February 5, 2009

Menard draws pole for NASCAR opener

Paul Menard drew the pole position Thursday for Saturday's Budweiser Shootout, an exhibition race that will open the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.

There will be 28 cars in the race, a prelude to the Daytona 500 later this month.

The Budweiser Shootout previously featured pole winners from the prior season along with past winners of the event. The race now will consist of the top six teams from each manufacturer based on final 2008 owner points. Each automaker may also enter a seventh car.

Elliott Sadler will start alongside Menard on the front row. Reed Sorenson and Scott Speed will start on the second row. Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart will make up row three.

Defending race winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start ninth, and his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, the three-time defending Sprint Cup champion, will start 21st.