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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Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Austin Hill will lead the field to the green flag Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway after scoring his first career Xfinity Series pole.

Hill won the pole Friday with a lap of 182.036 mph. He will be joined on the front row by fellow playoff contender Ty Gibbs (181.981 mph).

MORE: Talladega Xfinity starting lineup

Playoff drivers will start in seven of the top eight spots. The exception is Sheldon Creed, who will start third after a lap of 181.870 mph. Hill and Creed give Richard Childress Racing the first and third starting spots.

Justin Allgaier (181.529) qualified fourth and Brandon Jones (181.305) completed the top five. Noah Gragson, who has won four races in a row, starts sixth after a lap of 181.134 mph and is followed by playoff drivers Josh Berry (181.052) and AJ Allmendinger (180.932).

The Xfinity Series race is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network.

Talladega Truck starting lineup: John Hunter Nemechek wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — John Hunter Nemechek will start on the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race.

Nemechek earned the pole with a lap of 178.767 mph.

Nemechek is one of four playoff drivers starting in the top six: Chandler Smith (second, 177.732 mph), Zane Smith (fourth, 177.061) and Ty Majeski (sixth, 176.744). Majeski clinched a spot in next month’s championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

MORE: Talladega Truck starting lineup

Also qualifying in the top five were Carson Hocevar (177.068) in third and Matt Crafton (176.960) in fifth.

Failing to qualify are Tim Viens, Spencer Boyd, Jason White and Natalie Decker.

Saturday Talladega Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather

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The second race of the opening round of the Xfinity playoffs takes drivers to Talladega Superspeedway.

Noah Gragson secured his spot in the next round by winning last weekend at Texas. Ryan Sieg holds the final transfer spot. Riley Herbst is the first driver below the cutline, one point behind Sieg. Also below the cutline are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric (-8 points), Brandon Jones (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-28).

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:09 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:21 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m. … The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. … The Brookwood High School choir will perform the anthem at 4:02 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 113 laps (300.58 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 50.

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3:30 p.m. on USA Network. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 78 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Noah Gragson won and was followed by Jeffrey Earnhardt and AJ Allmendinger.

 

Could Talladega open door for a record 20th winner?

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Talladega Superspeedway is known for fast speeds, huge drafting packs, sensational wrecks and tight finishes.

On Sunday (2 p.m. ET on NBC), it could be the site of an unexpected record.

Nineteen different drivers have won Cup races this season, tying a record. If a new winner shows up in Talladega victory lane Sunday, it will mark the first time in the sport’s history that 20 drivers have won races in a single season.

One of the remarkable things about that possibility is that the driver who has far and away the best record at Talladega among active drivers is among the group still looking for a win in 2022. That’s Brad Keselowski, who has won six times at NASCAR’s biggest track. No other active driver has more than three. (Keselowski is tied for second on the all-time Talladega win list with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. Dale Earnhardt tops that list with 10).

Talladega and Daytona tend to reject repeat winners. The past nine races at the two tracks have been won by nine different drivers.

Other seasonal non-winners who could break through at Talladega:

Ryan BlaneyBlaney’s only win this year is in the All-Star Race, so he’s still looking for his first points win while continuing to chase the championship. He won at Talladega in 2019 and 2020.

Martin Truex Jr. — Superspeedways have been a pox on Truex’s career. In 70 races at Talladega and Daytona, he has failed to win.

Aric Almirola — In what has been a disappointing season, Almirola’s best finish is a fifth — twice. He won at Talladega in 2018 but hasn’t had a top 10 in his last four runs there.

Michael McDowell — McDowell’s best finish at Talladega is a third, but he is usually very competitive in the Talladega and Daytona drafts, winning the 2021 Daytona 500.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Stenhouse won at Talladega in 2017 and usually is a factor in the draft.

Harrison Burton — Burton has had a tough rookie season, but the peculiarities of the Talladega draft should play in his favor. The No. 21 team’s next win will be its 100th.

Justin Haley — Haley has no top-10 runs in five Talladega starts, but he showed potential last week with a third-place finish at Texas.

Corey LaJoie — LaJoie has started nine Cup races at Talladega and has led exactly one lap. His best finish is a seventh.

Noah Gragson — Gragson, the star of this Xfinity season, is in the No. 48 for Hendrick Motorsports with Alex Bowman out because of concussion-like symptoms. In the Talladega draft he could be a threat.