There was no racing last weekend as NASCAR took its usual Easter break. This week is Bristol, a great short track conducive to great racing. So far, in seven races this year, we have had six different winners (Brad Keselowski has two).
Fords and Chevrolets have dominated with three victories each. Toyota cars and Joe Gibbs Racing teams dominated much of 2016, but so far they have been shut out. Martin Truex Jr. has the only Toyota win this year with his Las Vegas victory.
Stage racing has made racing more interesting for the complete race, but the low downforce package used this year has made it harder to pass, letting the car out front in the clean air dominate racing.
Next month, the all-star race will once again be held at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. The format for this year’s Monster Energy All-Star Race has been announced and NASCAR has tweaked it some, hoping to make it more fan friendly.
Those eligible for the Monster Energy All-Star Race include: drivers who won a points event in either 2016 or 2017, drivers who won a Monster Energy All-Star Race and compete full time, and drivers who won a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship and compete full time. Those who have not already earned a spot via the above criteria can still lock-in by winning a stage in the Monster Energy Open or by winning the Fan Vote. Welcome to the race, Danica.
Qualifying for the main event will again include the “no speed limit” four-tire pit stop. The team that completes the fastest stop will earn this year’s Pit Crew Competition Award. The Monster Energy Open will precede the main event and will include three stages (20 laps / 20 laps / 10 laps). The winner of each stage will earn a spot in the all-star race.
Crew chief strategy, which has been very prominent during stage racing, will again be challenged as NASCAR has granted each team a set of softer tires to be used at the crew chief’s discretion. A softer tire provides the car with more grip and thus speed. Teams that choose to put on their softer tires to start the final stage must start behind those that choose regular tires.
The all-star race will be a 70-lap race, which will consist of three 20-lap segments and a final 10-lap shootout. The final 10-lap shootout will feature only 10 teams: the winner of each stage and the seven drivers with the best average finish through the first three segments.
So why should this 10-lap shootout be worth watching? Teams are not earning regular season points, but they are racing for $1 million.