NASCAR held its own version of all-star week at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and, even with the added gadget plays inserted into the race, it was still just a so-so event. Holding an all-star event at one of their most boring tracks didn’t help. If NASCAR wants excitement, it will have to hold the event at just about any other track except one of those boring, 1.5-mile tracks.
It all started with qualifying, and this was probably the most exciting part of the weekend. Watching cars enter the pits at about 150 mph gave fans the excitement NASCAR had hoped. Next came the “Open” which gave all the teams not qualified for the all-star race a chance to get into the main event. Three stages were held with the winner of each stage advancing. Clint Bowyer, Ryan Blaney and Daniel Suarez won the stages. Chase Elliott won the fan vote, also advancing him into the all-star race.
The all-star race was a non-points race so the only incentive to race was the $1 million prize given to the winner. In another twist, NASCAR issued one set of softer tires for teams to use. These tires gave better grip for the cars, but wore out faster. The race consisted of three, 20-lap stages and a final 10-lap shootout.
Twenty teams started the race with only 10 teams competing in the final stage. The winner of each of the first three stages advanced to the final shootout and the teams with the best average finish in the first three stages made up the remaining spots needed to fill the 10-car final stage. Kyle Larson won the first two stages and Jimmy Johnson won the third.
Since teams did not practice with the softer set of tires, crew chiefs did not know how they would react to conditions on the track. The goal was to have teams choosing to use that soft set at a variety of times, creating more passing and dramatics. This only created more confusion for teams, especially for Brad Keselowski.
Choosing to put the softer tires on his car for the 3rd stage, a loose wheel caused him to come in and change tires. The confusing rules did not allow Keselowski to re-use the softer tires in the final stage so he did not have another set of tires for the shootout. Starting in first for the shootout, Keselowski soon faded to the rear of the field.
Kyle Busch started on the front row next to Keselowski, and, known for his restart skills, he soon blew around Keselowski and went on to capture his first Charlotte Motor Speedway victory and the $1 million prize.
Sunday night, NASCAR will have its longest race of the season, 600 miles. To help ease the monotony, the race will be conducted with four 100-lap stages. This means extra stage points for drivers.