Race: All-Star Open and All-Star Race
Date: Saturday May 19, 2018
Track: Charlotte Motor Speedway
Time: 6pm ET and 8 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
Martin Truex Jr. almost had it. Kevin Harvick miraculously pulled off a last lap pass in a pretty crazy race to pass Truex for the lead and the win. It didn’t get too crazy until the final 30 or 40 laps, and then all hell broke loose. What did it for Harvick was his tires. He was the only driver in the lead pack that had a fresh set, and we’ve talked about how important tires can be at this track, especially on the short runs. For Harvick, they meant everything. Truex Jr., who won both races here in 2017 thought he could hold him off and gave a valiant effort, but in the end, Harvick had just enough speed to pull it off. Truex said his car started getting tight and he was losing the front end in those closing laps. That definitely didn’t help matters.
Maybe one of the most interesting stories of the weekend is the penalty that the #42 team is facing. They were hit with an L1 infraction, one of the toughest on the books because of an issue with a rear window support structure violation. There have been issues with this in the past and also with other teams, so it’s abundantly clear that there’s some advantage to whatever tweak it is the teams are making. Regardless, crew chief Chad Johnston was fined $50,000 and suspended from the next 2 points events. NASCAR has come out and stated that they do not believe that the issue is purely contact-related. The #42 team claims it is a result of contact and completely unintentional. Call it what you want, but if you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’…or something like that. Just ask Chad Knauss.
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Speaking of Chad Knauss, that 48 team has some work to do. This weekend might be a good start for them to make a comeback. We are heading to the prelude of the 600. Charlotte Motor Speedway is hosting the Monster Energy Open and the All-Star race this weekend. Both races are not points related, so Chad Johnston is good to go. These races are for the fans but also give the drivers some serious incentive with not only practice on the track but also for big bucks. This is a million dollar race. The Open is the first portion, which generally qualifies a few drivers into the All-Star event who wouldn’t have otherwise been involved. The All-Star race is the main event with three segments. Brad Keselowski actually championed the most recent format. This format is comprised of 1-30 lap segment, 2-20 lap segments, and a ten lap final segment. It seems odd, but that ten lap portion is well researched in how many laps it takes to get to the front of the pack at this track. There are also requirements for green flag pit stops to include tire changes, etc. through the first two segments. Charlotte is a typical cookie-cutter intermediate track. There isn’t much for surprises here. It’s a 1.5-mile asphalt quad-oval with 24-degree banking in the turns and 5 degrees of banking on the straights.
That being said, this race tends to have the feeling of Daytona or a Talladega. Although Charlotte is most certainly not a superspeedway, the elements that come into play for this race make the drivers drive like it is. Between the money and running under the lights, the All-Star race most certainly doesn’t disappoint. One this that is tough is that these conditions create an air of unpredictability. Drivers don’t necessarily race with the same strategy that they’ll use for the big race coming up in a week and a half. They’re focused on the money, and who could blame them? Coming up with a winner here can tend to be a bit trickier than for the main event because of all of these variables. Do we look at who’s historically good at Charlotte and other intermediates? Do we look at current running positions and this year’s results? Or do we look at a combination of these things? I think that there’s a little bit of both involved. While there’s an element of uncertainty, there are also those drivers who are just solid on the intermediate tracks and know what they’re doing. Here’s a look at my picks to win this weekend:
My Pick to Win: Kyle Busch
Middle of the Road Pick: Kyle Larson
Dark Horse Prediction: Ryan Blaney
Kyle Busch is just on top of it when it comes to being competitive and aggressive when necessary. He’s got what it takes to pull off a win while being bold enough to hold his own but smart enough to stay out of trouble. He’s my pick to win this weekend. On the other hand, we have Kyle Larson. While he’s got some penalties to overcome from Kansas, he’s always a solid contender at the All-Star race. He has almost won on more than one occasion. Look for him to be at the front of the pack this weekend. Finally, Ryan Blaney is a force to be reckoned with. This guy is showing that he’s got talent across the board on all types of tracks. With nothing to lose this weekend, maybe he’ll throw it all on the line. He’s doing a great job staying up in the points, and while this isn’t a points race, it will definitely give the drivers some much-needed seat time.
Here are your current top 16 after last week’s race:
1. Kyle Busch
2. Joey Logano
3. Kevin Harvick
4. Brad Keselowski
5. Kurt Busch
6. Clint Bowyer
7. Denny Hamlin
8. Marin Truex Jr.
9. Ryan Blaney
10. Aric Almirola
11. Kyle Larson
12. Jimmie Johnson
13. Erik Jones
14. Alex Bowman
15. Chase Elliott
16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Jimmie Johnson should take this weekend and experiment. That team needs some work. To have as many championships as they do and to be seemingly struggling this much is odd. Regardless of a new car, this is the one team that should’ve overcome the obstacles by now. Here’s to hoping this weekend provides some useful information for those guys. As you can see, Joey Logano is inching closer to Kyle Busch. Busch will utilize this weekend, I’m sure, to gain some valuable experience about current track positions, but more importantly, to win that million. Stay tuned for a great night of racing under the lights at Charlotte Motor Speedway!
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