A look at where you do -- and don't -- want your favorite driver to finish Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Vote: Ultimate Daytona Challenge Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout. There are no points awarded for performance in the Sprint Unlimited , but there's still plenty at stake. History has proven that. Not only is it incredibly likely that the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion is in Saturday night's field, but it's also likely that he or she will perform well in the 25-car, 75-lap exhibition at Daytona International Speedway that kicks off the season. Here's where you want your driver to finish on Feb. 14 (8 p.m. ET, FOX) if you want him or her to have the best chance to be standing on the championship podium in November. Oh, and where you don't want them to finish? We'll go over that, too. Keep this handy when you watch Saturday's action, and check back for an updated version of this story after the race ends. The Good 33 • There have been 36 Sprint Unlimited races, with the first one coming in 1979. In 33 of 36 races (91.7 percent), the eventual series champion for that year was in the field. 1st or 4th • The most common finishing position in a Sprint Unlimited for a driver who would go on to win the championship that same year? It's a tie between first and fourth -- there have been seven instances of each (19.4 percent each). Dale Earnhardt won the Sprint Unlimited (then called the Busch Clash) in four of his seven championship seasons. The most recent driver to accomplish this feat is Tony Stewart in 2002. The most recent driver to finish fourth in the Unlimited and then win the title that same year is Brad Keselowski in 2012. Editor's note: Matt Kenseth won Saturday night's race, and Casey Mears finished fourth. 5.8 • The average finish in the Sprint Unlimited for a driver who won the title that same year is 5.8. Editor's note: Kyle Larson finished fifth Saturday night, and Joey Logano finished sixth. The OK 5th place • A driver has finished fifth place in the Unlimited and then gone on to win the title in four different instances (11 percent). The most recent driver to do this was Kevin Harvick last year. 3rd, 11th, 14th • Future champions have finished third, 11th and 14th in the Sprint Unlimited three times apiece. The latest: Jimmie Johnson finished 14th in 2013, Tony Stewart finished 11th in 2011 and Johnson finished third in 2008. Editor's note: Carl Edwards finished third Saturday night; Kevin Harvick finished 11th and Greg Biffle was 14th. The Ugly DNF • Worried about your favorite driver possibly getting in a wreck or having car problems? The odds are long, but three times a driver did not complete the exhibition race but still won the title that year -- Bobby Allison in 1983, Jeff Gordon in 1998 and Johnson in 2013. Editor's note: Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillon, Aric Almirola, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Jamie McMurray and Brad Keselowski did not finish Saturday's race. No chance • Numbers to watch out for. A driver has never finished 16th or worse in the Unlimited and won the title. Other finishing positions that have never produced a future champion: seventh, 10th and 12th. Editor's note: Jeff Gordon finished seventh, Danica Patrick finished 10th and Ryan Newman finished 14th. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Get caught up before the non-points race at Daytona (8 p.m. ET, Sat., FOX) Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Vote: Ultimate Daytona Challenge What: 37th annual Sprint Unlimited . Where: Daytona International Speedway, 2.5-mile tri-oval in Daytona Beach, Florida. When: Saturday, Feb. 14; 8:15 p.m. ET. TV/Radio: FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Distance: 75 laps; 187.5 miles (two segments -- 25 laps; 50 laps). Pit road speed: 55 mph Caution car speed: 70 mph Fuel window: 32 laps On the front row (no qualifying; drivers drew for starting position) " Starting lineup 1. Paul Menard, Richard Childress Racing No. 27 Chevrolet. 2. Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 Chevrolet. Fastest in practice First practice: Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet (200.749 mph). " Full results Final practice: Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet (196.764 mph). " Full results Driver rating (Best driver rating average in the Sprint Unlimited based in the past nine years, minimum 5 starts): Tony Stewart, 98.4 Jamie McMurray, 95.9 Last year's winner: Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota. Final Sprint : Saturday night's running of the annual season-opening exhibition race will likely be Jeff Gordon's final drive in the Sprint Unlimited . The four-time champion in NASCAR's premier series holds the record for most consecutive starts in the event -- 21. Pole predictors? Denny Hamlin stormed to victory in last year's Unlimited from the pole position, marking the fourth time in event history that the race winner has started from the No. 1 spot. The last time a race winner had the same pole-starting distinction was way back in 1989, when Ken Schrader landed his first win in the Daytona preliminary. History lesson: In its earliest years, the Sprint Unlimited field was solely filled by the previous season's pole winners. In those years when parity was not