Field of eligible drivers announced

NASCAR has announced the large field of drivers eligible for the 2012 Shootout at Daytona International Speedway, the preseason non-points race.

The 34th annual running of the event launches the season-opening Speedweeks Sprint Cup activities. The race will be run Feb. 18, with a start time scheduled for 8:10 p.m. ET. FOX and MRN will broadcast it live nationally. Criteria are based upon the following qualifications, with eligibility based on a driver having been active in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series during the 2011 season:

• The highest ranked 25 competitors in 2011 NSCS driver points;

• Previous winners at Daytona, including the Daytona 500, Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola, and Shootout events.

That makes the following top-25 drivers eligible for the race: Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, AJ Allmendinger, Greg Biffle, Paul Menard, Martin Truex Jr., Marcos Ambrose, Jeff Burton, Juan Pablo Montoya, Mark Martin, David Ragan, Joey Logano and Brian Vickers. In addition, Bill Elliott (Daytona 500, Coke Zero 400, Shootout),  Geoff Bodine (Daytona 500, Shootout), Derrike Cope (Daytona 500), Michael Waltrip (Daytona 500, Coke Zero 400), Jamie McMurray (Daytona 500, Coke Zero 400), Trevor Bayne (Daytona 500), Terry Labonte (Shootout) and Ken Schrader (Shootout) are eligible.

“By taking the top 25 competitors in last year’s driver points and combining that with former race winners at Daytona, you have all the ingredients for an extremely deep and talented field of drivers for the 2012 Shootout,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition. “When you take a look at the roster of drivers that this entails, I have to believe this is one of the most competitive fields that have ever been assembled for this event.”

The race distance will again be 75 laps (187.5 miles), consisting of two segments — 25 and 50 laps. Both green-flag laps and yellow-flag laps will count. Between segments, there will be a 10-minute pit stop allowing teams to change tires, add fuel and make normal chassis adjustments. Crews will be permitted to work on cars and will be allowed to perform functions they would do on a normal pit stop in a regular NASCAR Sprint Cup event. All work must be performed on pit road or in the garage. Changing of springs, shock absorbers or rear-ends will not be permitted.

Starting positions again will be determined by a blind draw at the annual Shootout Draw Party on Friday, Feb. 17 at 8 p.m. ET on the SPEED stage in the Midway, outside Turn 4.