Coors Light Pole Award
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The Coors Light Pole Award, also called the 21 Means 21 Pole Award if the driver is under 21 years of age (minimum age for alcohol advertising), and previously the Budweiser Pole Award is an award given to the fastest qualifier in each NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Xfinity Series points-paying race.
The original premise behind the sponsorship was that each driver who won a Budweiser Pole Award in the previous Cup Series season was entered in the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway a week before the season-opening Daytona 500. The Budweiser Pole Award was not given at events where Budweiser Pole Qualifying was rained out and the line-up was determined by owner's points.
The Budweiser Pole Award was renamed the Coors Light Pole Award in 2008 when Coors Light replaced Budweiser as the official beer of NASCAR. This ended the connection between the Pole Award and the Shootout, which continued to be sponsored by Budweiser. Coors Light also did not buy air time during qualifying broadcasts as Budweiser had, so Coors Light has never been the title sponsor for qualifying telecasts as Budweiser had been from 2001–2007.
With Budweiser's sponsorship of the Daytona Shootout ending after 2012, and series sponsor Sprint taking over sponsorship of that race, Coors Light Pole Winners are once again given a birth in the renamed Sprint Unlimited. When Coors Light Pole Qualifying is rained out, the polesitter is not given the Coors Light Pole Award and the Sprint Unlimited birth, the same protocol followed by Budweiser at the time when they gave away a position in the Bud Shootout. However, with the new multi-round qualifying format being used starting in 2014, the Coors Light Pole Award and the Unlimited birth are given out as long as at least one round is completed. An example of this contrast is that at the 2014 Toyota Owners 400, Coors Light Pole Qualifying was completely rained out, giving Kyle Larson the pole position, however he was not given the Coors Light Pole Award or a birth in the 2015 Sprint Unlimited. However, later in the year at the Coke Zero 400, David Gilliland was fastest in round 1 of qualifying, and was given the pole after rounds 2 and 3 were rained out. Because one round of qualifying had been completed, the session was declared official and Gilliland was given the Coors Light Pole Award and the berth in the 2015 Sprint Unlimited.
As a contingency sponsorship, in order to fully be eligible for the Coors Light Pole Award and receive the berth into the Sprint Unlimited, the car must be affixed with the designated Coors Light decal. Affixing the decal to the car was optional, and was not specifically required on the respective the entry blank for the race. (As a comparison, note that during the Winston Cup era, R.J. Reynolds decals were required by rules).
If a car did not have the decal affixed, the car/driver were still scored as the fastest qualifier, and lines up on race day in position 1. However, the pole award trophy, and cash prize are withheld (but not the Sprint Unlimited berth as in the past, since that is determined by NASCAR and Sprint, not MillerCoors) and the pole award is not recognized. The next-fastest driver (provided they carry the decal) defaults as the 'unofficial' Coors Light Pole Award winner, but does not receive the Sprint Unlimited berth.
The decal issue is seldom an issue except for Petty Enterprises and later Richard Petty Motorsports, who traditionally refuse to allow alcohol sponsorship on their cars, and do not carry Coors Light Pole Award decals on the #43, but the second car has carried the sticker.
- "There's a new beer sheriff in town -- Coors Brewing". NASCAR.
- "NASCAR QUALIFYING 101: QUESTIONS ANSWERED". NASCAR. January 22, 2014. Retrieved June 23, 2015.
- Talaley, Sarah (March 21, 2010). "NASCAR Sprint Cup series Coors Light Pole winner too young to drink". Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved June 23, 2015.
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