The 2008 Silly Season was full of changes. In fact, 13 of tonight's starting teams hit the track with some major difference from last season.
Whether it be a new driver, sponsor, number or new team name (or all in some cases), it can be difficult to keep up with who is driving which car and which team they are driving for.
So as a service to my fellow B/R writers, here is a run down of all 13 teams that will feature something different at 8:10 p.m.
1. Paul Menard—When you look at this team, there are a ton of changes. The first being the driver behind the wheel. This car used to be the No. 38 driven by Travis Kvapil, but now features the Earnhardt Ganassi transplant, Paul Menard, and a new number, 98.
Menard brought with him sponsorship from his father's home improvement chain, and thus was given the ownership points to guarantee him a spot in the first five races. Don't worry Menard fans, it'll still be easy to pick out your favorite driver in his bright yellow paint scheme.
Menard will roll off first in tonight's Shootout.
2. Reed Sorenson—This is one of those teams that features new aspects in every category. New driver? Check! New sponsor? Check! New team name? Check!
Last year, this car was sponsored by General Mills and driven by Bobby Labonte under the Petty Enterprises name.
This year, the car features the golden arches of McDonald's and is driven by Reed Sorenson under the Petty Motorsports banner after a merger with Gillett Evernham Racing.
Sorenson will roll off third in tonight's event.
3. Scott Speed—Speed drove this car as the No. 84 in a couple races last year, but enters 2009 with No. 82 on the hood.
This car was also driven by AJ Allmendinger and Mike Skinner in 2008, but will be Speed's for the entire season in 2009.
Speed will start fourth in tonight's Shootout.
4. Tony Stewart—OK, so this team has plenty of new aspects to it. First, the new owner in Stewart, who is also the new driver of the team.
Also, this team has a new number (last year No. 70) and sponsor (Office Depot). With Hendrick Equipment and Smoke behind the wheel, the other major change in this team will be its consistency to run up front!
Stewart debuts in his own car in sixth tonight.
5. Bobby Labonte—Last year, this team was partially sponsored, out of the top 35 and a Toyota. This year, past champion Labonte takes the wheel in a partially-sponsored Ford.
During the off-season, Hall of Fame Racing brought Labonte on board and formed a partnership with Yates Racing.
The partnership allowed the No. 96 to receive points from David Gilliland's No. 28 car and a guaranteed spot in the first five races.
While Ask.com may only be on for part of the schedule currently, a few good runs by Labonte and it could become a full-time deal.
Labonte will take the green flag in eighth tonight.
6. Carl Edwards—Not many changes for Cousin Carl. In fact, Aflac was a primary sponsor several times last season, they just came on board full-time in 2009.
The driver, number and team are all the same and Edwards will be back flipping before long with the Aflac duck on his side.
Edwards starts 11th in the Shootout tonight.
7. David Ragan—Like his teammate Edwards, the only major difference on the No. 6 team is the sponsor.
UPS was looking for its next young driver to partner with for years to come after Dale Jarrett retired from competition.
Many thought UPS would either stay with young phenom David Reutimann, or head to Richard Childress Racing to sponsor a fourth car. Instead, the delivery company opted to sponsor up-and-coming driver David Ragan.
Ragan showed significant improvement over his freshman season and is expected to contend for a Chase berth in 2009.
Ragan will roll off in 16th place tonight.
8. AJ Allmendinger—This is another team that features changes from top to bottom. To begin with, this team was the No. 10 last year under the Gillett Evernham banner. Now the car features the No. 44 driven by Allmendinger out of the newly formed Richard Petty Motorsports stable.
Allmendinger originally thought he would be guaranteed a spot in the first five races (although the team hadn't planned to run an entire season), but was since told they would be on the outside looking in.
Allmendinger starts 18th tonight.
9. Joey Logano—It's the official debut of Joey "Sliced-Bread" Logano in a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Last year, Logano didn't fare so well, but many blamed it on the fact that he was driving a Hall of Fame Toyota.
This year, the car that was driven to two Sprint Cup championships by Stewart features a similar paint scheme for the 18-year-old phenom.
Logano will get a chance to race with 28 drivers tonight, prior to hitting the high banked 2.5 mile oval next Sunday with 42 other competitors.
Logano starts 19th tonight.
10. David Stremme—Two major changes for the No. 12 Dodge in 2009. First, Stremme returns to the Cup Series looking to prove he can drive at NASCAR's top level.
Second, the car will be "sponsored" by Verizon Wireless. Though the team was allowed to put Verizon's colors on the car, they were not allowed to put any logos and will thus drive with the Penske logo on the hood and rear quarter panel.
The hood may not say Verizon, but everyone is well aware that they are sponsoring the car.
Stremme will start 20th tonight.
11. David Reutimann—Last year, this team was the No. 44 UPS sponsored Toyota. This year, Reutimann returns to the No. 00 with Aarons Sales and Lease on his hood.
Originally the rent-to-own store only signed on for half a season, but has since decided to sponsor the car for the entire year. (Albeit after owner Michael Waltrip all but guaranteed Reutimann would visit Victory Lane in 2009.)
Reutimann will start 22nd tonight.
12. Jeff Burton—The No. 31 Richard Childress Chevy was scrambling for sponsorship after AT&T was told they could no longer grace the hood following their purchase of Cingular.
Childress didn't have to wait long as Caterpillar gladly jumped from the Bill Davis Toyota to a more competitive race team.
Burton was supposed to roll off in 23rd position, but after a blown engine in practice, he will start 28th.
13. Casey Mears—Mears joins a team better fitted for him in 2009 in Richard Childress Racing. Let's face it, Mears was always just "the other guy" at Hendrick Motorsports with the likes of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, and Jimmie Johnson.
In 2009, Mears takes over the No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevy. While the sponsor and number are the same, the only difference for this team will be Mears behind the wheel instead of two-time Chaser Clint Bowyer.
Mears is on his third chance at showing he can be competitive at NASCAR's highest level, and it may be his last.
Those are the 13 drivers that feature signature changes heading into the Shootout tonight of Fox. (Robby Gordon was not included because although he will be switching manufactures for the season, he did not switch for the Shootout.)
Enjoy the racing tonight! Our beloved sport is back!