Spint Cup 2012: 10 Things to Learn from NASCAR's Opening Act

James D'Eletto@@Fantasy_KingsContributor IIIFebruary 17, 2012

Spint Cup 2012: 10 Things to Learn from NASCAR's Opening Act

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    With the most consolidated preseason of any sport, NASCAR only has one preseason race, the Bud Shootout, and it never disappoints. The race takes place at the same track as the prestigious Daytona 500, Daytona International Speedway. With some of the closest racing you will see all year, the Shootout is any ones race.

    It is the first time we get to see our favorite drivers on the track since the final race in Homestead in mid November. There have been many changes in the 2012 offseason including drivers, crew chiefs, teams and even engines. We may even get to see the first maternity driver suit, I wonder what Joey Lagano will have to say about that?

    This is a preview of the 2012 NASCAR season—finally it is time to go racing!

    We now take a look at 10 things we will learn watching the opening act of the NASCAR season, The 2012 Budweiser Shootout.

Tandem or Pack Drafting?

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    NASCAR has heard the fans that do not like the tandem drafting.

    They have even made some last-minute changes to the rear chassis and spoilers to try and break up the 2 car draft. We can only wait and see if this has been addressed, or made it worse. Even with the best engineers in NASCAR, no one can predict what the changes will bring in race conditions.

    We are left with the Bud Shootout to tell us.

Scores to Settle?

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    It only happens twice a year.

    The Bud Shootout and the Sprint Cup All-Star race are two races on the schedule that a few drivers circle on their calendars. These are two races that do not effect the final points standings.

    Although not much has happened in the past few years in the two non-points races, these have historically been the races where scores are settled. With many driver feuds occurring in 2011, I wouldn't be surprised to see some action in the Shootout, particularly from Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.

    If this occurs, look for fireworks—and a few trips to the NASCAR hauler.

New Paint Schemes

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    The Bud Shootout is the first time you will see you favorite driver in their new digs.

    This event commemorates the unveiling of all of the new sponsors, new logos or just new colors of a car. Many people can't wait to see what their driver will be driving in for the new season. Some sponsors are for half of the season and some will have special paint schemes for speed weeks.

    Get the production line started up for the diecast cars that many race fans collect.

Who Will Be Strong in the Daytona 500?

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    Which drivers will be the favorites to win the Daytona 500?

    We will know after the Bud Shootout. This race is a fantastic preview to the Daytona 500, it showcases the same skills and know-how that is needed to win the Great American Race.

    The past few years we have seen the winners of the Bud Shootout be a contender for the Daytona 500 trophy. These drivers have included Dale Earnhardt Jr, Kurt Busch, and Kevin Harvick.

    We will look to see if anymore drivers have refined their drafting skills over the offseason.

How the Fuel Injection Change Will Effect the Cars

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    The ultimate wild card for NASCAR is their change to Fuel Injection.

    After running carburetors since the inception of NASCAR, this is new territory for the teams, the drivers and the brass of NASCAR.

    The Shootout will give us a small 75 lap or roughly 200 mile feel for the change. The extreme temperatures that the engines will succumb to during a race is sure to create challenges for every team. Keep in mind this is not even half of a 500 mile race, and it is nowhere close to a 100-degree day in the middle of the summer.

    This may not show us everything about fuel injection challenges, but we will see many answers on Saturday night.

Driver and Crew Chief Changes

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    This is the first time we will be able to connect all of the dots that moved during the 2012 NASCAR "Silly Season."

    We have seen many crew chiefs change jobs in the offseason.

    We saw the what seems like the annual shell game at Roush Racing and Richard Childress Racing. We have also heard the championship combination of Tony Stewart and Darian Grubb split up, and Steve Addington leave Penske Racing and get appointed crew chief of the No. 14 team.

    If that sounds confusing...it is! Just multiply that tough equation by 15 teams to see what went on in the offseason.

    Now, we can at least visualize these changes when we see the new faces up on their new pit boxes. 

Front to Back and Back to Front

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    Because these are the first race conditions the teams have for the new season, there is actually alot of testing that goes on. One thing you are sure to see is drivers falling to the back of the pack.

    Why would they do this?

    They do this to see how many laps it is going to take to make a charge to the front. Many times you will see a driver do this a few times throughout the race. Another reason they do this is to try and miss the storm. Daytona is known for the big wreck, which can take out 10 to 15 cars in a few seconds. Some drivers like to hang out in the back and wait for this to happen rather then be in the middle of the melee.

    I personally like the Earnhardt mentality: if you're leading, everyone is behind you and not in front of you—and you have a better chance to miss the wreck than if you were behind it.

Who Will Most Likely Not Win the Championship

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    While we have seen some great drivers win the Bud Shootout, not many have gone on to win the Series Championship in that same year—besides Dale Earnhardt, of course.

    There have only been three times, other then Dale Earnhardt's four, when a driver has won the shootout and also taken the Cup Championship. Tony Stewart did it last, in 2002. The only other drivers to have completed the double of a Bud Shootout win and a Cup Championship were Jeff Gordon, in 1997 and Darrell Waltrip, in 1981.

    I don't think this year will be any different.

Will Ford Break the Drought?

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    Ford has not won the shootout since 2004 and only twice since 2000. In fact, not one active Ford driver has won the Bud Shootout. The last driver to see victory lane in this race for Ford was Dale Jarrett in 2000 and 2004, when he drove for Robert Yates Racing—which isn't even a fully operating Sprint Cup team these days.

    It's about time Ford made some noise in the Bud Shootout.

More Changes to the Daytona 500?

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    The Bud Shootout gives everyone the first look at racing in 2012, including NASCAR's rules committee.

    Before the green flag waves for the 2012 Daytona 500, we will almost definitely see some more rule changes or car modifications made in the next week.

    This always happens, seemingly every single year. The 2012 Daytona 500 will be no different: whether it is a change to the restrictor plate, spoiler modification or a yellow line rule change, something will come from the 2012 Bud Shootout.

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