Preseason Shootout Nears

Posted by imelda sovzky on Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Preseason Shootout Nears

February , 2012

Counting down the final days until the engines start turning over in earnest, this week is the last before NASCAR’s three national series head to Daytona International Speedway for their respective 2012 season openers.
 
Daytona Speedweeks kick off with the traditional Shootout at Daytona followed by pole qualifying to set the 54th Annual Daytona 500’s front row and the Gatorade Duel at Daytona, a pair of races to set the remainder of the field for the Feb. 26 Great American Race (FOX, 1 p.m. ET). To see an explanation on how the Daytona 500 field is set go to   
The NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series open the weekend’s racing.
Some of the pre-season storylines: Can defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart finally win the Daytona 500? Will there be a seventh consecutive first-time Daytona 500 winner? How will Kasey Kahne perform in his new ride at Hendrick Motorsports? Which drivers will the media choose as favorites to win Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck champions in 2012?
 
Top Drivers, Teams Ready for Shootout at Daytona
Defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart figures to get his Speedweeks off to a good start when the 2012 edition of the Shootout at Daytona rolls off on Saturday, Feb. 18 (FOX, 8 p.m. ET). Simply put, Stewart is a three-time winner of the non-points event, his most recent victory coming in 2007. Stewart also won in 2001-02 – one of four drivers with consecutive victories in the 75-lap, 187.5-mile event.
 
No surprise, Stewart has the best Driver Rating among Shootout eligible drivers, 105.2. Next best is Dale Earnhardt Jr. at 97.9 followed by Kevin Harvick, another four-time Shootout winner; Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. Kurt Busch, who’ll make his debut in the event with James Finch’s Phoenix Racing, is the defending champion.
 
A driver to watch is AJ Allmendinger. He’ll make his second Shootout at Daytona appearance in last year’s winning car – Penske Racing’s No. 22 Dodge. Allmendinger, a member of the Rolex 24 winning Michael Shank Racing team, finished fifth in the race’s 2009 edition. Figure Allmendinger to be a legitimate contender to become the next first-time Daytona 500 winner. The No. 22 Dodge won its Gatorade Duel at Daytona qualifier a year ago with Busch finishing fifth in the Great American Race.
The highest-ranked 25 drivers in 2011 standings plus previous winners of the Daytona 500, Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola and Shootout events are eligible to compete in this year’s race.
 
 Raising Kahne's Profile in the No. 5 car
After doing his civic duty by serving on a jury, opening the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway last Friday and attending Super Bowl 46 on Sunday, Kasey Kahne sets his sights on Speedweeks.
 
Kahne's Hendrick Motorsports career at Daytona International Speedway got off to a good start with the
fastest lap on the final day of Preseason Thunder testing as well as the fifth-fastest overall of the three-day session at 205.747 mph. The eight-year NASCAR Sprint Cup Series veteran hopes to follow the example Dale Earnhardt Jr., the last high-profile driver to switch to Hendrick Motorsports, by winning in his first start for Hendrick at the Shootout on Feb. 18.
 
With two top-five finishes in his last three points races at the World Center of Racing, Kahne may be closing in on his first Daytona 500 win and the 200th victory for Hendrick Motorsports. "It's a great opportunity," Kahne said last month during testing, "and I want to take full advantage of it."
 
NASCAR Nationwide Series Gets Set for 30th Season
There have been 23 different champions during the previous 29 seasons and five champions who have won titles in consecutive seasons. Could Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the reigning series champion, become the sixth driver to win back-to-back-titles and the first since Martin Truex Jr. in 2004-05?
 
Stenhouse is among NASCAR Nationwide Series points-eligible drivers performing double duty during Speedweeks, kicking off his title defense in the Feb. 25 DRIVE4COPD 300 and making his Daytona 500 debut the following afternoon. He’s joined by defending Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne, Elliott Sadler and Danica Patrick.
 
A significant new chapter in NASCAR Nationwide Series history will be written later this year when competitors journey to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for their inaugural race on July 28.
 
Dillon Duo Seek Daytona Do-Over
Last February, Austin and Ty Dillon started their season by winning pole positions at Daytona International Speedway. In his first race at the track, Ty claimed the top spot in ARCA qualifying while Austin earned the Keystone Light Pole Award for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Neither brother was able to follow up with a top-10 finish at Ty came home 11th and Austin was 20th.
 
Their seasons improved, and they won titles in their respective series. This year, Ty goes for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series while Austin takes his No. 3 to the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
 
During the Richard Childress Racing stop on the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, Austin was asked which brother was better: "I'm going to say me. But that's just ‘cause I'm the brother. He's going to say himself, too. But I think we both have respect for each other. If you really dug deep enough, we'd probably say each other."
 
Red Horse Racing Boasts Two NCWTS Daytona Winners
With the surprise addition of Todd Bodine to its lineup for the Feb. 24 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series opening race, Red Horse Racing will bring a pair of Daytona winners to the NextEra Energy Resources 250. Bodine won the race in 2008-09 and also counts a pair of victories at Talladega Superspeedway. The two-time NASCAR Camping World Truck champion will partner the team’s primary driver, Timothy Peters, winner of the NextEra Energy Resources 250 in 2010.
 
Rolex 24 Victory Gives Shank Lead In North American Endurance Championship
In addition to winning the 50th Rolex 24 At Daytona, Michael Shank Racing also took the early lead in the inaugural North American Endurance Championship presented by VISITFLORIDA.com, a championship-within-a-championship that rewards competitors in the three longest races in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series.
 
The series continues with the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen on July 1, and concludes with the Super Weekend at the Brickyard on July 27, GRAND-AM’s historic first event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Points were awarded on a 5-4-3-2 basis at six-hour increments during the Rolex 24. Michael Shank Racing scored 16 points, two more than Starworks Motorsport. Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates is third with 13. Rolex 24 winner Magnus Racing also leads the GT standings with 16 points, followed by Brumos Racing with 15 and TRG with 13.
 
Points in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen will be awarded at the three-hour mark and the finish. There will be a two-time multiplier for a maximum of 20 points. Indianapolis will award points at the finish, with a four-time multiplier for a maximum of 20 points.
 
 

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