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The Busch 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 Coors Light Pole Award & Budweiser Pole Award (or Anheuser-Busch Pole Award if the driver was under 21) is an award given to the fastest qualifier in each NASCAR national series points-paying race.
The brand of Molson beer is distinguished in the three NASCAR national series. In the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and Xfinity Series, it is known as the Coors Light Pole Award, while in the Camping World Truck Series, it is the Keystone Light Pole Award; however, it is titled the "21 Means 21 Pole Award" when a pole winner is under 21 years of age, as industry regulations prohibit alcohol advertising from being carried by those under 21 years of age.
The original premise behind the sponsorship was that each driver who won a pole position in the previous Cup Series season was entered in The Clash at Daytona at Daytona International Speedway a week before the season-opening Daytona 500. The Pole Award was not given at events where Pole Qualifying was rained out and the line-up was determined by owner's points.
Initially sponsored by Anheuser-Busch's Busch Beer, the award was transferred over to the Budweiser brand in 1998. Molson replaced Anheuser-Busch in 2008 as the official beer sponsor, renaming it the Coors Light Pole Award in 2008 after the Canadian brewer's signature beer brand. 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, But Gilliand sat out of that race.
As a contingency sponsorship, in order to fully be eligible for the Coors Light Pole Award, the car must be affixed with the designated Molson decal (Coors Light, Keystone Light, or 21 Means 21). Affixing the decal to the car was optional. (As a comparison, the Series Entitlement Sponsor, R.J. Reynolds, Sprint, or currently, Monster Energy, decals are 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. The Clash at Daytona berth, unlike in the past, will also go to the driver, since that is determined by NASCAR. The trophy and cash prize goes to the next-fastest driver, provided they carry the decal, who will earn the trophy and cash prize.
The decal issue is seldom an issue except for Petty Enterprises, but not its successor Richard Petty Motorsports, who traditionally refuse to allow alcohol sponsorship on their cars. The #43 did not carry the sticker. However, hard alcohol later appeared on other (non-#43) cars from the successor team.
- "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.
- "There's a new beer sheriff in town -- Coors Brewing". NASCAR.