Race: Monster Energy Open and Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race
Date: Saturday May 20, 2017
Track: Charlotte Motor Speedway
Time: 6pm ET (Open) and 8 pm ET (All-Star)
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
So, interesting race at Kansas this past Saturday night if I do say so myself. Martin Truex Jr. came out on top and took the checkers ahead of Penske driver Brad Keselowski. This ultimately should be no surprise as Truex dominated much of the race, leading 104 of 267 laps. That being said, its interesting to note that Truex has a history of leading the most laps, yet losing the race. Thats happened 3 times previously, as a matter of fact. Lucky for him, Truex didnt succumb to the same fate. Polesitter Ryan Blaney came home a respectable 4th place, although he was most certainly disappointed as he could taste the win on this one. Kevin Harvick came home 3rd while Kyle Busch rounded out the top five.
Of course, the biggest story of the night was the wreck involving Aric Almirola, Joey Logano, and Danica Patrick. The incident began when Logan apparently blew a rotor, turning his car to the inside. Patrick just happened to be racing Logano for the 12th position and was turned and pinned against the outside wall riding along in a fireball with Logano. Almirola somehow couldnt get away and plowed into Logano and Patrick. Both of those drivers walked off unscathed, but NASCAR officials and the safety crews had to cut the roof off Almirolas car to remove him. The update from RPM is that Almirola suffered compression fractures from the wreck and will be sitting out indefinitely. Now, the other two drivers walked away unscathed, but lets play a little game of who was the driver that fussed over the incident instead of realizing it was equipment failure? If you guessed Danica Patrick, youd be the winner! Im just not a fan. That woman finds a reason to complain no matter what. I get it. She was actually running somewhat decently for her being that shes usually either wrecked out or racing for somewhere between 20th and 25th spot. The only thing she could muster was a cynical remark about Joey supposedly blowing a rotor and how she always has bad luck. I hate to break it to you, Danica, but it may not be bad luck at this point. After years of doing this, it might be a reflection of your lack of skill in stock car racing. Regardless, it was evident that Logano felt terrible. He showed compassion and apologized for the incident to both drivers. Danica could learn a thing or two about etiquette from these other drivers.
Being that shes so eager to make up some of her bad luck, Im sure she will have plenty of opportunity Saturday night as we head to Charlotte for the All-Star race. This is a race purely for the drivers and fans. Theres a lot of money at stake but no points. That typically gives drivers a lot less to worry about, leaving them in a position to make moves they wouldnt typically make during a regular race. Charlotte Motor Speedway is a 1.5 mile quad-oval. Its a cookie cutter intermediate track for all intents and purposes. The turns have 24 degrees of banking while the straights have only 5 degrees. The format for this race is different from the regular season races. There is a race before the main event for the drivers that are not locked into the All Star race. The Open is 3 different stages, broken down into 2-20 lap segments and 1-10 lap segment. The winner of each stage will advance to the All-Star race. Drivers will qualify for the race in the traditional qualifying format, but there will be a fan vote to incorporate the last driver into the field. The All-Star race is a total of four stages. There are 3-20 lap segments and 1-10 lap segment. The final stage will allow the top 10 drivers to have a shot at the $1 million prize. Those top 10 drivers are composed of the winners of the previous 3 stages and the remainders are the drivers with the best average finishes amongst the 3 stages. Obviously, wins are a premium here. The top 10 drivers will have the option to pit before the final stage, with exit off pit road determining the starting order.
There are a total of 16 drivers who have already earned their position in the All-Star race. Those drivers are: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chris Buescher, Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, and Kasey Kahne. The remaining four spots for the twenty car field will be determined by the results of the Monster Energy Open. The difficult part about picking a winner for this race is that its a huge strategy play. Teams come up with what we make think are some of the craziest strategies out there but then they end up in victory lane. That being said, one of the best of the best when it comes to strategy is the crew of the #2 team. The #2 of Brad Keselowski is going to be a hard driver to beat. Crew chiefs are going to be an integral part of this race for all teams. Chad Knauss is another one you cant count out in that scenario. The mans basically a genius. That being said, lets take a look at your potential winners this weekend:
My Pick to Win: Brad Keselowski
Middle of the Road Pick: Kyle Larson
Dark Horse Prediction: Jamie McMurray
Get your wagers down on Virginia’s picks or take advantage of some juicy matchup odds at Bovada!
Look, Jamie McMurray has finished top 10 in all 1.5 mile tracks this year. Thats pretty impressive. He could be the oddball team that pulls out some crazy strategy to bring it to victory lane. Theres no telling. Kyle Larson, well whats there to say? Hes been awesome this year. Clearly the best finisher on any intermediate track this year on average, hes going to have an impressive run, especially when you dangle a $1 million carrot in front of a kid. They will all be chasing Keselowski, though. Those guys have a lot going for them. They have horsepower, strategy, and the skill of Brad behind the wheel.
Overall, this race is made for the fans. There will be tons of action to see on the track this Saturday! Tires are also something to watch for. NASCAR is offering a softer tire compound, but the penalty for choosing this option is starting behind everyone else. But, hey, a softer tire means more grip which means more speed. Duh! Stay tuned for an awesome night of racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway!
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All-Star Race Driver Odds
Martin Truex, Jr. No.78 +575
Kyle Larson No.42 +650
Brad Keselowski No.2 +700
Kyle Busch No.18 +700
Jimmie Johnson No.48 +750
Joey Logano No.22 +750
Kevin Harvick No.4 +750
Denny Hamlin No.11 +1400
Matt Kenseth No.20 +1400
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. No.88 +2000 J
amie McMurray No.1 +2500
Kurt Busch No.41 +2500
Kasey Kahne No.5 +2800
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. No.17 +5000
Ryan Newman No.31 +5000
Chris Buescher No.37 +10000