Richard Childress Racing's Paul Menard came out top of Friday's blind draw setting the field for this weekend's Sprint Unlimited exhibition race at Daytona International Speedway, and will duly take pole position for the green flag on Saturday evening.

Hendrick Motorsport's Kasey Kahne came up with second spot and will join Menard on the front row of the grid, with Team Penske's Joey Logano joining Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch on the second row.

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The draw took place before the first of two 55-minute practice sessions that the drivers were able to participate in. Kurt Busch came out top of the times in the first practice session with a lap of 44.832s on the 2.5-mile superspeedway, and was the only driver to top 200mph in the session with an average speed of 200.749mph. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was second fastest in the session, 0.220s off Busch's time.

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The first session was notable for a number of drivers initially failing to report for their mandatory pre-season weigh-in before the start of the session. While almost all of the drivers quickly made up for the omission, Tony Stewart went out on track and ended up being black-flagged by officials. Both Stewart and his crew chief Chad Johnston were ordered to report to the NASCAR hauler for words following the session.

In the second session, only 14 drivers participated and speeds were lower in the cooling conditions. Four-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon was fastest with a laptime of 45.740s (196.764mph), almost a second slower than Busch's earlier benchmark. Next fastest in the session was Denny Hamlin, who was just 0.056s off Gordon's time.

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The Sprint Unlimited is an exhibition race for an invitation-only field rather than the full range of teams and drivers who will compete in the full Sprint Cup Series championship beginning with next weekend's Daytona 500.

For this week's event, the line-up is limited to the 16 Cup drivers who made it into the 2014 Chase post-season play-offs, together with all the drivers who won a pole position during last year's championship or who have previously been on pole for the Daytona 500. With the field consisting of at east 25 drivers, any remaining spots were then assigned to the drivers with the highest points tally at the end of last season.

Two drivers who were eligible have decided not to take part in the Sprint Unlimited, with AJ Allmendinger, Brian Scott and David Gilliland opting to focus time and resources on their Daytona 500 entries instead. Also missing form the line-up is Brian Vickers, who is till recovering from heart surgery but should be ready resume racing in March at Last Vegas.

Taking their places are Clint Bowyer (Michael Waltrip Racing), Paul Menard (Richard Childress Racing), Casey Mears (Germain Racing) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Roush Fenway Racing). Richard Petty Motorport's Marcos Ambrose would have been in line for a spot, but he has now left NASCAR to return to V8 Supercars competition in his native Australia.

The other drivers taking part this weekend are JGR drivers Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards; HMS quartet Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr.; Stewart-Haas Racing's line-up of Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick and Kurt Busch; Penske pair Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano; Ganassi teammates Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson; RCR's Ryan Newman and Austin Dillon; RPM's Aric Almirola; RFR's Greg Biffle; and Furniture Row Racing's Martin Truex Jr.

The actual format of Saturday night's 75-lap event will be split into two segments, with a pit stop at lap 25. No Cup championship points are at stake in the race, with the season proper getting underway on Sunday afternoon with qualifying for the Daytona 500.

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