Part four of my countdown to next Sunday’s Daytona 500 take a brief look at the (questionable) changes made to this years’ Budweiser Shootout.
The Budweiser Shootout has it’s origins all the way back in 1979, when seven cars ran all of 25 laps in a sprint that was held after qualifying for the 500. At the time it was known as the Busch Clash.
Through the years the event has been modified, but the key to entry was winning a Bud Pole Award in the previous season. Former winners of the Shootout that had not already qualified were given automatic entry into the field.
In 2008 competitor Coors Light took over sponsorship of the pole award for the Sprint Cup series. The future of the Budweiser Shootout came into question.
In all their wisdom, the powers-that-be came up with a new formula for entry into the Shootout. They are taking the top-six teams from each manufacturer, and adding a “Wild Card” from each, to complete a 28-car field. This is being referred to the “Tony Stewart” rule, and makes it a manufacturer race, versus a battle of guys who had done something special.
Yet under the old system, Stewart would be in the race due to being a 3-time winner of the event. So once again, NASCAR – in collusion with a corporate partner (read: for more money and to keep fingers in multiple competing pies) has screwed up a formula that worked perfectly good for years.
Compare the list of who is in this year’s field, versus who would be in the field under the previous rules, and I believe you’ll be scratching your head as well.
I thought the “All-Star” race was at Charlotte in May.
2008 Pole Winners: Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Ryan Newman (excluded), Joe Nemechek (excluded), Denny Hamlin, Greg Biffle, Kasey Kahne, Patrick Carpentier (no ride in 2009), Paul Menard, Brian Vickers, Carl Edwards, Travis Kvapil (no ride in 2009), David Reutimann (excluded).
Then if you include past Shootout winners, you add these names to the list: Terry Labonte (’85), Bill Elliott (’87), Geoff Bodine (’92), Mark Martin (‘97), and Tony Stewart (’01, ’02, ’07). All have rides and will attempt to qualify for the Daytona 500 but only Stewart will race.
For this year’s field add the following names: Elliott Sadler, Reed Sorenson, Scott Speed, Bobby Labonte, Kurt Busch, Robbie Gordon, Jamie McMurrary, David Ragan, Michael Waltrip, A.J. Allmendinger, Joey Logano, David Stremme, Casey Mears, Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick, and Matt Kenseth.
So what did these guys do to deserve entry? Why would guys like Newman and Nemechek be excluded – not to mention Mark Martin, who’s started this race 20 years in a row?
Once again, to satisfy a corporate sponsor over a competitor, NASCAR has allowed a stick to be jabbed into not only the eye of fans, but of deserving drivers as well.
Way to go NASCAR! You find a way to punish achievement and award…Nothing.
And as a postscript: Kevin Harvick won the race over Jamie McMurrary - two guys who didn't earn a pole last year and have never won the Shootout.
Tomorrow…Well, I’ll come up with something about qualifying to rap about. I'm going to watch the race.