CONCORD, N.C. – NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway officials unveiled the format for the Monster Energy All-Star Race on Tuesday, with the highlight of the announcement being the addition of a different tire compound that teams will be able to utilize during the event.
Teams will have the option to utilize softer Goodyear tires, identified by the green Goodyear lettering that will be on the sidewall of the tires, at any point during the Monster Energy All-Star Race that they want.
The softer tire is expected to provide more grip and, thus, more speed at the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway. The downside will be that the tires will wear out faster than the standard Goodyear tire.
“I’m really excited to see how that tire plays out, because that is an element we looked at to see if it is something we could look for in the future as well for some of our other races,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “We’ve got to see how it plays out in this race. I wouldn’t say it would be something for 2017, but there is a reason we’re trying it here, to see how it plays out.”
Different tire options aren’t new in motorsports. Formula One and the Verizon IndyCar Series both offer different tire compounds that teams can use during races.
In addition to the tire option, the race will be broken into four segments of 20-20-20-10 for a total of 70 laps, the same number of laps as the ‘One Hot Night’ All-Star Race in 1992. The final 10-lap segment will only feature 10 drivers. The 10 drivers who advance to the final segment will be determined during the three 20-lap segments that will open the event.
Much like the new Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race format that rewards drivers for winning segments, the Monster Energy All-Star Race this year will do the same. Drivers who win one of the first three segments will automatically advance to the final 10-lap segment as long as they remain on the lead lap.
The remainder of the field for the final 10-lap dash to the checkered flag will be set based on average finish in the first three segments. The final 10 cars will be lined up by average finish in the first three stages and will be given the option to pit. If they pit, to perhaps take the softer tires for example, they will give up their starting position in the final stage and will start from the rear based on how they come off pit road.
The winner of the final 10-lap segment will take home $1 million.
Marcus Smith, the president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway, believes the softer tire option will create a major passing opportunity for drivers during the final 10-lap segment should they chose to save them until that point.
“NASCAR and Goodyear tell us it is about a four tenths of a second faster tire, which will make a difference when you look at running the final 10 laps should you choose to put those on,” Smith said. “There is of course fall of on that tire. So when you put it on at first you’ll feel like superman and then after a few laps you’re going to fade back a little bit.
“It’s an advantage that they’ll have to weigh because if you take the option tire and they qualify say fifth (for the final stage), they’ll have to go to the rear of the field. Of course for the final 10 only the best 10 cars transfer, so at worst you’ll start 10th and you’ll have the option tire to help get you up front.”
There have also been other subtle changes to the All-Star Race event weekend. The first such chance is qualifying for the All-Star Race, which will be held May 19 and feature three timed laps, one of which will include a mandatory four-tire pit stop with no pit-road speed limits enforced.
Once every team has made their qualifying attempt, the five fastest drivers will have the opportunity to do it again to set the top-five starting positions for the Monster Energy All-Star Race. The team that completes the fastest stop will earn the Pit Crew Competition Award.
The Monster Energy Open will move back to Saturday prior to the Monster Energy All-Star Race after being held on the Friday before the All-Star race for the last several years. The race will be run in three stages of 20-20-10, with the winner of each stage earning a spot in the All-Star Race. A Fan Vote will also be held, with the driver who receives the most votes also advancing to the All-Star Race if he or she is unable to advance through the Monster Energy Open.
Fifteen drivers have already clinched their places in the Monster Energy All-Star Race. They are Chris Buescher, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr.