Almirola among starting field for first time
Among the 19 drivers entered in this Saturday's The Sprint Unlimited, only one, Aric Almirola, will be making his first start in the race.
The pre-season race returns to the model where drivers who captured a Coors Light Pole Award the previous season would qualify.
Almirola earned his first career pole last season for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, qualifying him for the race that officially kicks off Speedweeks. He went on to finish 16th in the late-May race driving the Richard Petty Motorsports' No. 43 Smithfield Ford.
Richard Petty Motorsports has both its cars in the exhibition race. Marcos Ambrose, who drives the No. 9 Stanley Ford, also made the cut for the field after taking the pole in back-to-back races at Michigan International Speedway and Auto Club Speedway.
"No matter the outcome, having some track time in a race setting should really help us for the 500 and help us figure out the new car in the draft," Almirola said. "The ‘Unlimited' has always been an exciting race and the new format should add to that, so I'm looking forward to being a part of it this year."
The 19 drivers entered are Almirola, Ambrose, Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Mark Martin, Juan Pablo Montoya, Ken Schrader, Tony Stewart and Martin Truex Jr.