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NASCAR weekly update for Dec. 29th

by Dave Grayson
Tuesday, December 29, 2009

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In the previous week we pondered some rather puzzling format changes to one of NASCAR's premiere annual events, the "Rowdy One" got a new contract and it also turns out that NASCAR's new member has created a way to make us all smell pretty.

Established in 1979, and originally known as the Busch Clash, this pre season event at Daytona featured drivers and teams who won the pole positions on qualifying day from the previous season as well as previous winners of the Shoot Out. It was a $200,000 to win 75 lap shootout, staged in segments, and the event was incredibly exciting. Eventually the name was changed to the Bud Shoot Out and it quickly became a major part of February speed weeks at Daytona.

However, in recent times, marketing circumstances forced NASCAR officials to take a look at the Shoot Out's format. After years of sponsoring Sprint Cup Qualifying, known as the Bud Pole, Anheuser-Busch decided to leave the program but did retain the sponsorship rights to the annual Bud Shoot out.

The replacement sponsor for Sprint Cup qualifying day was one of their largest competitors: Coors Beer. It's completely understandable that Budweiser was not exactly thrilled over the prospect of hosting a special race for winners of the Coors Pole Award. That was a major factor is in the realignment of the Shoot Out's format for 2010 which NASCAR announced this past Wednesday.

The new criteria includes the 12 drivers who participated in the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase For The Championship.

All past winners of the Sprint Cup championship.

All past winners of the Budweiser Shoot Out (the special Dale Jr. rule)

The 2009 Raybestos Rookie Of The Year winner

Finally, and the reason for the WHAT'S-UP, all past winners of either the Daytona 500 in February and the July Coke Zero 400 held at the Daytona International Raceway.

To be eligible for any of the above categories a driver must have entered in a NASCAR Sprint Cup event within the last two years. The new, enlarged, eligibility format opens up the race to 28 drivers some, of which, do not have rides lined up for 2010.

This new format is a real shot in the arm for some of the teams who otherwise would have not been invited to the Bud Shoot Out. That's certainly true for Joe Gibbs Racing. The new format puts Kyle Busch in the event as a past Coke Zero 400 winner. Team mate Joey Logano is also in because he's the newly crowned 2009 Raybestos Rookie Of The Year.

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing already has Juan Pablo Montoya in the Shoot Out as a member of the 2009 Chase line up. However they received an unexpected Christmas present from the new race eligibility rules. Driver Jamie McMurray, who takes over EGR's #1 Chevrolet next year, is eligible for the Shoot Out as a former Coke Zero 400 winner.

Richard Childress Racing, whose 2009 season was a major disappointment, has two drivers in the 2010 Bud Shoot Out. Kevin Harvick is in as both a past winner of the Shoot Out and the Daytona 500. Jeff Burton makes the list because he's a past winner of Daytona's July race.

Michael Waltrip's self owned team also received an invitation to the race based on his previous win in both the Daytona 500 and Coke Zero 400.

Yet another interesting entry is the #71 TRG, (The Racer's Group), Chevrolet. This team will be in the next Bud Shoot Out due to the fact that they were smart enough to sign Bobby Labonte, a past Sprint Cup champion, as their new driver late in 2009.

The WHAT'S-UP level really intensifies when you consider some of the names that completes the Bud Shoot Out's invitation list. John Andretti, a former Coke Zero 400 winner, makes the cut despite the fact that his 2010 ride status is highly questionable at this point.

Derrick Cope is on the list as a previous Daytona 500 winner from many years ago after race leader Dale Earnhardt Sr suffered a flat tire on the final lap of the race. In 2009 Cope attempted to make seven Sprint Cup events but only qualified for a race at Martinsville which he ran on a start and park basis. He's reported to be attempting to put together is own Sprint Cup team for 2010 if sponsorship can be found.

Terry Labonte qualifies for the Shoot Out for being both a past series champion and a former Shoot Out winner. Labonte's last Sprint Cup start was last November at the Homestead-Miami event. His racing status for 2010 is uncertain.

Sterling Marlin is a former winner of both the February and July Daytona events. He's also reported to be without a ride for next year. His last Sprint Cup start was last October at Martinsville.

NASCAR veteran Ken Schrader makes the list as a former Shoot Out winner. He has no current Sprint Cup plans for next season. His last series start was at Phoenix in November of 2008.

However the name that is the most amazing is Geoff Bodine a former Daytona 500 and Shoot Out winner from many years ago. Bodine actually has not driven in a Sprint Cup race since the 2004 season. The catch 22 that includes him in the next Bud Shoot Out is based on the fact that he made two failed qualifying attempts in the 2009 season driving for Larry Gunselman Racing a well known start and park team. By the way, don't be too surprised if Bodine and Gunselman strike a deal to enter the Shoot Out because last place pays $17,000 plus.

Part of me understands why the new format for the Bud Shoot Out was necessary. But a larger part of me already misses the old format which has served the fans well for 32 years.

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THUMBS-UP to Joe Gibbs Racing for making quick work in signing driver Kyle Busch to a contract extension. Busch was a member of the high profile 2010 silly season drivers whose contracts are up at the end of next year. Gibbs wisely wanted to get him signed quickly so contract negotiations wouldn't become a distraction to team goals such as making next year's Chase For The Championship.

But, at the same time, WHAT'S-UP with that new contract extension only being for one year? You would have thought that Gibbs would have wanted at least a three year extension which seems to be rather standard these days.

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THUMBS-UP to Danica Patrick for extending her "brand" to include the perfume industry. All throughout the arduous rumor process prior to her official NASCAR Nationwide Series announcement, the open wheel driving star kept referencing the importance of maintaining and enhancing her "brand."

She accomplished just that with last week's announcement that said here name was going on the label of a new perfume. "Danica Patrick For Her" will hit the market soon. A small purse size vial of the new scent will retail for $29.50 while the larger, 3.4 ounce, bottle will sell for $54.

Do you think this latest Danica product will sell? Bet the mortgage payment on it.

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Finally this week is the truly sad announcement regarding the passing of D J Richardson from Richard Childress Racing. The 37 year old Massachusetts native succumbed, on Christmas day, due to complications from the H1N1 virus. Richardson was a tire changer on Kevin Harvick's racing team. Our sincere condolences goes out to his family for this tragic loss.

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