Hold on tight: The Sprint Unlimited at Daytona is bound to thrill

Drivers practice Friday in preparaton for the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway.

Well, the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season is finally underway. We had cars back on the track and now it is time for the second year of the Sprint Unlimited race. It will be held under the lights at Daytona International Speedway for the 2013 winners of a pole position.

I love this kind of race. I think it gives you a golden opportunity to simply go for it. Go for the win and start your season off in a very big way. Remember, this race has zero points. It’s a money race. Even bigger than that, I can promise you within a couple weeks you would be hard-pressed to find someone who can tell you who finished in second place. It really is one of those races where it’s win or, "Who cares?"

Fortunately, this is the same car they raced a year ago when it comes to the restrictor plate tracks, so that is a positive. They have added an extra half-inch spoiler to the rear of the car which, as we saw in practice on Friday, actually stabilized the car, yet kept the speeds way up there.

These drivers can let it all hang out. There are plenty of cars prepared, unlike last year at this time. These are not the cars they will race next weekend in the Daytona 500, so they can go for the trophy and the even bigger check in the Sprint Unlimited.

This race really is special because everyone understands that while it’s not the whole field of a normal race, it still sets the table for what we are going to see next week in the Duel races Thursday evening and then the Big Daddy of them all — the Daytona 500 on FOX Sunday Feb. 23.

Photos! Sprint Unlimited practice

From the crew chief perspective, I always loved being a part of this race. I love the fact there will be some pit stops. Just like the driver in the race, it will also help the pit crew knock some of the off-season rust off. Sure, like anything, you can practice and practice all you want, but until you get in true race conditions and atmosphere, you really aren’€™t totally sure of what you have.

Now that the Duel races have been moved to Thursday night, this Sprint Unlimited will be a great way to collect data and have a better understanding what the cars will be doing at night in that race. Obviously, the Thursday night race is critical to those teams in setting the field for the Daytona 500.

So all in all, the Sprint Unlimited is a great tune-up and dress rehearsal, if you will, for what is coming next week. Oh, and don’t forget: It pays a lot of money to win, too! I just think we are going to have a really cool race!