Loose, But Fast Blog: Monster Energy All-Star Race

Preview

Tonight marks the 34th running of the Monster Energy All-Star Race. It’s the lone gathering of the season where points don’t matter and all eyes are on the $1 Million dollar prize. Over the years, the All-Star race has been used to experiment with new rules, new aero/tire packages, and other aspects of the racing product as a high-dollar testing ground. This year is no different. For the first time ever at Charlotte Motor Speedway, NASCAR will mandate that every car racing this evening must have a restrictor plate under the throttle body to reduce speeds. This is in hopes to induce closer racing and put on a better show for the fans.

After this morning’s final practice, ESPN’s Bob Pockrass pointed out the difference in final practice speeds from this year to last year. 

Though speeds were down roughly sixteen miles per hour from last season, 30 of the 38 cars to make a practice run were within three miles an hour from the top speed of 173.305 by Kyle Larson. From the abbreviated video seen from the from this morning’s untelevised practice, passing looks possible and racing should be intense and exciting. The most telling sign, the drivers seem eager to get going. 

Monster Energy Open

Tonight’s event will kick off around 6 PM (weather permitting) with the Monster Energy Open. This will be the race to get into the $$$ race. The Open will feature a 21 car lineup of all current Cup regulars who were not already eligible for the main event (2017 & 2018 race winners and former All-Star Race winners). Four drivers will advance from the 50 lap race, the stage winners from the first two 20 lap stages will automatically advance along with the winner of the final 10 lap shootout. The final spot will be decided by fan-vote. Since qualifying was rained out Friday, the starting grid for The Open was set by owners points.

Monster Energy All-Star Race

After The Open concludes, the main event is scheduled to begin at 8 PM.  This season’s All-Star Race will once again be broken into four stages. Stage 1 will be 30 laps, Stage 2 will end on lap 50,  and Stage 3 will end on lap 70. The Final Stage will be a 10-lap dash with a million dollars on the line. Unlike previous All-Star Races, this season there are no mandatory pit stops, eliminations, or random inversions of the field (my personal favorite). 

While The Open qualifying was rained out, qualifying for the All-Star Race was not. The All-Star field, save the four Open advancers, will start as follows:

2018 Monster Energy All-Star Race Starting Grid

Start # Driver Team Make  Eligibility
1 6 Matt Kenseth #DoYouKnowJack/Roush  Ford 2017 Race Win (ISM)/2004 ASR Win
2 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Fastenal/Roush  Ford 2017 Race Win (Talladega/Daytona)
3 14 Clint Bowyer SHR Fan Club/Stewart-Hass Ford 2018 Race Win (Martinsville)
4 4 Kevin Harvick Jimmy John’s/Stewart-Hass Ford 2017, 2018 Race Win (7x)/2007 ASR Win
5 78 Martin Truex Jr. 5 Hr. Energy-Bass Pro/Furniture Row Toyota 2017, 2018 Race Win (9x)
6 12 Ryan Blaney Hawk-Carlisle/Penske Ford 2017 Race Win (Pocono)
7 18 Kyle Busch M&M’s/Gibbs Toyota 2017, 2018 Race Win (8x)/2017 ASR Win
8 2 Brad Keselowski Discount Tire/Penske Ford 2017 Race Win (3x)
9 3 Austin Dillon Dow/Childress Chevrolet 2017, 2018 Race Win (Charlotte/Daytona)
10 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil/Penske Ford 2018 Race Win (Talladega)/2016 ASR Win
11 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe’s/Hendrick Chevrolet 2017 Race Win (3x)/ASR Win (03, 06, 12, 13)
12 1 Jamie McMurray Bass Pro Shops-Tracker/Ganassi Chevrolet 2014 ASR Win
13 31 Ryan Newman Caterpillar-Grainger/Childress Chevrolet 2017 Race Win (ISM)/2002 ASR Win
14 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx/Gibbs Toyota 2017 Race Win (2x)/2015 ASR Win
15 41 Kurt Busch Monster Energy/Stewart-Hass Ford 2017 Race Win (Daytona)/2010 ASR Win
16 42 Kyle Larson Credit One Bank/Ganassi Chevrolet 2017 Race Win (4x)
17 95 Kasey Kahne Dumont Jets/Leavine Family Racing Chevrolet 2017 Race Win (IMS)/2008 ASR Win
18 TBD by Monster Energy Open
19 TBD by Monster Energy Open
20 TBD by Monster Energy Open
21 TBD by Monster Energy Open Fan Vote

 


Predictions

Monster Energy Open

With a chance to advance to the Million Dollar Main Event, the Monster Energy Open usually provides awesome racing. With the addition of the restrictor plate, the action should get even tighter.  Here’s how I think things will shake down in The Open

Stage 1

Aric Almirola flexes the Stewart-Hass/Ford muscle. AA takes Stage 1 from the pole leading all 20 laps despite great, close racing in the pack.

Stage 2

With Almirola already in the Main Event, Stage 2 becomes a three-horse race between Eric Jones, Chase Elliott, and Daniel Suarez. Chase Elliott holds on to win, throwing a wrench into the fan vote. 

Stage 3

Everything is a mess, the field ends up wrecking once if not twice. Somehow, Paul Menard survives and advances. 

Fan Vote

With Chase Elliott winning Stage 2, the fan vote is up for grabs, most likely between Bubba Wallace, Alex Bowman, AJ Allmendinger, and dark-house Matt DiBenedetto. Bubba wins the vote and advances.

Advancing: Aric Almirola, Chase Elliott, Paul Menard, Bubba Wallace

Monster Energy All-Star Race

Stage 1

Everyone plays nice, Kevin Harvick battles Truex Jr. for the win, Harvick prevails.

Stage 2

Everyone plays nice again. Truex edges Harvick.

Stage 3 

Kyle Larson makes his presence felt but finishes 2nd to Truex.

Stage 4

In the final stage, insanity is everywhere. The field wrecks once, taking out a major contender or two. From third, Larson slingshots Clint Bowyer and Truex Jr. to take the checkered flag and $1 Million Dollar payday.

 


Final Thoughts

I have to applaud NASCAR for trying something different. At first, I was very skeptical of putting restrictor plates on cars at Charlotte. Now I can’t wait to see what tonight has in store. In all, I think tonight should be one of the most entertaining races of the season. Tune in to find out. I’m always down to get the conversation going, find me on Twitter at @QMS_Rongy. HAPPY ALL-STAR RACE DAY PEOPLE.

 

It’s been a while since I wrote about NASCAR. I’m back though, for good. Check out more from the Loose, But Fast Blog and Podcast in the future.

Truex Jr. Captures Monster Energy Cup

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