The first of two straight weekends of racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway is ready to take the green flag.
Saturday night’s 34th annual Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race is the main event, which will be preceded by the Monster Energy Open and Friday night’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200 (MRN, 8 p.m. ET) for the Camping World Truck Series. Motor Racing Network’s live coverage of Saturday’s Monster Energy Open and All-Star Race will begin at 5:30 p.m. ET.
There are 17 drivers already qualified for this year’s All-Star Race with three more added from the stage winners of the Open and one additional entry through the fan vote. The field will include all 2017 and 2018 race winners, plus former series champions and former All-Star race winners that are still competing full time.
The format for the annual non-points event will include four stages – 30 laps, 20 laps, 20 laps and 10 laps. Only green flag laps will be counted in the Final Stage. Normal stage break procedures will be in effect, but with one new wrinkle. NASCAR Overtime will be in play for all stages and there will be no mandatory pit strategy as in some of the previous editions of the event.
But the biggest variable of this year’s event is a rules package that is hoped to create an aerodynamic result to generate increased competition. Each car will be fitted with aero ducts, a six-inch-high spoiler with two 12-inch ears, a restrictor plate and the 2014 style splitter.
Drivers are intrigued about what lies ahead with the new package.
“I’m not a particular fan of it, but we do need to orchestrate some better racing at mile-and-a-half tracks, particularly Charlotte for some reason,” said last year’s All-Star Race winner Kyle Busch. “It hasn’t been one of our best racetracks there since the repave as far as working multiple lanes. It’s been pretty single-file there and I don’t know why. You would think with age on asphalt it would keep getting better and better and it hasn’t.
“We need to bring out more things to try and I’m not a particular fan of slowing the lead car down and bringing that guy back to the rest of the field. But if that gets us back to closer racing, then so be it.”
But even with the variables of the rules package and the many challenges drivers know lie ahead trying to adapt, there is one main theme of the All-Star Race that permeates the conversation.
“There’s a million dollars on the line,” said Clint Bowyer, who’ll drive the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Fan Club Ford Fusion. “How do you think we’re going to race? It’s $1 million. Think about that – $1 million on the line. It’s about money and a trophy.”
Last week’s Truck Series race winner at Kansas Speedway was Noah Gragson and the young Kyle Busch Motorsports driver is hoping to keep his momentum going at Charlotte. Gragson is hoping he can secure the pole for the third week in a row and possibly a second victory of the season. He made his series debut at Charlotte last season posting a top-10 finish.
As he did last week, Gragson will have to battle the boss as Kyle Busch is also entered in the field. Busch has visited Charlotte 11 times, grabbing seven wins, nine top fives, 10 top 10s and three poles. There is no other driver even close to having that many wins at the speedway.
Matt Crafton follows Busch with two wins, six top fives and 12 top 10s. Crafton and Busch are the only two drivers entered in Friday’s race who have won at Charlotte in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Motor Racing Network will also have live coverage of All-Star practice and qualifying on Friday (See Broadcast Schedule).