It is February and Daytona is ready for the return of NASCAR.
Tonight, the Sprint Unlimited, formerly known as the Budweiser Shootout, takes place with nineteen driver, last years pole winners and past winners of the race. This year's race is truly for the fans, who have decided the format (three segments of 30, 25 and 20 laps) and will decide the type of pit stop for the first segment (no, two or four tires), how many drivers will be eliminated after segment two (zero, two, four or six) and will determined the starting order (either 2012 owner points, practice speeds or car number).
A notable absence from the Sprint Unlimited will be defending champion Brad Keselowski, who did not win a pole in 2012.
Tomorrow will be Daytona 500 qualifying, where 45 drivers will compete for the front row and lock themselves into the 2013 Daytona 500. Past Daytona 500 winners looking to add another to their résumé are Matt Kesensth (2009 and 2012), Trevor Bayne (2011), Jamie McMurray (2010), Ryan Newman (2008), Kevin Harvick (2007), Jimmie Johnson (2006), Jeff Gordon (1997, 1999 and 2005), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2004) and Michael Waltrip (2001 and 2003).
2013 will see two rookies attempt full-time schedules. The defending, back-to-back Nationwide Series champion, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will join Roush Fenway Racing after the departure of Matt Kenseth to Joe Gibbs Racing and Danica Patrick will race for Stewart-Haas Racing, as that team expands to a three team operation.
On Thursday, the Budweiser Duels will set the field for 2013 Daytona 500 and determine who will miss the first race of 2013.