NASCAR fans it is time to restart your engines as another season of racing is set to get underway with the start of Speed Week this Saturday at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, FL.

2013 NASCAR Speed Week Preview

The following is a brief preview of a few of the major racing events planned over the nine-day event.

Image previewThe Sprint Unlimited

The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup racing season officially gets underway this Saturday night with the running the Sprint Unlimited, which was formally known as the Budweiser Shootout. This race is slated to start at 5:10 p.m. (PT) and it will be broadcast nationally on FOX.

The name may have changed but the race remains the same. It is a non-points race that is open to the top 25 drivers in last season’s point standings, past Shootout winners, past winners of point races at Daytona, previous Sprint Cup champions, and the last 10 rookies of the year. The race consists of two separate segments; an opening 25 lap run followed by a 50 lap race to the finish. The main draw of this race, besides early season bragging rights, is a $200,000 purse for the winner.

Given that the Sprint Challenge is such a short race, it is easy to see why Sportsbook.com has opened four different drivers as +800 favorites to win on Saturday night. The fan favorite would be Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is coming off one of his best seasons in recent memory. He finished a disappointing 20th in last year race, but has won this event two previous times. The second driver at +800 to win is Kyle Busch. He could be a driver to watch all season long after missing last year’s Chase. Another plus for this race is the fact he is the defending champion.

The third driver at the top of the  NASCAR odds to win list is Kevin Harvick. He posted back-to-back victories in this race in 2009 and 2010, but finished a distant 22nd in last year’s race. The final favorite for Saturday night is Matt Kenseth. He started last season off with a bang by winning the Daytona 500 so you know he will be primed for a fast start to Speed Week by winning his first ever Sprint Unlimited.

The Budweiser Duels

Budweiser shifted gears at Daytona by sponsoring the Duels, which will undoubtedly be one of the main attractions of Speed Week at Daytona leading up to the running of the 55th Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb.24. Scheduled for Thursday, Feb.21 starting at 11 a.m. (PT), these two races determine the remainder of the actual running order of the 500 after the first row, which is determined through the fastest qualifying lap earlier in the week. The Budweiser Duels split the rest of the field in half for two separate fast-paced 150-lap sprints to the finish line. The finishing order of the first race fills all the inside positions of each row while the results of the second race will line the outside position. Once completed, the running order for all 43 drivers for the Daytona 500 will be set.

The odds for this race will be released early next week once the pole position and outside position on Row 1 have been decided.

The 55th Daytona 500

NASCAR remains the only major sport that starts its season with its biggest event of the year. This year’s green flag for the start of the ‘Great American Race’ is set for 10 a.m. (PT) and the race will be broadcast nationally on FOX. Every Sprint Cup driver dreams of starting off their season with a victory in this race, but the odds dictate that only a handful of drivers have a legitimate chance of actually taking the checkered flag here.

The early odds for your NASCAR Picks on this race have opened Dale Jr. as the +800 favorite to win his second career Daytona 500. He has had great success at this track in the past and comes into this season in great form. Current Sprint Cup Champion Brad Keselowski has been opened at +1200 and five-time Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson has been opened at +1000. Kenseth has also been opened at +1000 to successfully defend his title.

Check out my odds article on the Sprint Cup~