All-Star Race Preview: A Night for Stars to Shine

All-Star Race Preview: A Night for Stars to Shine

This article is part of our Weekly Preview series.

NASCAR takes a break from the regular-season schedule this weekend to hold its annual All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. Most fantasy racing leagues don't recognize this event in the fantasy racing season, but some do along with many racing pools that form specifically for this event and its unique format.

This exhibition race is divided into several racing segments which ultimately culminate in the final segment in which a winner is crowned. The racing begins Saturday evening with the Monster Energy Open, a 50-lap sprint race divided into two 20-lap segments and a final 10-lap dash to the finish. As many as four Open drivers can transfer into the All-Star Race, three by winning each segment of the Open, and the potential fourth by winning an internet fan vote.

To qualify for the Open, a driver must have finished in the Top 50 of the 2016 Monster Energy Cup standings, attempted to qualify for the 2017 Daytona 500 or competed in a NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series event during the 2017 season. This is an exciting heat race, because the winners of the segments are usually drivers that are not normally contenders for the victory on most Monster Energy Cup race weekends.

After the Open and later Saturday night is the Monster Energy Cup All-Star Race. This is the weekend's main feature. It is a 70-lap event divided into three segments of 20 laps, and a 10-lap shootout finale. The drivers who transfer from the Open

NASCAR takes a break from the regular-season schedule this weekend to hold its annual All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. Most fantasy racing leagues don't recognize this event in the fantasy racing season, but some do along with many racing pools that form specifically for this event and its unique format.

This exhibition race is divided into several racing segments which ultimately culminate in the final segment in which a winner is crowned. The racing begins Saturday evening with the Monster Energy Open, a 50-lap sprint race divided into two 20-lap segments and a final 10-lap dash to the finish. As many as four Open drivers can transfer into the All-Star Race, three by winning each segment of the Open, and the potential fourth by winning an internet fan vote.

To qualify for the Open, a driver must have finished in the Top 50 of the 2016 Monster Energy Cup standings, attempted to qualify for the 2017 Daytona 500 or competed in a NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series event during the 2017 season. This is an exciting heat race, because the winners of the segments are usually drivers that are not normally contenders for the victory on most Monster Energy Cup race weekends.

After the Open and later Saturday night is the Monster Energy Cup All-Star Race. This is the weekend's main feature. It is a 70-lap event divided into three segments of 20 laps, and a 10-lap shootout finale. The drivers who transfer from the Open join the drivers who are race winners from the previous and current Monster Energy Cup seasons, past All-Star event champions and Monster Energy Cup Series champions who are active drivers and have competed in at least one series event during the 2016 or 2017 season. Once the field is set, racing begins in the first segment of 20 laps. After the first 20-lap segment a break of approximately five minutes and mandatory pit stops are performed. The next two 20-lap segments play out similarly. The winner of each of these segments gets an automatic seed into the final 10-driver, 10-lap shootout. The rest of the 10-driver field is set by average finishing position for the three 20-lap heats. Any remaining drivers that don't make the cut are eliminated from the final segment. The 10-lap shootout that follows will only count green flag laps. Caution laps will not shorten this exciting, final segment, and NASCAR overtime rules apply. The winner of this fourth and final segment earns a hefty $1 million purse.

Since this is an exhibition racing event and a departure from NASCAR's normal racing format, we have to put the historical track statistics in proper perspective this week. The stats can be skewed since most teams come to the All-Star race with "disposable cars" and are looking to hit the big payday even at the expense of wrecking the team's car. However, we can rely to the loop stats to a certain degree when evaluating our contenders this week. The loop stats in the table below cover the last 12 years or 12 All-Star Races at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

DRIVERAVG FINISHQUALITY PASSESFASTEST LAPSLAPS LEDLAPS IN TOP 15RATING
Kyle Busch11.5220101229848101.9
Jimmie Johnson7.03261541721,04896.5
Kyle Larson16.030131811193.1
Kurt Busch9.8331697496988.8
Kevin Harvick7.8322786988185.7
Joey Logano7.3163231250985.3
Chase Elliott6.0395011083.9
Matt Kenseth7.2320484893783.7
Kasey Kahne12.3303666979179.3
Dale Earnhardt Jr.8.4347273297377.5
Denny Hamlin10.0243225682974.4
Brad Keselowski10.91483710646970.9
Ryan Newman11.7314214590669.5
Jamie McMurray13.720973157363.8
Paul Menard16.037006858.1
Martin Truex Jr.13.7951032458.1
A.J. Allmendinger14.8772022857.4
Clint Bowyer13.914871142355.7
Trevor Bayne11.0531012049.9
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.16.017002544.1

This weekend's race is unlike any of the normal Monster Energy Cup events, so we'll handle the prognostications a bit different as well. We'll give you our picks for who'll contend for the win in the Monster Energy Open, and then our picks for who'll contend for winning the third and final segment of the Monster Energy Cup All-Star Race.

