Friday, Jan 21

Sprint Unlimited Kicks Off 2016 NASCAR Season - Preview

NASCAR will kick-off the 2016 season with the Sprint Unlimited on Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway. This will be the first time most of the Sprint Cup series drivers have seen asphalt since the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.

Matt Kenseth is the defending race winner and is one of the eligible drivers for this year’s exhibition race. By leading 21 laps, Kenseth captured his first Sprint Unlimited win and the second for the Joe Gibbs Racing organization. Kenseth, a Wisconsin native, went on to win five Sprint Cup Series races and finished 15th in the final Sprint Cup Series standings.

While there are 25 drivers who are eligible for the non-points event, two of them will not be seen on the 2.5-mile track. With Tony Stewart injured and Jeff Gordon retired, their spots will be filled based on the 2015 Sprint Cup Series driver points standings. At the moment, the drivers eligible for the provisional spots are Casey Mears, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Sam Hornish Jr., David Ragan and Trevor Bayne.

To determine starting spots and pit selection for the race, selected fans were paired with crew chiefs for a random draw. The draw took place this afternoon in the Sprint FANZONE at the Alert Today Florida stage. Tomorrow's race will consist of two segments with a competition caution at lap 25.

Ones To Watch

-Kyle Larson begins the new season with a new crew chief. Larson lead the first Sprint Unlimited practice session in the No. 42 Chevrolet.

- Brian Vickers is subbing for Stewart in the No. 14 Mobil One Chevrolet in both the Sprint Unlimited and the Daytona 500 events. Vickers himself has been on hiatus for health problems of his own for the past year.

- Martin Truex Jr. is last year’s runner up in the Sprint Unlimited. After a phenomenal rest of the 2015 season, he enters his third year with the Colorado-based Furniture Row Racing team. The No. 78 team also made a manufacturer switch from Chevrolet to Toyota during the offseason.

Start time for the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona is 8:00 PM ET on Saturday, February 13. FOX (local), MRN and SiriusXM Ch. 90 have the coverage.

Katie Williams

Coming off the ranch, I didn’t have a motorsports background but my passion was and still is very strong. My first taste of NASCAR came at the age of seven while waiting for music videos to come on the old TNN network. As I grew up, I pursued other interest but eventually rediscovered cars going left when I found the SPEED channel during the 2011-2012 offseason.

I didn’t decide I wanted to pursue a career in NASCAR until the summer of 2012. I’m not a wrench head or strong enough for a pit crew so media was the next best thing. At the beginning of 2013, I started going to races and making connections within the sport. I also studied Motorsports Management at Sports Management Worldwide. Although I love what happens on the track, I’ve always been interested in what goes on behind the scenes and I’ve gotten to know many people throughout the radio, TV and digital media world.

While I’m a long time writer, 2015 was my first year actually covering the sport with . I also became a media correspondent for Raceline. I’ve been able to help the TV show gain recognition on social media. My current goal is to acquire more experience in covering NASCAR and move up the media ladder. Outside of motorsports, I have been an equine-sports statistician for 16 years.

I currently reside in Gillette, WY where I’m still involved with horses. I enjoy riding them, rodeo, swimming, traveling and meeting people.

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