NASCAR expands Sprint Unlimited field to include Chase drivers

3 Comments

NASCAR’s Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway is about to get bigger.

New eligibility requirements announced today by NASCAR has allowed all 16 Chase for the Sprint Cup drivers to enter the non-points exhibition race, which takes place one week before the Daytona 500.

“The 2015 Sprint Unlimited has potential to be one of the most competitive ever,” NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell said in a release.

“With more drivers eligible, the intensity level increases for our fans and competitors, making for a compelling start to the 2015 season.”

The field will also include 2014 Cup pole winners, former Sprint Unlimited race winners, and former Daytona 500 pole winners who competed full-time in Cup in 2014.

Any remaining spots will be filled by drivers highest in 2014 Cup driver championship points who are not already eligible.

A minimum of 25 drivers are eligible to participate, including:

  • Kyle Busch (2014 pole winner)
  • Austin Dillon (2014 pole winner)
  • Jeff Gordon (2014 pole winner)
  • David Gilliland (2014 pole winner)
  • Denny Hamlin (2014 pole winner)
  • Kevin Harvick (2014 pole winner)
  • Jimmie Johnson (2014 pole winner)
  • Matt Kenseth (2014 pole winner)
  • Brad Keselowski (2014 pole winner)
  • Kyle Larson (2014 pole winner)
  • Joey Logano (2014 pole winner)
  • Jamie McMurray (2014 pole winner)
  • Brian Scott (2014 pole winner)
  • Tony Stewart (2014 pole winner)
  • Brian Vickers (2014 pole winner)
  • Kurt Busch (former Unlimited winner)
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. (former Unlimited winner)
  • Carl Edwards (former D500 pole winner)
  • Danica Patrick (former D500 pole winner)
  • Greg Biffle (former D500 pole winner)
  • Martin Truex Jr. (former D500 pole winner)
  • Ryan Newman (2014 Chase driver)
  • AJ Allmendinger (2014 Chase driver)
  • Kasey Kahne (2014 Chase driver)
  • Aric Almirola (2014 Chase driver)

Vickers will not be able to compete in the event, however, due to health issues that have sidelined him for the early part of the 2015 season.

The 75-lap race will take place on Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015. Denny Hamlin is the defending champion.

F1 tests: Mercedes innovates with wheel adjustment system

Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MONTMELÓ, Spain — Veteran Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time on the second day of Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, but Mercedes still garnered more attention by introducing an innovative wheel adjustment system.

On-board footage showed defending champion Lewis Hamilton pulling the steering wheel back and forth on the front straight to apparently change the angle of the front wheels on his Mercedes car.

The team stayed tight-lipped about the car’s new feature but guaranteed it was “safe” and “legal.”

“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but yeah we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” team technical director James Allison told F1 TV. ”We’ve got a name for it, it’s called DAS, if you’re interested, and it just introduces an extra dimension for the steering, for the driver, which we hope will be useful during the year. But precisely how we use it and why we use it, that’s something we will keep to ourselves.”

Allison said governing body FIA knew in advance that the team was introducing the new system.

“It’s something we’ve been talking to them (about) for some time,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements. I’m pleased we got it on the car, it seems to be useful, and we’ll see over the coming days how it benefits us.”

Hamilton said he was still trying to get used to the system, but praised the team for coming up with the innovation.

“I’ve only had one morning on (it, so) I don’t really have a lot to talk about with it. We’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety-wise no problem today and the FIA are OK with the project.

“For me it’s really encouraging to see that my team is continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and I think that’s down to the great minds in the team and so hopefully that’ll work to our benefit.”

Hamilton led the time charts on Wednesday but was only ninth-fastest on Thursday.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas fastest in Day 1 of F1 practice
MORE: Sergio Perez fastest early on Day 2 of F1 Practice

The 40-year-old Raikkonen, who has a chance this season to break the record for most race starts in F1, was fastest with a time of 1 minute, 17.091 seconds in his Alfa Romea. He was 0.2 seconds quicker than Sergio Pérez with Racing Point. Daniel Ricciardo of Renault was third.

Raikkonen caused a red flag near the end of the afternoon session when his car stopped on the track with an apparent mechanical issue. The Finnish driver had spun earlier in the session, as did Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Romain Grosjean of Haas and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, formerly known as Toro Rosso.

Grosjean had the most laps among the 13 drivers who went to the track on Thursday, with 158.

Bottas was the slowest driver of the day, while Sebastian Vettel was sixth-fastest with Ferrari.

Pérez had set the quickest time in the morning session. The Mexican driver had been third fastest on Wednesday, behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Drivers will be back on the track on Friday to close out the first week of testing. Teams will have another three days to test next week.

Preseason testing has been reduced from eight to six days to help compensate for the record 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam Grand Prix and the return of the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

The season opens on March 15 at the Australian GP.

The Barcelona-Catalunya track will host the Spanish GP on May 10.