By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
CONCORD, N.C. – With only 16 drivers qualified for the Monster Energy All-Star Race, 24 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers will attempt to either race their way in by winning one of the three stages in the Monster Energy Open or by winning the Fan Vote. All teams participating the Monster Energy Open were given one set of the softer ‘option’ tires to practice with should they transfer into the All-Star race.
The drivers that are currently leading the Fan Vote (in alphabetical order) are: AJ Allmendinger, Trevor Bayne, Ryan Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Matt Dibenedetto, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, Danica Patrick, and Daniel Suarez. Voting is still under way, and fans can make their pick here.
In the only practice for the Monster Energy Open, Erik Jones’ No. 77 SiriusXM Toyota Camry topped the charts, while of the softer ‘option’ tires, with a lap time of 28.563 seconds, 189.056mph. In comparison, Kyle Larson, who is in the All-Star race, ran a 28.530 on the ‘option’ tires. Jones’ lap time would have been fast enough to put him third on the All-Star race practice charts, between Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski.
Clint Bowyer, also on the option tires, was second fastest with a speed of 187.970mph, 0.165 seconds off Jones’ time. Chase Elliott, the first on the ‘prime’ tires, was third fastest with Ryan Blaney, and AJ Allmendinger rounded out the top five in practice.
The only incident in practice for the Monster Energy Open occurred when Jeffrey Earnhardt’s No. 33 Towne Bank Chevrolet SS started smoking on the front stretch. The caution was displayed as NASCAR cleaned up the fluid that Earnhardt’s Circle Sport/TMG Chevrolet left behind.
Now those in the Monster Energy Open will look ahead to tomorrow’s qualifying as they try to get the best track position early, in order to transfer into the main event, the Monster Energy All-Star Race.