nearly as prevalent in stock-car racing, fewer drivers topped qualifying, meaning the earliest fields were far from unlimited . In 1981, Darrell Waltrip won the race -- then known as the Busch Clash, a brief 20-lap, 50-mile affair -- beating just six other cars to the checkered flag. They said it I: "It's just practice. I used to have the (XFINITY) race and things like that to get acclimated with your spotters and everything. I've been driving a tractor. It's been a long offseason and nobody has tested, nobody has been in a car and nobody has been acclimated to your guys and everything else. Just to show up cold turkey and not be ready is real for the Daytona 500, and I believe that. Having that race under our belt with all of us able to talk and (crew chief Brian) Pattie on the box, just to get in sync with one another before the big dance is what that race is all about." -- Clint Bowyer, on using the Sprint Unlimited to get in a rhythm for Speedweeks They said it II: "Daytona, Talladega, it's unique teaching people that don't know a lot about NASCAR and how different Daytona and Talladega really are, and yet so much preparation goes into these cars. I mean, they're beautiful cars with the most man-hours put into them, and some teams are electing not even to run the Unlimited because they know they're going to destroy a car. Wow, what do we do with restrictor plate racing? It's just that different, the way the racing is. There's strategy, there's drafting. A lot of it is luck, being in the right place at the right time." -- Kurt Busch They said it III: "This is my first Unlimited . But it's not a points race so I imagine it's a pretty relaxing race. It doesn't even have an effect on where you start in the (Daytona) 500. So, I think this whole weekend is pretty relaxing." -- Kyle Larson Former Sprint Unlimited winners in the field: Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick (3), Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin (2), Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson (1). FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Kurt Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. post fastest times in opening session Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Vote: Ultimate Daytona Challenge SPRINT UNLIMITED FINAL PRACTICE " Full results Veteran and four-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon topped the final practice session for the annual Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway (Saturday, Feb. 14 at 8 p.m. ET, FOX). The Hendrick Motorsports driver wheeled his No. 24 Chevrolet SS around the Florida oval at a high speed of 196.764 mph. Denny Hamlin clocked the second-fastest time, rounding the "World Center of Racing" at 196.524 mph in his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry. Rounding out the top five were Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch (196.202 mph), Hendrick Motorsports' Dale Earnhardt Jr. (196.168 mph) and Richard Petty Motorsports' Aric Almirola (196.113 mph), respectively. Kevin Harvick, the 2014 Sprint Cup Series champion, came is as eighth-fastest, posting a top speed of 192.526 mph in preparation for the invitation-only exhibition event. Several Sprint Cup drivers, including Jamie McMurray, used the final session to practice pit stops under the new pit road guidelines. Eleven of the 25 Sprint Unlimited drivers did not participate in the final practice session. The Sprint Unlimited race begins on Saturday, Feb. 14 at 8 p.m. ET with coverage on FOX. SPRINT UNLIMITED OPENING PRACTICE " Full results Stewart-Haas Racing's Kurt Busch kicked off the 2015 season as the fastest driver in opening practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway (Saturday, Feb. 14 at 8 p.m. ET, FOX). The No. 41 driver rounded the "World Center of Racing" at 200.749 mph, the only driver to clock a high speed over 200 mph in both practices. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. posted the second-fastest speed (199.769 mph) in his No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford Fusion. Completing the top five on the leaderboard were 2014 Sprint Cup Series champion and Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick (199.075 mph), Team Penske's Joey Logano (197.928 mph) and Hendrick Motorsports' Kasey Kahne (197.824 mph), respectively. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Paul Menard will lead the Sprint Unlimited field to green Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Vote: Ultimate Daytona Challenge The lineup has been set for Saturday's Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway (8:15 p.m. ET, FOX). Paul Menard and Kasey Kahne will be on the front row as was revealed during a lineup drawing Friday afternoon. The 75-lap race will be split into two segments this season with a competition caution coming at Lap 25 to separate the segments of the non-points event. Denny Hamlin won the race last season, edging Brad Keselowski by 0.197 seconds for the victory. This year's field was expanded to 25 drivers with eligible drivers including all 2014 Coors Light Pole Award winners, 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers as well as former Sprint Unlimited race winners and former Daytona 500 pole winners who competed in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series full-time in 