Photo: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

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

By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor

It’s that time of year again.

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 33 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, but for the 2017 edition of the All-Star Race, things are taking a step back to 1992 with a format resembling the format for the race that year.

All-Star Race Format

  • Stage 1 – 3 (20 laps each): Start of Segment 1 set by qualifying on Friday afternoon; winners of each stage automatically advance to the final stage.
  • Final Stage (10 laps): Three stage winners (as long as they are on the lead lap at the end of stage 3) and top seven drivers with the best average finish in the first three stages will make up 10 driver field for the run to the finish. The starting line-up for the final stage will be determined by the order off pit road (pit stop optional).

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. Each segment will run 20 laps each, with the winner of each stage automatically advancing to the All-Star Race

Drivers Eligible for All-Star Race

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

News and Notes

Along with a new format for this year’s All-Star Race, there have also been some rules changes put in place for this weekend’s race.

New this year is one set of softer tires that teams will have the opportunity to use at any point in the race to give themselves more grip and more speed over their competitors. However, if teams elect to use the softer tires prior to the final stage, they will have to start behind those with regular tires.

Qualifying for the All-Star Race will take place on Friday night and brings back the popular format of three timed laps and a four-tire pit stop with no speed limit on pit road. This year, the format has been tweaked a bit and the fastest five teams will advance to a second round to set the top-five starting positions. In addition to the All-Star Race pole, the fastest team will also earn the Pit Crew Competition Award.

From the Driver’s Seat

“The All-Star Race to me has always been very important,” said Dale Earnhardt, Jr. “As a kid watching that race and watching my father run it, and hearing him talk about it and explain how important it was to him and what it meant to him and how hard he tried to win it, that really cemented in my mind what it means to the sport.

“It certainly stands alone and has a special meaning, and I’m going to miss the process of the All-Star weekend – the buildup to the race and the preparation and the practice and all the scheming in the garage and the strategies – they change the format every year so it’s somewhat new. I’m going to just miss being a competitor in that atmosphere because you get competitive in the event, but there is also a lot of pride to be in that race and to get that invitation, so to speak. I’ll miss that feeling of accomplishment. Those races are a lot less pressure because there aren’t any points on the line, but it’s a different style of pressure. They are going to have a soft tire, which should be interesting to see just how much better that is and whether that is really going to make a big difference versus the guys that are on a hard tire. It should be a fun weekend. It seems like all the guys on the team really enjoy the pre-race and driver intros. They really include the teams and it’s fun for the drivers to have our guys there with us.”

Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern

Friday, May 19

  • Monster Energy All-Star Race Practice (1:00 pm to 2:10 pm – FOX Sports 1)
  • Monster Energy All-Star Pit Road Speed Practice (2:10 to 2:25 pm – FOX Sports 1)
  • Monster Energy Open Practice (3:00 pm to 4:25 pm – FOX Sports 1)
  • Monster Energy All-Star Qualifying (First round: 6:05 pm, Second round: 7:30 pm – FOX Sports 1)

Saturday, May 20

  • Monster Energy Open Qualifying (4:35 pm – FOX Sports 1)
  • Monster Energy Open (6:00 pm – 20 laps, 20 laps, 10 laps – FOX Sports 1)
  • Monster Energy All-Star Race (8:00 pm – 20 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.