Everything you need to know about Saturday’s Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway in three minutes.
Three things to watch
1. Paul Menard will start the Unlimited from the pole, a right he earned in a random draw. Menard is in the race because he replaced one of four original drivers who elected not to run the event.
2. The Unlimited will be the first true test of the season with cars on the track in race conditions. Private and preseason testing were banned in the offseason.
3. Denny Hamlin won last year’s Unlimited and followed it up with a win in one of the Budweiser Duel qualifying races.
Observations• Tony Stewart won the dubious honor of being the first NASCAR driver called to the hauler this season. Shortly after taking to the track in Friday’s first practice, NASCAR officials called Stewart and his crew chief, Chad Johnston, to the hauler because Stewart had failed to get officially weighed in prior to the practice. A driver’s weight is used to determine how much extra ballast can be put in a car to reach minimum weight.
• Ryan Newman ran 11 laps in the first practice session on Friday and was the first driver in street clothes to leave the track, opting not to run in the second practice session. Matt Kenseth was a close second.
• The season opener of the Automobile Racing Club of America will take place Saturday prior to NASCAR’s unofficial season opener. Mark Thompson won the pole for the race during group qualifying on Friday. Cody Coughlin will start second and Tom Hessert third.
Three picks for your fantasy team:
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: For much of his career, Earnhardt was known as a “restrictor-plate ace,” with a majority of his wins coming on superspeedways. That’s not true of late, but he did win the Daytona 500 last year.
Denny Hamlin: Hamlin won this race a year ago and is looking to begin a new season with a new crew chief on a strong note.
Kevin Harvick: With his racing resume complete, everything else is a bonus for reigning Cup champion Harvick, a three-time winner of this race.
He said it
“It’s just practice.” – Clint Bowyer on running in the Unlimited
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