Commentary: Enhancing the Bud Shootout

With Speedweeks just a few weeks around the corner, I felt it appropriate to take a look at one of the most anticipated and also scrutinized events of the year in the Budweiser Shootout.

There’s very little to criticize about the event in it’s current construction. It’s the first race in nearly four months and it features stars and cars of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. What’s not to like?

Despite this, the event has still managed to unnerve some fans with the inclusion of nearly 30 cars, the constant changing of the rules and obvious attempts to insure that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is able to make the race year-after-year.

The most important of these changes, to me, is the rulebook. A lot like the Sprint All Star Race, a consistent and exciting format can only help build anticipation to a race already the most-looked-forward-to on the schedule. So what can be done to enhance the Budweiser Shootout? Find out after the jump!

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1. Find a qualifying format and stick with it.

Prior to 2008 when Budweiser was the official sponsor of the pole award, drivers were excited about winning the pole because it also merited inclusion into the annual Budweiser Shootout. The Shootout never persuaded a driver to push harder but having a driver mention the race on Fridays only added to the prestige and anticipation of the event. Likewise, having announcers plug the event during Friday telecasts amounted to the same thing. Whatever the format, stick to it and allow the anticipation to simmer before building to a fever pitch by February.

This brings me to the format itself.

I preferred the qualifying format for all the reasons I just outlined. If the Budweiser sponsorship is the impeding the format, look into having Coors acquire the naming rights to the event.

Additionally, I would make qualifying more important by giving the driver the most poles the lead spot for the shootout. This would eliminate the draw. All ties and consecutive spots will be determined by average starting position during the previous season.

Entry for non-pole winners will be the following.

-All previous Chase for the Championship qualifiers (from any season)
-Previous series champions
-Previous winners at Daytona International Speedway

2. Bring Back the Invert

For God’s sake; the race is called a shootout. Nothing says shootout like a 20-lap run to the finish off an invert. Anyone associated with short track racing is bound to experience this on a weekly-basis at their home track. Daytona is a plate track, meaning a invert won’t do much to damage a driver’s chance at winning and serves only to add a new level of excitement and help break up drafting partners.

In conclusion, here’s how the segments play out/

Segment 1: 45 Laps (One green flag pit stop)

Ten-minute break where teams can make unlimited adjustments while the inversion ceremony takes place. Invert will be decided upon by blind draw and will be a number anywhere from 1-10.

Segment 2: 20 Laps (Named the 20-lap Dash for the Cash)

3. Run the Race Backwards

Ultimately, this is my most absurd suggestion. I don’t even know if the cars are mechanically capable of turning left for 75 laps in a restrictor plate environment, much less if the track’s camera decks and sight lines can support it.

But here’s my thinking.

A common complaint about the Budweiser Shootout is that it’s just a 70-lap diet version of the Coke Zero 400. What if the Shootout became something else entirely; something unlike anything else in motorsports? I won’t sit here and try to preach the logistics of how something like this would work because I have no idea if it can.

But at its deepest roots, NASCAR is a promotion and traveling circus. Start off the season by promoting your wackiest invention ever, a 65-lap inverted backwards dash for the cash.

So what do you say? Are you on board or are my ideas just too wacky even by NASCAR standards? Tell us in the comments section below.

Photo by Tom Pennington – Getty Images for NASCAR

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