The Hot Pass: Is the Shootout worth it?

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The winner of the 2010 Budweiser Shootout will win a handsome check totaling $200,000 -- same as last year.

There are 28 racers eligible for the event -- same as the number of contestants from last year.

In addition to the format, the greatest change in this year's Shootout will be the distribution of the purse. While the victor is guaranteed six figures, that's not the case for any of the other competitors.

The payout for the field has dropped significantly. Jamie McMurray took home $100,000 for finishing second in 2010. This year's runner up will earn $95,000. AJ Allmendinger, who finished in fifth place last February, was awarded $50,000 for his effort. Whoever rounds out the top five next Saturday night will pocket $45,000. Tenth-place finisher Kyle Busch earned $37,000 in 2009. If the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota finishes 10th in this year's Bud Shootout, his portion of the purse will be $4,500 lighter.

Go to the back of the Shootout field -- where Joey Logano was scored after the No. 20 Toyota ended up on a wrecker -- and the $17,154 paid out for 28th place last year seems like a windfall compared to the $12,600 that last place will receive.

The difference may not sound like much from year to year, but the question becomes how can a team justify the profit compared to the expense of the season-opening exhibition event? Sure, teams can learn a lot about car set up and fuel mileage in the Shootout they can adapt to other races at the track. The bumps on the track won't change before the Daytona 500, but the grip of the track will.

For the teams finishing outside of the top five, the purse won't cover the cost of an engine, which can range from $60,000 to $100,000. Throw in travel costs and manpower and, as one owner bluntly put it, "It's a losing proposition unless you win the event."

Attempts to reach NASCAR for a comment on the purse were unsuccesful.

Meeting of the minds

NASCAR officials met with team principals on Tuesday to discuss upcoming initiatives.

People with knowledge of the talks told that one subject discussed was the possibility of a one-day test at Talladega slated before the Charlotte open test on March 23-24. The one-day session at the superspeedway will help determine which restrictor plate will be used at the track and will also use allow teams to use spoilers instead of a rear wing.

Other topics of discussion included moving the fuel hole forward on the cars to accommodate the spoiler and shrinking the number of Goodyear test participants to three teams per test once again. Roush Fenway Racing crashed the three-car testing policy in Darlington in 2007 during the Car of Tomorrow rollout, prompting Goodyear to change their rules and invite representatives from each manufacturer. Now with Penske Racing providing the only Dodges in the garage, the sentiment from the competition is that the Captain's camp would have an unfair advantage.

Two additional areas on the 2011 radar include fuel injection and cost containment.

One million dollars ...

Charlotte Motor Speedway and U.S. Legends Cars International are hosting the "Legends Million" July 15-17.

Joey Logano and David Ragan top the list of the 800 expected applicants. The winner of the event will receive $250,000. Online registration began Jan. 27 at .

New eyes in the sky

Racing veteran Keith Barnwell will be Jamie McMurray's spotter this season, replacing Loren Ranier who will continue in his role at Roush Fenway Racing, guiding the No. 6 Ford with David Ragan.

Barnwell, who began spotting for Tommy Houston in the Nationwide Series in 1986, made his debut in the Cup Series in 1992 with polesitter Sterling Marlin in the Daytona 500.

Barnwell spotted for Reed Sorenson and AJ Allmendinger at Richard Petty Motorsports last season and will join McMurray this weekend for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

"He's been around for a while and so have I," Barnwell said. "So the first time he goes down that backstretch, it will be like we've known each other forever."