Welcome to The Pace Lap, your Friday afternoon catchall preview post! Every Friday before race day, we'll get you started with a metric truckload of stats, facts, opinion and innuendo. Read on to see how you can be a part of it all, too. And now, we begin.
The race: The Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway
The TV: Fox, 8 p.m. Eastern
The specs: 75 laps, divided into two races of 25 and 50 laps, with a 10-minute break in between and one stop for fuel in the second heat. Confusing enough for you? Say yes, or they'll add a math component to it as well.
Defending champ: Kevin Harvick, who springboarded off his win here last year to win ... um, nothing. But Harvick has the flu now, so maybe running badly will portend a good year for the 29.
The front row: Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick, who achieved their positions by picking a flag out of a Budweiser bottle. Of course they did.
The history: The Bud Shootout is a lesson in gimmickry -- gimmickry that can work, but gimmickry nonetheless. The race dates to 1979 and was originally known as the "Busch Clash." The race started as a collection of the pole winners from previous years, but as with so much else in NASCAR has mutated into a race where pretty much all the big names get in by one form of rule jockeying or another. This year, the eligibile drivers include the 12 Chase drivers, past Cup champions and previous winners of the Shootout as well as the Daytona 500 and the Coke Zero 400. (Which is how Ken Schrader, of all people, got in this race.) In 1987, Bill Elliott recorded an average speed of 197.802 mph in the Shootout, the fastest speed ever in a sanctioned NASCAR event.
The appropriate video: From last year -- Harvick hunts down Jamie McMurray, coming from way back to take the win and set off -- well, you'll see:
Guy with the most to gain: Joey Logano. It's time for Mr. Bread to prove that he's more than just a kid phenom, and what better way to do that than to beat the sport's best?
Guy with the most to lose: Nobody. This race doesn't mean anything, and while everybody will go at it fairly hard for at least the last couple laps, nobody's going to be too broken up if they don't win this one.
Sweet quote of the week: "I don’t think Jimmie (Johnson) has ever been in a position where he’s had to give it all he had to win a championship. I think he just kind of lets things come to him and watches other guys just crumble around him." --Denny Hamlin
Embarrassing past video of the week: Jeff Gordon, doing a quickie -- so to speak -- with a young lady who resembles Britney Spears, but is far too put together, right?
Our pick to win: Derrike Cope. Kidding! Nah, I'm going to go with Greg Biffle. No particular reason. He ran well at the end of last season, why shouldn't he start the year on a high note? Now that's NASCAR expertise at work!
All right, your turn. Make your pick now -- who's going to be the first to win? Who's going to lose? Have your say below!