2014. The remaining spots in the field were filled by drivers highest in the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver standings who are not already eligible. Four eligible drivers chose not to participate in this year's event: Brian Scott, David Gilliland, Brian Vickers and AJ Allmendinger. Their absences opened up spots for Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard, Casey Mears and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to make the field via 2014 driver points. The full lineup of 25 drivers is as follows: Pos Car Driver Team 1 No. 27 Paul Menard Richard Childress Racing 2 No. 5 Kasey Kahne Hendrick Motorsports 3 No. 22 Joey Logano Team Penske 4 No. 2 Brad Keselowski Team Penske 5 No. 18 Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing 6 No. 3 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing 7 No. 16 Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Racing 8 No. 4 Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing 9 No. 11 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing 10 No. 78 Martin Truex Jr. Furniture Row Racing 11 No. 24 Jeff Gordon Hendrick Motorsports 12 No. 31 Ryan Newman Richard Childress Racing 13 No. 41 Kurt Busch Stewart-Haas Racing 14 No. 19 Carl Edwards Joe Gibbs Racing 15 No. 10 Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Racing 16 No. 20 Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Racing 17 No. 48 Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Motorsports 18 No. 15 Clint Bowyer Michael Waltrip Racing 19 No. 43 Aric Almirola Richard Petty Motorsports 20 No. 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Roush Fenway Racing 21 No. 1 Jamie McMurray Chip Ganassi Racing 22 No. 14 Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Racing 23 No. 13 Casey Mears Germain Racing 24 No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hendrick Motorsports 25 No. 42 Kyle Larson Chip Ganassi Racing FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Joe Gibbs Racing driver holds off Truex Jr., teammate Edwards Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Vote: Ultimate Daytona Challenge MORE: Full Sprint Unlimited results DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—Matt Kenseth did what he couldn't do all of last year — win a race. And Martin Truex Jr., runner-up in Saturday night's 75-lap Sprint Unlimited exhibition race at Daytona International Speedway, did what he could do only once in 2014 — lead a lap. Coming to the finish line on the last lap, Kenseth blocked Truex’s move off Turn 4 and crossed the finish line in his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota .219 seconds ahead of Truex, who led four times for 28 laps after leading just one lap in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series all of last season. The victory was Kenseth's first in the non-points race, but it was the second straight win for Joe Gibbs Racing. RELATED: See the best photos from Saturday's race With only 12 of the 25 cars that started the race running at the finish, Carl Edwards came home third in his first run in a JGR Toyota, followed by Casey Mears and Kyle Larson. Joey Logano was sixth, but a last-lap altercation with reigning series champion Kevin Harvick (11th Saturday), left those two drivers jawing at each other after the finish. Logano was pushing Harvick after the final restart with four laps left, and Harvick felt the No. 22 Ford ran him up into the outside wall. Kenseth was worried when he saw Truex back out of the throttle on the final lap. "At the end there, Martin did an excellent job," Kenseth said. "He backed off me so far. I saw him letting off the gas before we got to Turn 1, and I was like 'Ah, this isn’t good.'... "I just decided I was going to keep going. He got a big run at me, but we just had enough speed that, as he starting getting closer to me, we started building a little bit of RPM, and I was able to make sure that my car stayed in front of his car and was able to hold on." Truex didn't get the help he needed from Edwards, who joined JGR during the offseason. But Truex was elated with the speed in his car after a very disappointing first year in the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet in 2014. "I had more fun in the car tonight than I've had since 2013," said Truex, who raced for the first time with former team engineer Cole Pearn as his crew chief. "I only made one mistake tonight — and that was giving up the lead with handful of laps to go (Truex led for the last time on Lap 55). That’s what cost us the race." An early incident that KO'd the No. 2 Team Penske Ford of Brad Keselowski on Lap 23 was merely a prelude to the main event, a 14-car wreck on Lap 45 that erupted when the field accordioned out of Turn 4 and Greg Biffle tapped Jamie McMurray's bumper and sent the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet out of control. MORE: 'Big One' hits 14 cars Severely damaged in the accident that red-flagged the race for 15 minutes were the cars of McMurray, polesitter Paul Menard, Jimmie Johnson, defending race winner Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne and Clint Bowyer among others. Hamlin's No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota took a ride through the tri-oval grass. "It was a matter of time that we were going to wreck," Hamlin said. "We were