With NASCAR debuting the Car of Tomorrow and Indy Car opening its season at Homestead, this weekend promises to be an eventful one for racing buffs. Let the Bleacher Report's Adam Amick help you keep pace with the field.
NASCAR — Cup and Busch Series at Thunder Valley
This weekend marks the racing debut of NASCAR's "Car Of Tomorrow" (COT) in the Nextel Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway. All reservations aside, the COT is here—and here to stay.
The COT has been in development and testing for several years, with driver safety and cost reduction being the primary factors in its construction.
Changes inside the car include two inches of additional headroom and a driver's seat moved four inches to the right. On the outside, the COT's appearance is radically new: It's got a front "splitter," much like the Truck Series models, and a rear wing commonly seen on sports-tuner cars.
The COT chassis are going to be more strictly inspected, and teams will be expected to run the same car on short tracks and superspeedways with only minor changes. Kurt Busch's team demonstrated as much in January, when they tested a COT at a short track before posting faster lap times than the regular Cup cars at Daytona two weeks later.
The Nextel Cup Series field will take to the high banks of Thunder Valley Sunday afternoon for the 500-lap Sharpie 500. Points leader Mark Martin is home in Florida, keeping his word to sit out the race. That effectively makes Jeff Gordon the points leader, and the five-time Bristol winner put the No. 24 Dupont Chevy Impala SS on the pole for Sunday's race.
Chevy has badged its COT entry as the Impala SS body style, whereas the regular car is the Monte Carlo SS. Dodge is also fielding a new body style for its COT, opting for the Avenger template.
Kasey Kahne will start outside of Gordon on the front row, with Evernham teammate Elliott Sadler starting third. Scott Riggs—an Evernham entry who desperately needs a good finish to get into the top-35 in owner points—starts eighth.
Tony Stewart and Jamie McMurray fill out the top five. Five Toyota Camrys made the field, with Dave Blaney holding down the fort as Toyota's top performer. His Caterpillar Camry starts seventh.
Other points of interest: Jeremy Mayfield is set to make his first start of the year, Brian Vickers will start behind him in 25th, Dale Jarrett saved a precious provisional by running 30th, and A.J. Allmendinger will make his first start from the tail of the 43-car field. Michael Waltrip failed to make the show again, as did Joe Nemechek, Johnny Sauter, David Reutimann, and Paul Menard.
The starting lineup for the race can be found here. Sunday's Sharpie 500 Nextel Cup race airs live on Fox at 1:30 p.m. Eastern.
The Busch Series will run the Sharpie Mini 300 Saturday afternoon on Bristol's high-banked half-mile, with Carl Edwards looking to build on his points lead.
The Busch teams will run the standard cars—a challenging situation for the "Busch Bashers." Practice and qualifying sessions for the two series occur back-to-back, so Cup drivers have to adjust from the Busch cars, which they're more familiar with, to the new COT cars for qualifying.
Greg Biffle was fastest in practice on Friday. Qualifying for the race is scheduled for Saturday before Cup final practice.
ABC will carry live coverage of the Busch Series Sharpie Mini 300 beginning at 2:30 Eastern on Saturday.
Indy Car — Season Opener at Homestead
Sam Hornish Jr. begins his quest for a fourth Indy Car title on Saturday night in the XM Satellite Radio Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Hornish has been trying to develop his skills in Busch Series cars this year, but now straps himself into the more familiar 200-plus MPH open-wheel ride.
Dan Wheldon won this race in 2006, and will try to get his Target Chip Ganassi car back into victory lane. Hornish's Penske teammate Helio Castroneves looks to contend for the title again this season, and hopes are high for those with Danica Mania as Danica Patrick takes to the track in her new ride for Andretti-Green Racing. Sarah Fisher also returns to Indy Car after attempting to make the switch to stock cars.
The XM Satellite Radio Indy 300 can be seen live Saturday night at 8 Eastern on ESPN2.
Rolex Grand-Am Series
Scott Pruett will try to build on his points lead in the Daytona Prototype (DP) Class on the 2.3-mile road course at Homestead-Miami in a Saturday doubleheader with the Indy Car race.
Pruett has a victory at the 24 Hours of Daytona and a fourth-place finish at Mexico City this season, and will try to continue the success in his TelMex/Target Chip Ganassi Lexus Riley.
Sylvain Tremblay and Nick Ham will take their Speedsource Mazda RX-8 onto the track at the head of the GT Class, after finishing fifth at Daytona and first in Mexico City.
The Rolex Grand-Am Series race from Homestead-Miami will air Saturday at 2 p.m. Eastern on the SPEED Channel.
Not to neglect the fans of those who race on two wheels instead of four, SPEED will carry the National Arena Cross races live from Nashville on Sunday afternoon at 4 Eastern. Those will be followed by the excitement of the Moto GP Series and the Spanish Grand Prix. The Moto GP 250 and World Championship will air tape-delayed on SPEED at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., respectively.