Photo: Justin R. Noe/ASP, Inc.

Up to Speed: Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race Preview

By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor

The weekend before Memorial Day marks the beginning of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series traditional two-week stop at NASCAR’s home base of Charlotte, North Carolina and the 1.5-mile quad oval that is Charlotte Motor Speedway.

First up on the two-week stopover in the Queen City is the Monster Energy All-Star Race, a non-points event that has served up more than its fair share of exciting moments in its 34-year history. What is now the All-Star Race began as “The Winston” in 1985 and was moved under the lights in 1992 for the famous “One Hot Night” race. Since then, the race has taken on a life of its own and has become a must-watch event over the years.

While the location of the race has stayed the same, aside from a one-year stint in Atlanta in 1986, the format has been ever changing. There have been changes in the number of the segments, to inversions, to several other gimmicks that have taken place during the All-Star Race and for the 2018 edition of the All-Star Race, major changes are in store.

All-Star Race Format

This year’s race format has been simplified, with the 80-lap event broken down into four segments. The first segment will last 30 laps, followed by two 20-lap segments, and a final 10-lap shootout for the win.

Monster Energy Open Format

Before the main event gets underway on Saturday night, the drivers that are not locked into the All-Star Race will have a chance to race their way into the main event via a win in one of the three segments of the Open or by winning the Fan Vote. The first two segments will run 20 laps each, along with a final segment of 10 laps, with the winner of each stage automatically advancing to the All-Star Race.

Rules Changes for 2018

While the format is pretty straightforward for this year, the big change is with the cars themselves. The aerodynamic package that was used at Indianapolis in the NASCAR Xfinity Series last year will make its Cup Series debut in the All-Star Race.

The package will mandate restrictor plates on the engines for the first time at the 1.5-mile track, along with aero ducts to direct air out through the front wheel wells, a six-inch high spoiler with two 12-inch ears on each end, and the splitter from the 2014 aero package.

When used at Indianapolis last year, the package resulted in a record number of leaders, lead changes, 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,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “The yearly Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race is an opportunity to see your favorite drivers compete under a unique and exciting format and rules package. The positive feedback following last year’s Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis gave us the foundation to implement this dynamic package for the All-Star Race. We believe the hard work of the entire industry will provide the best race for our passionate fans.”

From the Driver’s Seat

“The All-Star Race is fun – high energy – and the pit crews are a big part of the show,” said Jimmie Johnson. “There is a lot of money on the line to win and so there will be some chaos. This rules package should mix it up a bit – it’s going to be interesting.”

“This is going to be a very unique weekend, for sure,” crew chief Chad Knaus added. “These are the things I honestly enjoy. I like to go into an event with a lot of unknowns as it’s always fun to find or hit on something that maybe another team had not. The lack of horsepower and increase in downforce on the Lowe’s for Pros Chevy Camaro will make it fairly easy to handle, especially by themselves. Once in the draft I really don’t know what is going to happen – I think that is the biggest unknown for everyone right now. I think the drivers will be able to hold the cars wide open.

“The downside is we usually use this race to help us figure out where we are at for the 600-mile event there – and that is not the case this weekend. But the All-Star Race is about fun, the pit crews are highlighted with qualifying and the rules package will make for a good show.”

Drivers Eligible for All-Star Race

  1. Ryan Blaney
  2. Clint Bowyer
  3. Kurt Busch
  4. Kyle Busch
  5. Austin Dillon
  6. Denny Hamlin
  7. Kevin Harvick
  8. Jimmie Johnson
  9. Kasey Kahne
  10. Matt Kenseth
  11. Brad Keselowski
  12. Kyle Larson
  13. Joey Logano
  14. Jamie McMurray
  15. Ryan Newman
  16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  17. Martin Truex Jr.
  18. Open Stage 1 Winner
  19. Open Stage 2 Winner
  20. Open Stage 3 Winner
  21. Fan Vote Winner

Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)

Friday, May 18

  • MENCS Open Practice (11:30 am to 12:10 pm – FOX Sports 1)
  • MENCS All-Star Practice (12:15 pm to 12:55 pm – FOX Sports 1)
  • MENCS Open Final Practice (1:00 pm to 1:40 pm – FOX Sports 1)
  • MENCS All-Star Final Practice (1:45 pm to 2:25 pm – FOX Sports 1)
  • MENCS Pit Road Speed Practice – Group 1 (2:30 pm to 2:40 pm – FOX Sports 1)
  • MENCS Pit Road Speed Practice – Group 2 (2:45 pm to 2:55 pm – FOX Sports 1)
  • MENCS Open Qualifying (6:05 pm – FOX Sports 1)
  • MENCS All-Star Qualifying (3 laps with a pit stop – 6:35 pm – FOX Sports 1)

Saturday, May 19

  • MENCS All-Star Open (6:00 pm – 20 laps, 20 laps, 10 laps – FOX Sports 1)
  • MENCS All-Star Race (8:00 pm – 30 laps, 20 laps, 20 laps, 10 laps – FOX Sports 1)

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.