side-drafting so aggressively from the first lap of the race… We were trying to get to front and protect our track position, because we knew this was coming. I just couldn't get there quick enough. "When you hit the grass now, it's death. It tore the front end of the car off." Subsequent wrecks eliminated Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Austin Dillon (Lap 62), as well as Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch and Biffle (Lap 68). The latter incident brought out the second red flag of the night, for 5 minutes 18 seconds. "You can tell we've been cooped up all winter long and we're ready to go," Stenhouse said ruefully. Note: The first caution of the race produced the first use of NASCAR's new pit road technology. Cameras flagged infractions by McMurray's crew (over the wall too soon) and driver Ryan Newman (passing through too many pit boxes), and officials on computer monitors in a NASCAR trailer confirmed the violations. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
See where your favorite driver will pit on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, FOX) Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Vote: Ultimate Daytona Challenge Paul Menard scored the pole ahead of Saturday night's Sprint Unlimited (8 p.m. ET, FOX) at Daytona International Speedway, giving him first choice of pit stall. The Richard Childress Racing driver chose the pit stall closest to the pit road exit. He is one of 21 drivers with an opening in front of him -- out of a 25-driver field. Matt Kenseth chose the pit stall closest to the pit road entrance. His teammate and defending race-winner, Denny Hamlin, chose spot 28 with a stall opening front of him. The Sprint Unlimited is a non-points exhibition race, but the first time Sprint Cup Series cars will be on track in race conditions in 2015. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
From big crashes to tempers boiling over, relive some of the best moments from a wild Sprint Unlimited .
Hamlin, McMurray and Johnson among drivers caught in wreck Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Vote: Ultimate Daytona Challenge MORE: Complete Sprint Unlimited results DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- It was inevitable, according to Denny Hamlin. "I just didn't think it would happen this early," the Joe Gibbs Racing driver said. It wasn't the first accident of the night, but the multi-car wreck that swept up Hamlin along with more than half the 25-car field certainly put a dent in Saturday night's Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway. "I checked up and whoever was behind me got in the back of me," Hamlin, winner of the 2014 edition of the non-points race, said after exiting the infield care center. "It was just a train wreck and you really can't help it when you're in the middle of the pack like that. It's pretty high risk. … Once we got to the front, we got hung out again and it's just a lot of side-drafting, a lot of blocking going on." RELATED: See the best photos from Saturday's race The Lap 45 incident began when contact from behind turned Jamie McMurray's Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet on the frontstretch. Running third at the time, McMurray had most of the field behind him; when his red No. 1 entry spun low, then back into traffic, few had room to avoid contact. Along with Hamlin and McMurray, others caught up in the fray were Paul Menard, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth. Hamlin, Menard, Kahne and Johnson made the mandatory trip to the care center but were not injured. Others made it to the garage before calling it a night, while a fortunate few were able to make repairs and rejoin the field. The incident led to the first of two red-flag periods for the 75-lap event, and halted the action for nearly 15 minutes. RELATED: Brad Keselowski crunched early " Harvick, Logano exchange words post-race Told that Biffle said he thought McMurray's car "looked a little loose," McMurray countered: "Well, it was when he had my back tires off the ground. It's hard to hang on to." But, McMurray added, "It's just part of it. When you get a big run like that you have to get to the guy and start pushing because if you don't you lose all of your momentum." Johnson, the six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, said he "slid by a bunch of people and thought I was going to miss it. "I just got in back of the 11 (of Hamlin) and knocked the radiator and oil cooler out of it," he said. "I hate that we tore up a car but I got some good experience in the draft, understand my race car a lot better and (we'll) make our car better for the 500." The racing, for what he saw of it, "was intense," Hamlin said. "I thought it was as intense as any speedway race we've seen in a long time from beginning to end. This race last year … got single file at some point. This one it just never did. It's just so aggressive trying to keep that track position. "I don't know if the (Daytona) 500 will be like, it's 500 miles, but certainly you're gong to see a situation like this." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Matt Kenseth holds off the field to win the 2015 Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway.
Matt Kenseth takes the checkered flag to win the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway