Column By: HOLLY CAIN / NASCAR – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – The competition package and format for NASCAR’s highly anticipated May 19 Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race will have a new look, one the sanctioning body feels confident will provide a lot of excitement for both fans and drivers in the annual non-points event.
NASCAR announced the format Wednesday evening for the popular race at Charlotte Motor Speedway – which features all the race winners from the 2017 and 2018 seasons (to date), all former winners of the All-Star race, Monster Energy Series champions who are currently competing fulltime, the winner of each of the three stages of the Monster Energy Open and the winner of the 2018 Fan Vote.
The biggest news was the new competition package the cars will be using — the same highly successful package implemented for the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2017 that resulted in a record number of lead changes, race leaders and green flag passes for the lead.
“NASCAR is committed to innovation and will always work to improve the racing product for every series and venue,” NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell said Wednesday evening, announcing the changes.
According to NASCAR specs, each car will be “fitted with aero ducts, a six-inch high spoiler with two 12-inch ears, a restrictor plate and the 2014 style splitter” all in an effort to create a “unique” aerodynamic effect that was well-received by NASCAR fans and the Xfinity Series competitors last summer at the Indianapolis race.
The Indianapolis Xfinity race produced a record 16 lead changes among eight drivers with William Byron ultimately beating former Brickyard 400 winner Paul Menard to the line by a mere 0.108-seconds.
The All-Star race format itself will also include a few tweaks designed – again – to provide additional excitement for the fans and drivers.
The Main Event, the All-Star race itself, will have four stages of 30 laps, 20 laps, 20 laps and then a 10-lap sprint to the trophy. Only green flag laps will be counted in the Final Stage. And this year – for the first time – NASCAR’s Overtime will be in effect for all stages. And there will be no mandatory pit strategy as was the case in several past editions of this race.
The 50-lap Monster Energy Open will be three stages, ending at lap 20, lap 40 and lap 50 respectively. Each of those stage winners advances to the All Star race.
“The All-Star Race has a long history of edginess and innovation,” said Marcus Smith, the president and CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns the track.
“We want to challenge drivers, spark on-track action and create the best show for the fans. This race has always been a proving ground for some of the best innovations in our sport, from running under the lights to stage racing and double-file restarts. It’s the perfect opportunity to try something different and with a 10-lap shootout for a million dollars, expect the unexpected on May 19.”
The current list of drivers qualified for the event include Ryan Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Martin Truex Jr.