 24 Daytona 500. The entire 500 field will be set following Thursday’s Budweiser Duel, two 150-mile races.