DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The select group of drivers in tonight’s Sprint Unlimited exhibition race fully expect a big crash. In fact, they want one.
Since the race among pole winners from the 2012 season doesn’t count toward the Sprint Cup Series championship, the 75-lap at Daytona International Speedway is a dash for cash that also will test the limits of the new generation race car.
The newly-designed car was built to bring manufacture identity back to stock car racing. With changes, however, come questions. And the only way to find answers is to keep pushing on the track until something breaks.
“I think the new car there are a lot of limitations that we are still unsure of,” Aric Almirola said. “We don’t know the limits of how hard we can push, if we can push, how long we can.
“When we had that big crash down here at testing it was the second time on the race track for a lot of us for drafting. I think that is just uncharted territory so to speak and a lot of us just don’t know what to expect. That Sprint Unlimited race will be a great way to find out.”
There are 19 drivers in the race, including some former Unlimited winners. Since series champion Brad Keselowski and second-place Clint Bowyer didn’t win a pole last year, they will watch the race from the sidelines. Keselowski will be in the broadcasting booth with Fox, while Bowyer will watch from the infield.
Fans were invited to create the format, set the starting lineup and determine whether there should be a mandatory pit stop or cars eliminated between segments.
So far they voted to create segments of 30, 25 and 20 laps.
They will vote today to determine whether the lineup is based by all-time victories, the order of pole positions from last year or last year’s driver standings.
They also will determine if drivers are eliminated. Their choices range from none to six, as well as if teams have to make a pit stop after the first pit stop.
Although a big crash is likely tonight, nobody expects drivers to take it easy.
“I don’t think we will be very timid, we are racecar drivers,” five-time Series champion Jimmie Johnson said.
“I think we will go out there and push the envelope and do everything we can. There are no point implications if you do crash or wad one up.”
The only way to learn is to push until somebody goes over the line and crashes.
“I think you got to go out and at least see what’s going on,” Stewart said. “You got to see how the car is going to react. You’re going to have to see mostly how it sucks up and how when you get there how it pushes a guy without physically touching the bumper.
“I think you’re still going to have to go out there and physically figure that out, figure out what you have to do, what you can and can’t get away with.”
The ARCA race has helped launch the careers of several NASCAR stars. Tim Richmond, Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, Benny Parsons, Kyle Petty and Mike Wallace are all former winners of the biggest race in the Midwest-based stock car series.
John Wes Townley and Milka Duna Venturini Motorsports a sweep of the front row for the ARCA race. Eight-time Lucas Oil 200 winner Bobby Gerhart will start third.