What kind of race will the All-Star Race be?
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race will mark the first time in nearly 20 years that NASCAR will experiment with holding a restrictor plate race outside of Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.
The restrictor plate has always been a very controversial subject. NASCAR used the plate as far back as 1970 before making it the standard at Daytona and Talladega following a horrific crash in 1987 that featured Bobby Allison flying into the catchfence.
Although nobody was injured, NASCAR mandated the use of plates on the engine to slow the cars down at these two high-speed tracks beginning in 1988.
Since then, plates have been used outside of Daytona and Talladega just once. In 2000, in response to the fatal accidents earlier that season at New Hampshire Motor Speedway of Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin Jr., the plates were used for the fall Cup race.
It was by far the worst race of this entire millennium. Jeff Burton started second, passed pole sitter Bobby Labonte on lap 1 and then led all 300 laps. It was impossible for the cars to gain enough horsepower on the straights to pass each other.
The next year, the invention of the kill switch eliminated the need to slow the cars down at Loudon.
The All-Star Race has been a race that, for many years, has just seemed lost in the shuffle. Plagued by boring races, bloated fields and at times just plain stupid formats, the only race that has had a bigger fall from grace than the All-Star Race in recent years has been the Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The racing should be different than the awful race at Loudon 18 years ago. Unlike that race, NASCAR has made changes to the car’s aerodynamics so that it might be able to resemble pack racing, just a bit more narrow than the wide speedways of Daytona and especially Talladega.
Regardless of what happens, restrictor plates have always gotten people talking. Whether it’s a good race or a terrible race, it’s definitely one of the most anticipated of the past few years.
Where does Roush Fenway Racing go from here?
There was a lot of interest in Matt Kenseth‘s return to NASCAR competition last weekend. It ended up being a complete dud.
Kenseth, who hadn’t raced since November, competed for Roush Fenway Racing and had just an awful race. He didn’t even crack the top 20 the entire night, and it ended with him involved in a multi-car accident with less than 15 laps to go.
I feel like a lot of people owe Trevor Bayne an apology. Kenseth didn’t set the world on fire last year, but he was a playoff caliber driver, and he did win a race. If he can’t do much better than Bayne could in the No. 6, it’s time to blow the team up and start it from scratch, maybe at least crew chief Matt Puccia.
And it’s not exactly an organization-wide problem. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. led 10 laps and finished 11th the same night; it’s not a win, but it was definitely a good night for a Roush car. It’s increasingly apparent that something has to be done with the No. 6 outside of the driver’s seat.
Who gets in from the Open and who will win it all?
Take any preexisting statistics about Charlotte Motor Speedway in the Cup Series and throw them away. This weekend will be, if anything, unpredictable.
This isn’t the most stacked Open field ever, but there should be a few interesting battles to get in. Aric Almirola and Chase Elliott are both two of the safer bets to get in, but after that, it looks like it could turn into a four-way race between Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones, Paul Menard and Alex Bowman for that final spot. And if Elliott and/or Darrell Wallace Jr. race their way in, the fan vote race becomes wide open.
As far as the All-Star Race itself, the best bet is probably the safest bet: the Fords. They’ve been fast in both restrictor plate races and 1.5-mile tracks this season, so they should all still be pretty quick. Kevin Harvick is on a hot streak, Joey Logano just won Talladega, Brad Keselowski is lauded as the best active plate driver in NASCAR by many, etc. Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. are also decent picks, but as has been the case all year, stay away from the Chevrolets.
How will NASCAR handle sports gambling?
This week, the Supreme Court ruled that the states should be allowed to decide if it should be legal to bet on sports. There’s been a lot of talk about how NASCAR should implement this in the states it will be legal in (it’s already legal in Las Vegas and Delaware, which is already home to four combined NASCAR weekends).
One part of this implementation to watch is where the revenue is split. The tracks should definitely get a large piece of the action, but how much of a percentage of the money should the teams get? How about NASCAR itself?
It looks like there’s a decent chance that we’re about to have a big fight in the coming years over revenue streams between the tracks, owners and NASCAR. The television contract will be where a lot of the money is, but this particular issue will be a substantial bargaining chip in these negotiations. If the sport can generate $200 million in gambling a year (and that’s being very generous) from at-track bets, that’s going to be a lot of money to divvy up after the state takes its fair share.
But the sport needs to tread lightly; these are uncharted waters. It needs to make the process clear while also making it obvious that anybody involved with the sport who places a bet on a race will be Pete Rose’d out of the game. You don’t want to poison a pig you’re trying to make Sunday’s dinner.