The Open Contenders – Those in the hunt for the win of the Monster Energy Open

Chase Elliott – We would have expected by now that Elliott would be a one-time winner in the Cup Series and have the automatic seed into the All-Star Race, but that is not the case this weekend. So the Hendrick Motorsports rising star will be a top entrant into the Open field. The driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet will be making his third start in this exhibition event. Elliott won the pole, led 19 laps and finished fourth in this race one year ago, and that was good enough to get him into the All-Star Race later that evening. Once again, this talented youngster should stand tall in this thinner field of Cup Series talent and be one of the top drivers to beat. Considering Elliott's Top-5 finishes at Atlanta and Las Vegas earlier this season, the team should be dialed-in.

Ryan Blaney –
The Wood Brothers Racing driver has just about won each of the last two intermediate oval races. Blaney led 148 laps at Fort Worth before late-race fortunes would take him out of the bid for the win, and then last week at Kansas the No. 21 Ford was once again powerful. The young driver won the pole and led 83 laps before once again succumbing to pit strategy and some late-race breaks not going his way. This will be Blaney's second start in the Open. He started third and finished fifth in this race one year ago, so the potential is better than good. As one of the hottest young drivers in the series right now on these intermediate ovals, it would not be a stretch to consider Blaney the top contender to win this evening-opening 50-lap race.

Clint Bowyer –
Bowyer will be one of the few veteran faces in this very young race field. The Open features a lot of rookies and second-year drivers, but this Stewart Haas Racing veteran is not in that category. Bowyer boasts 12-seasons of experience at NASCAR's top level and he's won this particular exhibition event twice (2014 & 2015). While he's been far from head-cracking on these cookie cutter ovals so far in 2017, with finishes of 11th-, 10th-, 11th- and ninth-place, he's been good enough to rise high in this leaner field of drivers. Bowyer has won his way into the All-Star Race twice in the last three years, so it wouldn't be that surprising to see him do it again.

Trevor Bayne –
The absolute wild card of the field, but with the best chance to upset the favored teams, has to easily be Roush Fenway Racing's Bayne and the No. 6 team. This will be his fourth appearance in All-Star weekend festivities. Those include two starts in the Monster Energy Open and two starts in the All-Star Race itself. In this exhibition one year ago, Bayne won the first segment of the Open and transferred into the All-Star Race later that night to finish a respectable seventh-place. He's been Top-10 to Top-15 all season long on these 1.5-mile ovals, so the speed and handling to succeed has been there. Among the young drivers in this field, Bayne possesses the most experience in All-Star action. That should come in handy this Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Austin Dillon –
Dillon will be making his fourth start in the Monster Energy Open. He won the pole for this event in 2014, and he's finished in the Top 10 in two of his three starts in this All-Star heat race. The No. 3 Chevrolet team has struggled somewhat on intermediate ovals this season. However, his 16th-place finish at Kansas Speedway this past weekend was a pretty good step in the right direction for this driver and team. It was Dillon's best qualifying and finishing effort to-date on a cookie cutter oval in 2017. While the names higher up this list have a better shot at winning, don't discount this driver's ability to surprise and possibly when a segment of the Open. Dillon will be a sleeper contender to win Saturday night's Monster Energy Open.

Daniel Suarez –
It's been a pretty good rookie campaign so far for Suarez at Joe Gibbs Racing. He had big shoes to fill in Carl Edwards' old ride, and he's performed surprisingly well so far. The driver of the No. 19 Toyota has racked up three Top-10 finishes, including last week's impressive seventh-place at Kansas Speedway. That was his first Top 10 on an intermediate oval and good indicator of potential for his first All-Star weekend. Suarez will make his first-career start in the Open this Saturday night. The nerves and adrenaline will be high, so it wouldn't be too surprising to see the young driver make a mistake or two. However, if the breaks fall his way and right things happen, Suarez has a punchers chance of winning a segment or even the final 10-lap shootout of the Open. Don't underestimate this talented Joe Gibbs Racing rookie.

The All-Star Race Contenders – Drivers in the hunt for the win

Martin Truex Jr. – This will be Truex's seventh appearance in the Monster Energy All-Star Race. He is a two-time winner of the opening heat race (Monster Energy Open), so he knows all too well the pressure and performance required to race his way into the All-Star Race. The strong No. 78 team of Furniture Row Racing has been on an absolute tear on the intermediate ovals this season. Truex won earlier in the year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in a dominating performance. He's also fresh off the victory this past week at Kansas Speedway in a pretty convincing fashion. Truex has never won this All-Star Race exhibition, so you can believe his motivation will be extremely high. It could be he's finally peaking at the right time entering this weekend of the season.

Kyle Larson –
The good start to the season for the No. 42 Chevrolet team has brought us to All-Star weekend with Larson riding high atop the championship standings. A great deal of this Chip Ganassi Racing driver's success thus far in 2017 has been on the cookie cutter ovals. A trio of runner-up finishes at Atlanta, Las Vegas and Fort Worth was followed by a steady sixth-place finish this past week at Kansas Speedway. The No. 42 team is humming along like a well-tuned machine on these ovals. When Larson saddles up this Saturday night it will be his second-career start in the big race. He won last year's Open to transfer into the All-Star Race, so he was pretty clutch last year at Charlotte during All-Star weekend. He should be that strong once again.

