NASCAR announced Friday afternoon that the eligibility criteria for the 2011 Budweiser Shootout would be expanded.
Last year it included the previous year's 12 Chase for the Championship drivers, drivers who have competed in the past two seasons who are past Cup champions, past Budweiser Shootout winners and past Daytona Cup points race winners.
This year it includes the original criteria, along with including Rookie of the Year winners from the past 10 years.
"When you take a look at the field for this year's Budweiser Shootout at Daytona, it's loaded with all-star caliber drivers," said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition, in the press release. "From former series champions and Chase drivers, to the past 10 rookie of the year performers, to drivers who have had success at Daytona, we believe the fans are in store for a terrific and highly competitive event on a brand new racing surface."
The new format allows Kasey Kahne, Joey Logano, Kevin Conway, Juan Montoya and Regan Smith to be qualified into the field.
The old format of the Budweiser Shootout included only pole winners and past winners of the race. The idea was to give those who had worked hard to win a pole throughout the year a bonus—just like the Sprint All-Star Race gives race winners a bonus.
Though, when Coors Light took over the rights of the Pole Award, Budweiser demanded that the format be changed.
So what is the bonus now for pole winners? Besides starting first and getting first pit selection with some extra cash, pretty much nothing. With the way the races are, on most tracks it doesn't matter where you start, as you can always work your way to the front to win one way or another. The pole isn't as big as it was before.
Therefore, qualifying day is off of peoples' radars a lot, as they don't count that towards whether or not their driver will run well. They just care how their driver is in practice. With that being said, the views on qualifying are down, making things look bad there.
How can this be fixed? Either go back to the old format or give bonus points for qualifying. Something around 15 for the pole, 10 for second and five for third sounds right—that is what the ARCA Racing Series does and in the end, that could separate first and second.
Now NASCAR just comes up with something that looks like an interesting format that has some "criteria" to get as many big faces as they can in. If they want to do that, they might as well just say, "Okay, look—everybody is allowed in. It's just a non-points race with a big cash bonus."
That is the way it is going as the only drivers in the top 35 not locked in are David Reutimann, A.J. Allmendinger, Martin Truex Jr., Paul Menard, David Ragan, Brad Keselowski, Marcos Ambrose, Elliott Sadler, Sam Hornish Jr., Scott Speed, David Gilliiland, Travis Kvapil and Robby Gordon.