Harris: Shootout To Have An Old-Time Feel
I’m beginning to think that nobody really retires any more.
Mark Martin came back, not once, but twice from planned retirements. Michael Schumacher is going to drive in Formula One again this year after sitting in a rocking chair for three years.
Now comes the news that the made-for-TV Budweiser Shootout, a staple of the first stock car weekend at Daytona each year, has given some of the old coots of NASCAR a chance to get out and rub fenders with the young whippersnappers again.
The latest Shootout rules state those eligible include the 12 drivers who qualified for the previous year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup (meaning 51-year-old Martin is automatically in), past Cup champions, past Budweiser Shootout – formerly Busch Clash – champions, past Daytona 500 and Coke Zero 400 winners and the reigning Raybestos Rookie of the Year, who, somewhat ironically, is 19-year-old Joey Logano.
Close on the heels of the announcement of this rules criteria came the word that 54-year-old Ken Schrader, a two-time Shootout/Clash winner, will drive the No. 82 car for Red Bull Racing, replacing Scott Speed, who is a mere 27 and not yet eligible for the special race.
There are reports that 54-year-old Bill Elliott, who fulfills the criteria in several ways, will also have a ride in February.
Heck, Geoffrey Bodine, Sterling Marlin, Derrike Cope and Greg Sacks – Daytona race winners all – are waiting in the wings if a ride should turn up. None of these guys have been retired for very long.
So much for NASCAR’s recent youth movement.
In the event announcement, Robin Braig, president of Daytona International Speedway, is quoted as saying, “As NASCAR evolves, we tailor the Budweiser Shootout’s qualifying criteria to provide fans with a lineup that showcases NASCAR’s best drivers on the high banks of Daytona. The new criteria put a premium on race winners at NASCAR’s most storied track – Daytona International Speedway – and we’re looking forward to kicking off the new season with an electric night of racing.” Electric indeed.
Why not make this a real show and invite some of the, ahem, more mature drivers who would be eligible under the current rules?
Can’t you just see Richard Petty, Junior Johnson, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip and David Pearson lining up for the start of the big event? Heck, let’s ask two-time NASCAR champion Ned Jarrett. I suspect he could still climb through the driver’s-side window and steer one of these so-called Cars of Tomorrow on the banking.
Petty and Johnson have already been voted into the new NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, and everybody else on that list is likely to be there before long. You could even change the name from the Shootout to the Gunfight at the Old Guy Corral – or something like that.
But I digress.
The race distance will continue to be 75 laps (187.5 miles) on the 2.5-mile Daytona tri-oval. The race will have two segments, of 25 and 50 laps. Both green- and yellow-flag laps will count. Between segments, there will be a 10-minute pit stop at which time teams will pit and may elect to change tires, add fuel and make normal chassis adjustments.
Under the circumstances, a little rest stop is appropriate. They may want to have some oxygen standing by for the old timers, just in case.
Actually, NASCAR fans are very loyal. If some of those long-retired drivers did choose to take part in the Shootout, it might actually help ticket sales and those sagging TV ratings.
Heck, why not?
Richard, Junior, Cale, David, Jaws. Come on down.
– Mike Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments