It's been a while since Speedweeks has had this much projected excitement just 58 days until the green flag is dropped on the 56th running of the Great American Race. There are close to 50 entries for the Daytona 500 and there is still quite a while before the entry lists are set for the big dance and with the new qualifying procedures in place since the end of 2013 that should make for some great excitement heading into Speedweeks 2014.
It's been a while since the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has seen a growth in the field. With a tough economy, brand new racecars and just the expense of running a Sprint Cup operation the entry field for the Sprint Cup Series has stayed at close to 43 cars, making qualifying and making races not that exciting in the past few seasons.
In the 2013 Daytona 500 only two cars did not make the show and they were Brian Keselowski's entry and Mike Bliss' #19 Toyota entry. It was a short field but that was expected. With NASCAR debuting a brand new racecar in 2013, cars for even the mega teams were pretty scarce. Now with a seasons worth of racecars built many teams have taken the opportunity to sell racecars to other teams or have racecars that are already built that can be used in the 2014 season as well.
A few teams have expanded their operations. Swan Racing which ran one car in 2013 will now expand to a two car operation. Rookie of the Year contender Parker Kligerman will drive one of the teams cars while fellow Rookie of the Year contender Cole Whitt will drive the other entry. Both drivers have graduated from the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Phoenix Racing will have a second entry part time in 2014 as well. Veteran driver and 2000 Series champion Bobby Labonte will run part time for the team in 2014. He is rumored to be joining Rookie of the Year contender Justin Allgaier in Sprint Cup in 2014. Although nothing official has been announced yet concerning Allgaier all signs are pointing towards the Riverton, Illinois native driving in the Sprint Cup Series fulltime in 2014. Stewart Haas Racing expanded their team as well as Kurt Busch will drive a fourth car for the team in 2014 after spending the 2013 season with Furniture Row Racing.
FAS Lane Racing and Go Green Racing have combined their efforts with Terry Labonte aboard their #32 Ford for Daytona and Brian Keselowski has announced his team is planning on bringing a car to Daytona using old Ford chassis from Germain Racing. Landon Cassill will be back at Circle Sport Racing in 2014, which means they will have at least one car in Daytona with Richard Childress Racing rumored to be entering a fourth entry using Circle Sports' #33 Chevrolet. Leavine Family Racing will run full-time with driver Michael McDowell running their car. Phil Parsons Racing will be back with driver Josh Wise running the #98 Chevrolet.
Many of the teams mentioned above are in the danger zone to make the 56th Great American Race. They will either need to be fast or finish in the top 15 in their Budweiser Duel. If the teams are not fast enough to qualify in on their time or do not finish in the top 15 in their Budweiser Duel, they would have to fall back on their owner points. Very simple, the higher the teams were in owner points in 2013, the better chance they have of making the 56th Daytona 500. There is of course the past champion provisional that is eligible for drivers who have won the Sprint Cup Series championship.
What the deep field could mean is that some full-time teams could miss the Daytona 500. If that's the case it would make for an extremely interesting Speedweeks and could mean the start of another unexpected team as they make the Great American Race.
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