On Monday, NASCAR announced the eligibility criteria for this year’s Sprint Unlimited, scheduled for Feb. 13. While winning a pole during the previous season will get you into the race, it’s not the only way into the 75-lap show. Regardless of circumstances, 25 cars will start the 187.5-mile race.
The first criteria to qualify for the Sprint Unlimited remains winning poles. 12 drivers won Coors Light Pole Awards during the 2015 season. Those drivers are AJ Allmendinger, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon and Joey Logano.
The third criteria locks in previous Daytona 500 pole winners who would not qualify via the first two criteria. As a result, Austin Dillon (2014), Danica Patrick (2013), Martin Truex, Jr. (2009), David Gilliland (2007) and Greg Biffle (2004) are eligible.
Criteria No. 4 allows all remaining participants in the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup entry into the race who would have otherwise been ineligible. As a result, Clint Bowyer, Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard and Ryan Newman gain entries.
Finally, additional drivers will be added in the order of their finish in the 2015 Sprint Cup Series Point Standings until the field is full. As of the official press release, those drivers were Aric Almirola and Kyle Larson.
The list given by NASCAR in their press release is not the official list of entries. If anyone drops out for any reason, then the next eligible driver in order of 2015 points would bump into the field.
As of right now, there is already one definite move. As Gordon has officially retired from driving and will be calling the race as an analyst for FOX Sports, he naturally will not drive. As a result, Casey Mears will move into the field.
Gilliland’s fate for the 2016 season is currently up in the air as it is unclear who will team up with Chris Buescher at Front Row Motorsports. Should he not retain his ride and be unable to find a replacement, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. would move into the field.
The 38th running of the Sprint Unlimited will roll off at approximately 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 13. Coverage of the race will be carried on FOX.
About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.