The Sprint Unlimited Preview

By David G. Firestone

The 36th Sprint Unlimited starts tonight at 8:15 ET on Fox. This marks the beginning of the Daytona 500 and the beginning of the NASCAR season. I will be looking forward to it, and I will enjoy it as always.

The field will feature pole award winners and past winners of the event. These include:
· Denny Hamlin (4 poles)
· Kyle Busch (3 poles)
· Joey Logano (2 poles)
· Jimmie Johnson (2 poles)
· Matt Kenseth (2 poles)
· Ryan Newman (2 poles)
· Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2 poles)
· Jeff Gordon (2 poles)
· Carl Edwards (2 poles)
· Marcos Ambrose (1 pole)
· Kurt Busch (1 pole)
· Kevin Harvick (1 pole)
· Brad Keselowski (1 pole)
· Mark Martin (1 pole)
· Jamie McMurray (1 pole)
· Danica Patrick (1 pole)
· Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (1 pole)
· Terry Labonte (past winner: 1985)
· Tony Stewart (past winner: 2001, 2002 and 2007)

The event will feature a number of segments which were voted on by NASCAR fans including myself, and many of you. The first segment will feature laps followed by a second segment of laps, and then a third segment of laps. Many special paint schemes will be run for this race, as is traditional. My personal favorite is the Miller Lite Throwback scheme being run by Brad Keselowski.

Now some factoids about the race.

*There are, in total, Chevy drivers, Ford drivers and Toyota drivers.

*Chevy has 20 wins, Ford has 7 wins, and Toyota has 1 win.

*Mark Martin has competed in 20 consecutive events from 1989-2008.

*Dale Earnhardt Sr. has won 6 events, more than anyone else in 1980, 1986, 1988, 1991, 1993, and 1995 and went on to win the Sprint Cup Championship 4 times in 1980, 1986, 1991, and 1993, he is one of 7 drives to do so.

*From 1979-2011 the event was sponsored by Anheuser-Busch, first called the Busch Clash which was the brainchild of Monty Roberts, brand manager of Busch Beer, who sponsored the Pole Award. It remained the Busch Clash until 1998, when Budweiser took over the Pole Award, and it was renamed the Budweiser Shootout. In 2012, Sprint, the series sponsor took over the sponsorship after Budweiser announced they would drop the sponsorship in favor of sponsoring the Duel Races that determine the starting order of the Daytona 500.

*Petty Enterprises was not eligible to run the Shootout because of a rule stating that only drivers that ran the Busch/Budweiser pole award decal were eligible to enter the shootout. Richard Petty and his family did not support alcohol sponsorship or decals on race cars. So John Andretti, Bobby Hamilton, Jeff Green, and Aric Almirola who all had a number of poles with Petty Enterprises were not eligible to participate. I find it interesting that Petty has reversed course on the alcohol sponsorship rule, since Kasey Kahne was sponsored by Budweiser, and Marcos Ambrose will run at least one race sponsored by Twisted Tea.

*Buddy Baker won the inaugural Sprint Unlimited in 1979, which was a 20 lap sprint.

*Since many top drivers were excluded from the race due to not winning a pole award, they moved to the TV booth as color commentators. These included Dale Earnhardt Sr. in 1981, Richard Petty and AJ Foyt in 1982 and 1983, Neil Bonnett in 1993, Darrell Waltrip in 1994, 1995, 1997, and 1999, and Kenny Wallace in 1998.

*There has never been a driver who has won the Sprint Unlimited, Budweiser Duel and Daytona 500 in the same year. Drivers have won 2 of 3 in a season, but never scored the hat trick.

*One of the first instances of a special paint scheme being used specifically for the Sprint Unlimited was the Chroma Premier scheme run by Jeff Gordon in 1997. He followed it up the next year with the legendary Chroma-lusion scheme, which feature a paint that changed color. Since then, special schemes have become commonplace.

*Richard Childress Racing has 8 Sprint Unlimited wins, most of any team. Hendrick Motorsports has 6 wins, and Joe Gibbs Racing has 5 wins.

The Unlimited starts tonight at 8 PM ET on Fox Sports 1, and I look forward to watching the event as I hope the rest of you do too.

Though I have had a VERY busy week, I still have time for…

Paint Scheme Reviews!

Kasey Kahne #5 Time Warner Cable Chevy SS It is a good color scheme, but the design on the side needs a little tweaking. Get rid of the needless zig-zag pattern and it works a whole lot better. It is still a decent scheme, so I will give it a C

Michael Annett #7 Pilot/Flying J Chevy SS Good color scheme, but the awful template is back for Tommy Baldwin. It is really sad, because this could be a great scheme, but the template takes it from an A to a C-

Michael Annett #7 Accell Construction Chevy SS See Above

Marcos Ambrose #9 Mac Tools Ford Fusion Good color scheme here, and decent design, worth a B

Clint Bowyer #15 AAA Insurance Toyota Camry Great color scheme, good design, worth a B+

Kyle Busch #18 M&M’s Peanut Toyota Camry I like this, it has a great shade of yellow, hard to find in NASCAR these days, and the peanut motif works very well. It is an original design, and I’ll give it an A

Trevor Bayne #21 Motorcraft Ford Fusion  This is why The Wood Brothers won the Paint Schemies and took the top spot in the Paint Scheme Leaderboard.  A++

Joey Logano #22 Autotrader.com Ford Fusion  Sometimes orange works, sometimes it doesn’t.  This is an example of an orange scheme that just doesn’t work.  If the white was taken out completely it might work, but this is just horrid, and I give it an F

Cole Whitt #26 Speed Stick Gear Toyota Camry This is one of the few schemes that has both a classic and modern look at the same time, and paired with a great color scheme, it earns an A

Paul Menard #27 Menard’s/Peak Chevy SS Good design, awful color scheme, D+

Terry Labonte #32 C&J Energy Services Ford Fusion I’ll give it a C+ until I can see a picture WITHOUT an Instagram filter!

David Ragan #34 CSX Ford Fusion  What in the hell is going on here?  Why is the hood decal upside down?  Why in the world would they do that?  Were they drunk when they decaled the car?  The only thing that I can guess is that it is designed for an in-car camera…but that makes no sense either!  F-

David Gilliland #38 Loves Truck Stops Ford Fusion  Good color scheme, decent design, plus unlike David Ragan, the hood decal is in the correct position, A-

Bobby Labonte #52 Phoenix Racing/HScott Motorsports Chevy SS Great color scheme, very simple yet attractive design, can’t say anything bad about it, A+

Michael Waltrip #66 Blue Def Toyota Camry While I like the field motif, it looks too much like the Windows XP Bliss background for me to take it seriously. I’ll give it a B-

Dale Earnhardt Jr. #88 Kelley Blue Book Chevy SS  During my Daytona Preseason Thunder article, I said I wanted to see the #88 they used on a real car.   I got my wish, and I like this design overall.  The metallic gold is a bold choice, it doesn’t always work well.  I give it an A+

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

As many of you know, I don’t just research and collect driver suits and racing items, I collect and research many other things.  I recently had a column run in Uni-Watch concerning some lettering from the 1958 Washington Senators, and you can read my column here.

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