The Ever Evolving Budweiser Shootout

In 1979, Anheuser-Busch launched the Busch Clash as a non-points race of all of the previous season’s Busch Pole winners in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. The format of the race changed several times over the years. Originally it was a 20-lap “winner take all” prelude to Speedweeks at Daytona. In 1991, it was changed to two 10-lap segments. In 1998, they changed it to a single segment 25-lap event. After all, it had worked just fine for 11 years as a single segment event.

Anheuser-Busch re-evaluated their involvement in NASCAR for the 2001 season. In the face of rising sponsorship costs and economic pressures, the company elected to not renew as the title sponsor of the Busch Series leaving NASCAR scrambling to secure a new title sponsor for its minor league division. At the same time, Anheuser-Busch made the decision to market its most prominent product line, Budweiser, in NASCAR replacing Busch Pole awards with Bud Pole awards and renaming the Busch Clash the Budweiser Shoot Out. The Shoot Out format was again changed this time to a 70-lap event. In 2003, it was changed again to two segments: 20 laps and then 50 laps. Why? No one really seems to know.

Somewhere along the way, the drivers eligible for the Shoot Out started changing as well. In 2002 the Shoot Out field was up to 22 drivers, the largest in its history. In 2009, Anheuser-Busch did not choose to continue sponsoring the weekly pole awards and Coors picked up that spot. So Anheuser-Busch decided to change up the roster for the Bud Shootout even more. The mix continues to change from rosters of drivers from all manufacturers to whatever the good folks at Anheuser-Busch dreams up next.

This year the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona field will consist of:
1. The 12 drivers that qualified for the 2010 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup
2. Past NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions
3. Past Budweiser Shootout champions
4. Past Daytona 500 and Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola champions
5. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year drivers from 2001-2010

With those criteria in mind, here are the drivers eligible to compete in the 2011 Bud Shootout at Daytona:

Jimmie Johnson (qualified for the 2010 chase)
Denny Hamlin (qualified for the 2010 chase)
Kevin Harvick (qualified for the 2010 chase)
Carl Edwards (qualified for the 2010 chase)
Matt Kenseth (qualified for the 2010 chase)
Greg Biffle (qualified for the 2010 chase)
Tony Stewart (qualified for the 2010 chase)
Kyle Busch (qualified for the 2010 chase)
Jeff Gordon (qualified for the 2010 chase)
Clint Bowyer (qualified for the 2010 chase)
Kurt Busch (qualified for the 2010 chase)
Jeff Burton (qualified for the 2010 chase)
John Andretti (Coke Zero 400)
Geoff Bodine (Daytona 500, Budweiser Shootout)
Kevin Conway (Series rookie of the year)
Derrike Cope (Daytona 500)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Daytona 500, Coke Zero 400, Budweiser Shootout)
Bill Elliott (Series champion, Daytona 500, Coke Zero 400, Budweiser Shootout)
Kasey Kahne (Series rookie of the year)
Bobby Labonte (Series champion)
Terry Labonte (Series champion, Budweiser Shootout)
Joey Logano (Series rookie of the year)
Sterling Marlin (Daytona 500, Coke Zero 400)
Mark Martin (Budweiser Shootout)
Jamie McMurray (Daytona 500, Coke Zero 400, Series rookie of the year)
Juan Pablo Montoya (Series rookie of the year)
Ryan Newman (Daytona 500, Series rookie of the year)
Ken Schrader (Budweiser Shootout)
Regan Smith (Series rookie of the year)
Michael Waltrip (Daytona 500, Coke Zero 400)

Now who is missing? The drivers that qualified on the pole for Sprint Cup races last year that did not meet any of this new criteria:
A.J. Allmendinger
Martin Truex, Jr.
Brad Keselowski
Elliott Sadler

It seems that Anheuser-Busch had a good thing going with the Busch Clash or Bud Shootout. It was something that gave the pole winners of the previous year to look forward, a little something more than the cash bonus for winning a pole, and it gave something for the fans to enjoy after a cold raceless winter. Once they dropped the weekly pole awards, the Bud Shootout was an orphaned race with no real identity. None of the driver eligibility changes in the last seven years have made it a better race. They have only made it more confusing for drivers and fans trying to keep up with it over the course of a season to know who is eligible for the next season’s Shootout. It seems that it is change for the sake of change. Why not announce the criteria for the 2012 Shootout and announce it before the green flag drops for the Daytona 500 and then leave it alone.

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