NASCAR tweaks All-Star format
Organizers of NASCAR’s All-Star are known for making changes almost every year.
One of the biggest twists this time will come before the green flag waves to start the 135-mile race Saturday night a little after 9 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
For the first time in years, qualifying will be immediately before the race instead of the day before and crews will not be allowed to make significant changes to cars, including a shifting of weight ballast, between the unique qualifying of three laps with a four-tire change pit stop and the race as they have in the past.
“There are a few big things that you do when it’s not an impound race,” six-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson said. “We take the ballast of the car and push a lot of that weight forward. That really helps stabilize the car. That’s clearly an adjustment you don’t want to do on pit road. It’s pretty timely, as well. We won’t have nose weight in the car.
“Your goal in setting up your race car for a race is to have it easy on the tires so they last as long as possible, whereas in qualifying you only need a couple laps, so you’re going to work a given corner or all four really hard. We’ll definitely be doing things differently. I don’t recall having an impound race this year for an open motor race, so it will be a new little twist on things.
“So I’m for it, but our race setup will be different. The overall mindset will still be similar. Track position is going to be everything and busting out a fast lap in qualifying is going to be key.”
Johnson will be expected to adapt as well as anybody, having the best average finish of 6.2 among those with more than five starts. He will gunning for a record fifth All-Star victory and a record third in a row. He’s also tied with Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip at six for most points race wins ever at the 1.5-mile track.
“Charlotte has been so good to us,” Johnson said. “Even though our dominance was awhile ago, we’ve been able to win the All-Star race a few times since. We’ve definitely been in the money and have had a shot to win. I’m carrying good confidence in there.”
Johnson captured most of his CMS wins in the middle of the last decade, when the cars were different and before the track was repaved.
“The surface was so rough and abrasive, we hit on some stuff that just worked,” Johnson said. “I don’t know if you can find that dominance today, especially with the asphalt like it is. So I think there’s a larger group of guys racing for the win now than when I had that dominant streak.”
The race features winners since the start of last season and also includes past All-Star race winners and Cup champions of the past 10 years. The entry list in addition to Johnson includes Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, Brian Vickers, Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Jamie McMurray, Brad Keselowski and David Ragan.
Three more drivers are to be added — the first and second-place finishers in tonight’s Showdown and the winner of a fan vote.
The All-Star race will be contested in segments of 20, 20, 20, 20 and 10 laps. Pit stops are optional at the end of the first three segments and cars that pit will lose track position. After the fourth segment, all cars will be required to make a four-tire pit stop, with cars restarting in the order they exit pit road.