Brad Keselowski –
The Penske Racing star is due some close examination before this All-Star Race. Keselowski is a one-time winner at Charlotte Motor Speedway in points-paying events, and he boasts a pretty strong but small resume in the All-Star exhibition events. The veteran driver has been a top performer on the 1.5-mile tracks this season, and he has one win, one runner-up and four Top 10's at these style ovals to prove it. Keselowski owns a pair of runner-up finishes in this exhibition event in 2012 and 2016, so he knows what it is to race up front and taste a near-brush with that million-dollar purse. We should see a motivated driver and No. 2 Ford team this weekend in one of NASCAR's most prestigious prime-time events.

Kevin Harvick –
Harvick enters All-Star weekend sixth overall in the championship standings with no victories to his credit after 11 races. That could be a big factor heading to Charlotte this Saturday night. The Stewart Haas Racing veteran is fresh off a strong performance at Kansas Speedway, a similar intermediate oval, where he finished third-place to Martin Truex Jr. It would seem the No. 4 Ford team are getting their act together after a slow start to the season. Harvick is a one-time winner of the All-Star Race, in 2007, and he's also finished runner-up three times in this exhibition event. It's been a long while between drinks, but Harvick may visit the fountain of victory lane this Saturday night.

Joey Logano –
The Penske Racing star can hardly wait to race this Saturday night at Charlotte. Logano is coming off a surprising mechanical failure and crash at Kansas Speedway this past weekend, and he's coming to Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend looking to reset and regroup for the remainder of the season. He finished runner-up in this exhibition race four years ago to Jimmie Johnson, and that was a big motivator in his performance in All-Star weekend last year. Logano started eighth on the grid and passed Kyle Larson in the closing laps to secure his first-ever win in the All-Star Race. Now that the driver of the No. 22 Ford has held that giant paycheck in his hands, we know he'll be eager to do so again and defend his race-win of one year ago.

Kyle Busch –
This will be Busch's 12th appearance in the All-Star Race. He has never won this prestigious exhibition event, but now may finally be the time for the Joe Gibbs Racing star. He's winless for the young season coming to Charlotte this weekend, but he's edging closer to victory lane with each week. Busch has three-career poles and over 200 laps led in these exciting exhibition races, so he's used to racing up front at Charlotte on the big stage. It's just that his luck has never been good and never yielded the victory and million-dollar prize. This may simply be a matter of timing and Busch finally breaking through to win this colorful NASCAR event. His near-miss of victory lane at Kansas this past week is a good indicator of what could happen.

Jimmie Johnson –
The seven-time Monster Energy Cup Series champion is a four-time All-Star Race winner, and he's an eight-time winner of points-paying events at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He has a real knack for dominating at this particular intermediate oval. Johnson has won at the similar oval in Fort Worth earlier this spring, so that homerun potential is there with the No. 48 Chevrolet team. Johnson and this team just comes to life when the lights come on at the Charlotte oval. Johnson has had letdowns in this exhibition race the last two seasons, so he'll be hungry coming into this installment of the All-Star Race.

Kurt Busch –
Busch is a one-time winner of the All-Star Race, and that victory came in 2010 while he was racing for Roger Penske. The Stewart Haas Racing veteran has over 80 laps led and seven-career Top-5 finishes in this exhibition event. Three of those Top 5's has come in just the last four All-Star events. It's easy to see that the 38-year-old driver has tons of experience performing on this big stage. Busch has been struggling since his Daytona 500 win in February, but the team has been coming on stronger of late. Top-10 finishes at the similar ovals of Atlanta and Texas are a hopeful sign though. Busch was a long shot to win at Daytona earlier this season, so he's already pulled one major surprise on a big stage this season. He could do it again.

Jamie McMurray –
The driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet is out favorite long-shot to win this Saturday night. McMurray won this event in 2014 and he also won the Open in 2013, so All-Star success has come more recently for this Chip Ganassi Racing veteran. This will be his 11th appearance in the All-Star Race, so McMurray is in no way short of experience on this grand stage. He has been incredibly good and consistent on the intermediate ovals in 2017. McMurray has racked up finishes of 10th-, eighth-, seventh- and eighth-place this year on the cookie cutter ovals. By no means is that race-winning form, but it's very close and more importantly it's very consistent. If the right factors line up Saturday night, we could see the 2014 All-Star Race play out all over again with the No. 1 Chevrolet in victory lane.

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only NASCAR Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire NASCAR fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Taylor
Taylor is RotoWire's senior NASCAR writer. A nine-time FSWA finalist, Taylor was named the Racing Writer of the Year in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2016 and 2017. He is also a military historian, focused specifically on World War II and the U.S. Navy's efforts in the Pacific.
NASCAR DFS: PrizePicks Selections for the Ambetter Health 400
NASCAR DFS: PrizePicks Selections for the Ambetter Health 400
NASCAR DFS:  Ambetter Health 400
NASCAR DFS: Ambetter Health 400
NASCAR DFS Trucks: Fr8 208
NASCAR DFS Trucks: Fr8 208
Ambetter Health 400 Preview: New Slot for Atlanta
Ambetter Health 400 Preview: New Slot for Atlanta