By David Morgan, Associate 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 2019 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 segment automatically advancing to the All-Star Race.
Rules Changes for 2019
While the format is pretty straightforward for this year, the big change is with the cars themselves. With the rollout of the high downforce, low horsepower package at 1.5 mile tracks, NASCAR is using the All-Star Race to test some new features that could be incorporated into future iterations of the Cup Series race cars, including the much-hyped Gen-7 car that is being worked on for a debut within the next few years.
Among the changes are a single-piece carbon fiber splitter/pan, which in theory should improve ride height sensitivity for the drivers, as it will provide a more stable aero platform and create more consistent performance in traffic. Also, the radiator duct that currently exits into the engine compartment will be redirected to exit through the hood instead in an effort to create more aerodynamic parity and reduce engine temperatures.
“Throughout its history, the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race has provided a platform to try new and innovative ideas, some of which we have incorporated on a full-time basis,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “Last year’s all-star rules package resulted in one of the most exciting all-star races in history. With a similar package, and added elements that we could see in the next generation race car, we expect another must-watch event.”
“This will be the 35th running of the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race, and while it’s known for memorable moments, this race has established a place in history for testing what’s best for the future,” added Marcus Smith, president and CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc. “THIS is the proving ground. Fans can always look back and see that night racing, stage racing and double-file restarts started in the All-Star Race. And last year’s rules package produced the most three- and four-wide racing I’ve ever seen at Charlotte. This year may provide a peek into the crystal ball for the Gen-7 car, so once again, fans can expect the unexpected.”
From the Driver’s Seat
“This is always a pretty cool race and it has good atmosphere around it,” said 2017 All-Star Race winner Kyle Busch. “The crowd gets jacked up and, of course, there is nothing important on the line besides a million bucks. You just go out there and race as hard as you can. You get some practice runs in, get some good practice in and make sure your car feels good to you. And you try to work on your speed, of course, as best you can.
“Qualifying – that’s certainly going to be interesting again this year. I think, all in all, it’s a fun event. We always enjoy coming to Charlotte for these two weekends – with the All-Star Race one of the shortest and most fun events, and then the Coca-Cola 600 being the longest event. It’s kind of two different ends of the spectrum at Charlotte and we’re hoping to get another win in the Cup car with our M&M’S Hazelnut Spread Toyota at least once over the next two weekends there.”
Drivers Eligible for All-Star Race
The eligible drivers for the race include race winners from 2018 and 2019, previous All-Star Race winners, and former Cup Series champions, along with the drivers that advance from the Open and the Fan Vote.
- Aric Almirola
- Ryan Blaney
- Clint Bowyer
- Kurt Busch
- Kyle Busch
- Austin Dillon
- Chase Elliott
- Denny Hamlin
- Kevin Harvick
- Jimmie Johnson
- Erik Jones
- Brad Keselowski
- Joey Logano
- Ryan Newman
- Martin Truex, Jr.
- Open Stage 1 Winner
- Open Stage 2 Winner
- Open Stage 3 Winner
- Fan Vote Winner
Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)
Friday, May 17
- MENCS Combined Open/All-Star Practice (11:35 am to 12:25 pm – NASCAR.com Stream)
- MENCS Open Final Practice (1:05 pm to 1:55 pm – NASCAR.com Stream)
- MENCS All-Star Final Practice (2:05 pm to 2:25 pm – NASCAR.com Stream)
- MENCS Pit Road Speed Practice – Group 1 (2:35 pm to 2:45 pm – NASCAR.com Stream)
- MENCS Pit Road Speed Practice – Group 2 (2:45 pm to 2:55 pm – NASCAR.com Stream)
- MENCS Open Qualifying (Single car/two rounds – 6:00 pm – FOX Sports 1)
- MENCS All-Star Qualifying (3 laps with a pit stop – 7:00 pm – FOX Sports 1)
Saturday, May 18
- 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)