DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. —
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart are among the elite NASCAR stars still looking to fill sponsorship spots this season.
Earnhardt has about one-third of the 36 Sprint Cup races without a primary sponsor available for the No. 88 Chevrolet. Stewart-Haas Racing has about 20 races spread out over three cars that need a top sponsor.
Stewart-Haas lost the U.S. Army from Ryan Newman’s No. 39 Chevy and Office Depot is gone from Stewart’s No. 14. Earnhardt’s sponsorship dried up when Pepsi, through Diet Mountain Dew and Amp, sliced its sponsorship from 20 races to five in 2013.
Earnhardt has the National Guard on the No. 88 for “The Great American Race.” His sponsorship deals run low around mid-summer, so there’s time to sign new business partners.
COMPLEX QUALIFYING: Even with only 45 cars, the qualifying process for the Daytona 500 remains complex.
Danica Patrick and Jeff Gordon won spots on the front row during pole qualifying on Sunday.
The top 15 finishers – other than Patrick or Gordon – from each of the two 150-mile qualifying races will advance to the main event.
The next four are the fastest speeds from time trials that still aren’t in, while the final spot is reserved for the most-recent series champion. That means only two drivers won’t make the starting lineup.
QUIET, PLEASE: Drivers won’t be allowed to talk to any other driver or race team this year, NASCAR said.
In the past, NASCAR allowed drivers to talk to each other to create strategies at Daytona. After restricting that a year ago, the sanctioning body now said teams won’t be allowed to talk to each other on the radio.
A team owner, however, will be allowed to talk to all of his drivers during the race, but crew chiefs and drivers can only talk to each other.
DOUBLE DUTY: No matter how much NASCAR tries to create a separate identity for the Nationwide Series, Sprint Cup regulars continue to dominate.
Twelve drivers from the Daytona 500 are on the entry list for Saturday’s Drive4COPD 300 for the Nationwide Series. Included in that group are: Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon, Kasey Kahne, Trevor Bayne, Regan Smith, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Stewart, Patrick, Kyle Busch, Joe Nemechek and Earnhardt.
James Buescher gave Nationwide regulars a rare – and shocking – victory in the series’ biggest race of the year when he drove through a crash from 11th place to a win on the final lap.
Before that, however, 10 Sprint Cup regulars won the race – six Stewart, three by Earnhardt and one by Kevin Harvick.
By driving in Friday’s NextEra Energy Resources 250 for the Camping World Truck Series, Kyle Busch actually is doing triple duty at Daytona.