This year's first 2013 NASCAR event will be an exhibition in Daytona, and it will give fans the chance to make decisions in the final outcome for the first time in the sport's history.
There are new toys, formats and ideas floating all around NASCAR right now, but the driver list is mostly the same. Absent from the first event will be 2012 Sprint Cup winner Brad Keselowski and runner-up Clint Bowyer, but Jimmie Johnson and the rest of the field will be chock-full of guys vying at this year's Cup.
Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin won the first two practice rounds at Daytona International Speedway on Friday. We also had a six-car wreck on Friday that should lead to more speculation about the new cars (via Don Coble of the Augusta Chronicle) and how long it will take drivers to adjust.
Saturday night's race is just a tune-up in preparation for NASCAR's marquee event, the Daytona 500, on Feb. 24. Even so, it should be an exciting return for both the field and the fans, especially with the new rules and formats now in place for a test run.
The Field (via NASCAR's official site)
|11||Terry Labonte ||Ford|
|12||Juan Pablo Montoya||Chevrolet|
|16||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota|
|18||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Chevrolet|
NASCAR is giving fans a chance to vote on this year's first experience in an attempt to see if there is any merit in doing so again in future races.
The fans have already decided on a three-segment format that will feature laps of 30, 25 and then 20 to close out the night. That will add up to 75 total laps in this exhibition race, and that's not the extent of what the fans can vote on during the race.
Per the Orlando Sentinel, fans will also have the option of deciding what kind of pit stop the drivers can make in between the three segments and who survives the cuts in the process.
Fans also have until the start of the second segment to vote for who will be eliminated heading into the third segment. The four choices are none, two, four or six. It should make for an interesting night at Daytona and give fans of the sport something to look forward to when they tune into Fox at 7 p.m. ET Saturday night.
Although it's just the first race of the season, expect fireworks.
Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth made headlines last season after a fight, and both be in the field a day after Kenseth started the six-car wreck during Friday's practice session.
I wouldn't expect any of the drivers to be less than cordial during the opening weekend, but don't expect Kenseth or Stewart to shy away from taking the necessary measures to win this race at all costs. The same goes for the rest of the field.
After Friday's practice, it wouldn't be surprising to see a wreck in the opening laps on Saturday. When factoring in the new cars that the sport is testing just one week prior to its biggest race, it won't be shocking at all to see a multi-car pileup.
It's hard to put a finger on the favorite after the layoff, but Johnson and Kasey Kahne are two safe bets to take home the checkered flag. It's an exciting time for the sport because of the new format and new cars, but, as usual, it's about the drivers.
Get ready for an exciting Saturday night in Daytona.