The 2018 Monster Energy All-Star Race is going to be much different than past years. There are major changes coming and they could potentially be implemented in points-paying contests as soon as this season.
For the first time, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series cars will utilize a package the XFINITY Series raced last year at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That event saw record numbers in leaders, lead changes and green-flag passes for the lead.
Each car will also be fitted with aero ducts, a six-inch high spoiler with two 12-inch ears, a restrictor plate and the 2014 style splitter. At 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway, this adjustment will not only slow the cars down but hopefully, and we really hope, it will create more passing.
This year’s All-Star Race will feature four stages of 30 laps, 20, 20 and 10. Overtime remains a possibility as each stage nears completion.
As the All-Star Race approaches, fans should keep a close eye on who excels, because this package could be one we see down the road if all goes well.
Speaking of new beginnings, Conor Daly hopes his NASCAR debut won’t be a bust. The IndyCar Series driver is making the jump over to stock car racing, at least for one XFINITY Series event with Roush Fenway Racing.
Daly has never been in premier equipment, and the road course — being his specialty — could mean he might get off to a fast start. Who knows, maybe NASCAR is Daly’s true calling?
Q: There are 10 former All-Star Race winners in this weekend’s version of the race. Can one of them repeat? – Amanda T., Charlotte
A: That’s true. This year’s field features an impressive 10 of 17 entries (59%) that have already won this signature event. Ryan Newman, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano have each captured at least one All-Star Race.
Johnson has the most All-Star triumphs with four. None of the other drivers in the field have multiple wins in this race.
But with a new package, talent will surely take over this exhibition contest. The veterans have excelled in 2018, with Austin Dillon and Logano being the only drivers under the age of 30 (both are 28 as of 2018) to win a race.
That likely won’t change come Saturday evening, either. This package is going to benefit those who have experience and know how to maneuver ill-handling cars on a bumpy racetrack in traffic.
Prior to the Monster Energy Open, Dillon, Logano, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are the only drivers 30 years old or younger in the All-Star Race. That should make a repeat winner more likely, right?
Well, maybe not.
Amongst those who haven’t won the All-Star Race and are on the entry list include reigning Cup champion Martin Truex Jr., along with Brad Keselowski and Clint Bowyer. Oh, and there’s those four young guns who have yet to knock an All-Star Race win off their checklist.
If this season is any indicator, it would certainly show that the Stewart-Haas Racing squad, led by Harvick, will take over Charlotte Motor Speedway come Saturday. But that might not be the case. The great part about this new plate package is that it should shake things up. The intermediate tracks have been too predictable this year, with Harvick and the younger Busch dominating.
Now, it is time for someone else to shine.
So who will it be?
Truex has never done well in the exhibition contest, so you can take him off that list. Bowyer, in eight All-Star Race starts, only has one top 10. That leaves us with Dillon, Stenhouse, Blaney and Larson. Of that quartet, Larson is the most likely to play spoiler among those looking for their first All-Star Race win.
Expect the young guns to race to the front Saturday night.
Q: How will Conor Daly perform with Roush Fenway Racing at Road America? – Tricia M., Daytona Beach, Fla.
A: This move is interesting, but not terribly surprising for Daly.
Daly is currently gearing up for his fourth Indianapolis 500. This time around, he’s reuniting with Dale Coyne Racing, a team which gave him his first of two full-time stints in the IndyCar Series two years ago.
Since Daly isn’t racing full-time this year, it’s the perfect time for him to get his feet wet in NASCAR. In doing so, he’s following the likes of Alex Tagliani and James Davison, who each have made splashes into the NASCAR XFINITY Series after dedicating their efforts to open-wheel racing.
Daly will pilot a third Roush Fenway Racing Ford at Road America, the first time the organization has fielded three XFINITY Series entries in a race since putting Stenhouse in a third car in November 2016 at ISM Raceway. He’ll be joining series regular Ryan Reed and rookie Ty Majeski in the late-August contest.
Guys, we are going @NASCAR_Xfinity racing! Huge thanks to @LillyDiabetes for not only being a part of our #Indy500 effort but also allowing me to compete against the incredible #XfinitySeries drivers with @roushfenway ! #6 #17 #TeamDiabetes pic.twitter.com/dzq32hed8g
— Conor Daly (@ConorDaly22) May 11, 2018
It might take some time for Daly to get adjusted to the XFINITY Series piloting the bigger, heavier cars. But once he settles into a groove, expect him to be running up front.
Last year, when Davison made his second XFINITY Series start, he finished fourth with Joe Gibbs Racing. Sure, the JGR cars might be stronger than RFR in this division. But it doesn’t mean Daly won’t have a shot to earn a respectable finish.
Daly is familiar with Road America, too. He has two IndyCar Series starts there, although they didn’t go so well. He wrecked out of his first start at the track and in his second one, he finished 15th.
With Daly’s vast road course experience, though, there is no reason he won’t be ready to run in the top 10 come race day.