Column By: SHANE CARLSON / RPW – CHARLOTTE, NC – NASCAR’s best drivers will duel it out beneath the lights on Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the running of the 33rd running of the NASCAR All-Star Race. This year, the biggest change isn’t with the format of the race, but the aerodynamic package NASCAR is experimenting with.
NASCAR is implementing the same size restrictor plates on the cars used at Daytona and Talladega, as well as adding a taller spoiler, a bigger splitter and aerodynamic ducts in an effort to create more downforce, which in effect should create more passing opportunities.
The package is similar to the one the NASCAR Xfinity Series used at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year, which set of record for the number of leaders and lead changes.
In addition to the aerodynamic package that is a relative unknown for all the teams, except for the limited practice they’ve had with it, there will be plenty of other storylines to follow with no points on the line and a cool one million dollars awaiting the winner.
Matt Kenseth won the pole and will lead the field to green alongside teammate, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Kenseth struggled last week at Kansas Speedway in his return to Cup-level racing, but he seems to be off to a good start so far in Charlotte. He won the All-Star Race in 2004.
Kevin Harvick has been on a tear, winning at a record-setting pace. He has equaled Jeff Gordon’s win total with five wins through the season’s first 12 races. Once the No. 4 team gets to the front of the field, it seems everyone else is racing for second. Harvick is also a past winner of this race, claiming the victory in 2007.
Jimmie Johnson continues to struggle this season, but if there’s a track that could cure his racing woes, it might come at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Once known as ‘The House that Jimmie Built,’ Charlotte has been a good track for him in the past. Johnson is the only driver in the field to have multiple wins in the All-Star Race, and he’s done it four times. His last All-Star win came in 2013.
What You Should Know
The All-Star Race will be preceded by the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Open, essentially a play-in race to make it into the night’s main event, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race.
The Open will consist of three segments, with the winner of each segment advancing into the All-Star Race. The winner of the fan vote will also advance.
As for the All-Star Race, it will consist of four segments, with Stage 1 ending on lap 30, Stage 2 on lap 50, Stage 3 on lap 70, which sets up a 10-lap shootout to the finish on lap 80. Only green-flag laps will count in Stage 4.
There will be no mandatory pit stops, which is a change from year’s past, and there also not be a field inversion.
The field for the All-Star Race is comprised of 2017 and 2018 race-winners, former All-Star Race winners competing full-time and former Cup Series champions competing full-time.
33rd Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race
Charlotte Motor Speedway
Saturday, May 19, 2018
6 PM ET
TV: FOX Sports 1
Radio: Motor Racing Network
My Pick to Win is…
No. 14 Stewart Haas Racing Ford Fusion
Bowyer is having fun again at the racetrack, and the results show. He now finds himself near the front of the field on a consistent basis, and if not for teammate Kevin Harvick, would be carrying the Stewart Haas Racing banner. This is the type of race Bowyer should excel at, with no points on the line and an attitude of ‘checkers or wreckers’ behind the wheel. He starts third and he will bring Ford back to Victory Lane in the All-Star Race.