All-Star Race changes revealed

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Monster Energy All-Star Race will feature a simplified format that will include a new package with restrictor plate on the cars.

Among the changes:

# Cars will have a restrictor plate, making the first time they will be used at Charlotte Motor Speedway. A 7/8-inch restrictor plate will be used. It’s the same that is used at Daytona and Talladega. Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, estimated the restrictor plate will reduce horsepower by 400. He estimates that should put lap speeds in the 170s. Denny Hamlin won the pole for the last fall’s race at Charlotte with a lap of 191.598 mph. O’Donnell said he thought the difference with this package would be about 15 mph.

# Cars also will have aero ducts. These will be used to push air from the front of the car through the front wheel well to create a bigger wake behind the car. That is intended to allow a car following to close at an easier rate.

# The rear spoiler will be 6 inches high and have two 12-inch ears on either side. Also to create a larger wake of air to allow trailing cars to close.

# Cars will have a 2014-style splitter. O’Donnell said this was done to balance the front of the car with the changes made to the rear spoiler.

The aero package is similar to what Xfinity teams used in last year’s race at Indianapolis and will use again this year at Indianapolis, Michigan and Pocono.

The race format will be:

# The race will be four stages for a total of 80 laps — an increase of 10 laps from last year’s event. The opening stage will be 30 laps, the next two stages will be 20 laps each and the final stage is 10 laps. The race must end under green.

# Each stage cannot end under caution, creating the possibility of overtime for each stage and not just the end of the race.

# No mandatory pit stop requirements.

“I think it’s a good, courageous opportunity, and I’m glad NASCAR is going in this direction,’’ NASCAR on NBC analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. said on NASCAR America. “I didn’t believe that we’d ever see the day where we had the industry thinking we really needed to increase drag on the car a big degree. I didn’t think we’d have a movement within the industry where we were going to remove power. This is not the final version. This is only cracking the door open and looking in the right areas.

“I believe this direction could be a game change for particularly the mile-and-a-half race tracks. What I believe could happen down the road is we’ll see other renditions of this, we’ll eventually maybe get a smaller engine, that’s an open motor with more throttle response, they can put gear back in the cars, get the drivers to feel like they can drive the car off the corner. This could lead NASCAR in a very, very critical direction that’s going to improve this sport over a long period of time.”

O’Donnell said it is NASCAR’s hope to see how these changes work and look to apply them at other tracks in 2019 or later.

“I think it’s important to look at this as directionally is this something we want to pursue as a whole from an intermediate track standpoint,” O’Donnell said. “We believe we know how that will affect Indianapolis, Michigan and Pocono. How would that affect Charlotte? What can we learn.

“It’s more what can we learn from this and build upon it. If there are some different things we have to do for individual tracks, we would. Ideal situation is we all stumble upon something that this is the package for the intermediate track.”

One of the differences with Charlotte is that its straightaways are not as long as those at Indianapolis. One of the benefits of the package to the car at Indy for the Xfinity Series was the chance to draft on those straights. So how does that work for Charlotte, a track that is 1 mile less than Indy?

“I think when you look at it, directionally, you want to look at the ability, if I’m three or four cars together, can I catch the leader, am I faster with that group and we believe the answer is yes,” O’Donnell said. “Then when you look going into the corners, would you be in a pack? Don’t know. But it opens the ability when you’re going 205 into the corner versus 170 (with the new package), that opens up high grove in Charlotte, low groove and you’re going to feel more comfortable going in two or three wide.”

The All-Star field will include Cup winners in 2017 and 2018; former all-star race winners who are competing full-time; Cup champions who are competing full-time; the winner of each of the three stages of the Monster Energy Open; and the winner of the 2018 Fan Vote.

Seventeen drivers are eligible for the All-Star Race at this point. They are: Ryan Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Martin Truex Jr.

The All-Star Race is May 19 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The Monster Energy Open will be held before the All-Star Race. The Open will be three stages. The first two stages will be 20 laps each. The final stage will be 10 laps. Each stage winner advances.

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Sam Bass, famed paint scheme and race program designer, dies

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Sam Bass, the artist known for designing many iconic NASCAR paint schemes and race programs, died Saturday.

His wife Denise confirmed Bass’ passing on Twitter. He was 57.

