By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
CONCORD, N.C. – The Monster Energy Open presented several with the opportunity of transferring into the NASCAR Monster Energy All-Star Race. A stage win in any of the three stages will transfer a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver into the main event. In the final stage, only green flag laps count. Also, winning the fan vote while also having a car in ‘raceable’ condition will transfer a fourth driver into the All-Star Race.
Clint Bowyer started from the pole in his No. 14 Haas Automation Ford Fusion. He easily jumped to an early lead and never looked back. Bowyer won Stage1 by 3.653 seconds.
The highlight of Stage 1 occurred with seven laps left in the stage. Danica Patrick nudged Trevor Bayne off turn four. Bayne’s No. 6 Advocare Ford Fusion wiggled and slid back and forth through the first part of the dogleg. Just when it looked as if Bayne would lose control, the car came back to him.
Ryan Blaney jumped out front in his No. 21 Motorcraft Ford Fusion at the beginning of Stage 2 as Chase Elliott spun his tires. Blaney, like Bowyer, and never looked back. He easily walked away with the Stage 2 win.
The final stage started off with a bang as Landon Cassill spun his tires. Elliott tried to take advantage and ducked beneath Cassill’s No. 34 MDS Ford Fusion. The contact sent Cassill spinning into the inside wall where he made minor contact.
Daniel Suarez assumed the lead in the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry and pulled away on the restart. Unlike the previous two stages, Suarez was unable to gap Elliott’s No. 24 Mountain Dew Chevrolet SS.
Elliott and Suarez battled, allowing Erik Jones to join the fray. Jones tried a cross over move on the front stretch, diving from top to bottom and into the grass. Jones’ No. 77 SiriusXM Toyota Camry dug into the grass, damaging his Furniture Row Racing car. The damage nearly caused Jones to spin and wreck in turns one and two.
Suarez restarted in the lead and pulled away as Austin Dillon and Elliott battled for second. The short three lap run was enough for Suarez to comfortably take the checkered flag.
Although he did not take any of the checkered flags, Elliott still transferred into the All-Star Race via the Fan Vote.
Just before the race, not knowing that he would earn the Fan Vote, Elliott took to Twitter to thank his fans,
Just wanted to thank y'all for all of the votes I've seen on my feed, it's much appreciated. I hope we can race our way in though!
— Chase Elliott (@chaseelliott) May 20, 2017
Now Blaney, Bowyer, Elliott, and Suarez will look to try to pull off the upset and win the Monster Energy All-Star Race.