Bass, who designed Jeff Gordon’s striking “Rainbow Warriors” paint scheme, had spent the last few years looking for a new kidney. That was a result of a sepsis infection that originated in a blister on his left foot in 2005 and led to a below-the-knee amputation in 2008. Bass also had Type 1 diabetes, which he was diagnosed with at the age of 29.

Bass was inspired to become a NASCAR artist when he was 7 after attending his first race at Southside Speedway in suburban Richmond, Virginia.

“I was so amazed that night not only by the excitement and watching those cars run around and beat and bang on each other, but also the color – how all the cars were painted so many different colors,” Bass told NBC Sports in 2017. “I was like, ‘How cool is this?’ I couldn’t wait to get home to pull out my markers.”

The first car Bass designed was Bobby Allison’s Miller High Life car in 1988. That car went on to win the Daytona 500.

He went on to design the first Cup schemes for Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Bass first designed a race program for the 1985 World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He designed programs for it and other Speedway Motorsports, Inc. tracks through 2018.

Marcus Smith, the CEO and President of SMI, issued the following statement.

“Our deepest sympathies are with Denise and her family today. Sam Bass has been a significant part of NASCAR’s history. He poured his heart, soul and talent into producing souvenir program covers at many speedways including Charlotte for more than 30 years. His work provided our fans a keepsake to treasure, and that was so appropriate, because Sam was always such a fan of our sport and he was such a treasure to the entire NASCAR family. His body of work will be a legacy that lives forever. We will miss Sam’s smile and positivity.”

Michael McDowell leads final Daytona 500 practice

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Front Row Motorsport’s Michael McDowell was fastest in the final practice session for Sunday’s Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on Fox).

McDowell and his No. 34 Ford recorded nine laps and a top speed of 191.440 mph.

The top five was completed by Ty Dillon (191.432 mph), pole-sitter William Byron (191.339), Alex Bowman (191.278) and Daniel Hemric (190.921).

Only 20 cars made at least one lap in the session.

Kurt Busch recorded the most laps in the session with 16 and was 11th on the speed chart at 189.741 mph.

Of four drivers to make a 10-lap run, Bowman had the best average at 190.334 mph.

There were no incidents in the session.

Click here for the practice report.

Jeffrey Earnhardt honors grandfather Dale Earnhardt with helmet design

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Xfinity Series driver Jeffrey Earnhardt is honoring the “GOAT” in his family with a helmet he’s debuting this weekend at Daytona International Speedway.

The “GOAT” – or “Greatest of All-Time” – is his grandfather, NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt.

The helmet, which you can see below, bears an image of the seven-time Cup champion riding a horse while shirtless and wearing a cowboy hat.

Next to the image is the text, “Just a goat on his horse!”

Earnhardt will have the helmet today as he starts on the front row of the Xfinity Series season opener (2:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1).

It is the first of nine Xfinity races he’ll start for Joe Gibbs Racing this season.

MORE: Jeffrey Earnhardt ready for challenge of winning in Xfinity

Today’s Xfinity race at Daytona: Start time, lineup and more

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The NASCAR Xfinity Series kicks off the 2019 season today with the NASCAR Racing Experience 300 at Daytona International Speedway.

The 38-car field will feature defending series champion Tyler Reddick, who seeks to become the first driver to defend his Xfinity championship since Ricky Stenhouse Jr., won in 2011 and repeated in 2012.

Here’s how today’s pre-race schedule looks:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given by Drew Patey, VIP Partner of the NASCAR Racing Experience, at 2:37 p.m. The green flag is scheduled for 2:49 p.m.

PRERACE CEREMONIES: Driver introductions begin at 2:10 p.m. The invocation will be given at 2:30 p.m. by Sonny Gallman, Pastor of Central Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Florida. The National Anthem will be at 2:31 p.m. and sung by Gina Marie Incandela.

DISTANCE: The race is 120 laps (300 miles) around the 2.5-mile track.

TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race. Coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 2 p.m. and also can be heard at MRN.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for cloudy skies with a high of 74 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain for the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Tyler Reddick won last year’s season-opening race. He started 11th and led 11 laps en route to the victory.

TO THE REAR: Pole-sitter Tyler Reddick will start from the rear after changing a tire with an air leak.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.