“The rules package NASCAR is planning to use for the All-Star Race is definitely going to be interesting and something different,” Alex Bowman said in a press release this week. “It’s cool that NASCAR is trying to constantly make the racing better. We will just have to wait and see.”
And that last comment, “we will just have to wait and see,” pretty much sums up what all of the drivers in both the Monster Energy Open and All-Star Race are feeling this week.
This week’s pre-race press releases have been filled with uncertainty. Martin Truex Jr. hopes to use that to his advantage since the rules will not carry over to next week’s Coca-Cola 600. He is not the only one who is experiencing a change in attitude this year.
Locked into the All-Star Race because of his 2008 victory in the event, Kasey Kahne has the opportunity to give Leavine Family Racing one of the biggest successes in its history. Much like racing on the restrictor-plate superspeedways, conventional wisdom will not apply and this will be a wild card race.
“With us not having run this rules package, we go into this weekend not exactly sure how the cars are going to feel in general, how they’ll work around other cars, or what the speeds will be like,” Kahne said. “It’s tough to say how it will all work out, but we won’t be learning much from this weekend to carry over into the 600 like we may have in years past. Teams will try to go out and win the All-Star Race with this package, and then next weekend, we’ll go back to racing what we’ve been racing all season long.”
“This package is going to be different, there’s no question about it,” David Ragan said. “Charlotte Motor Speedway is a place where the field tends to get strung out really fast, but these rules will slow everybody down a little, and I think we might see more side-by-side racing. And maybe it can spark some new conversation in the industry on a direction we need to go.”
The teams are not exactly working in a vacuum. NASCAR used a version of this rules package at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the Xfinity race last year, and the general consensus was that it did, in fact, create more side-by-side racing.
“I think we have to try this new aero package and see where it goes,” Chris Buescher said. “I know the (Xfinity cars) were able to use it at Indy and I think as far as statistics go, there was a lot of movement in the field and green-flag passing, and I know that’s what NASCAR is after to try and create something different for the All-Star Race.”
Since no one really knows what to expect, a new rules package levels the playing field and may just well give a less experienced driver a chance to shine.
“Hopefully, what I learned with that aero package last year at Indy (in Xfinity) will apply,” said William Byron. “I feel like maybe I’ll have a little bit of the upper hand just knowing what my car needs to do because I think a lot of guys may be up in the air on what to do with their cars (with the new package).”
Now, what will actually happen in the race is anyone’s guess – much the same as on plate tracks. Without points on the line, there is an incentive to take risks one might not otherwise. This race is already prone to high risk moves. If the rules package slows the cars arbitrarily and the entirety of the race is run in a pack or multiple packs, the proximity of these enthusiastic drivers to one another could be a recipe for excitement – or disaster.
What other drivers said:
- “This year’s race in particular will be interesting with the new rules package. I can’t really give any opinion one way or the other until we get on the race track around other cars to see what it will be like.” – Jamie McMurray
- “I’m excited to get on track with the new package we’ll run and see how it feels and how it races.” – Kyle Larson
- “You never know what is going to happen, especially with the new aero package that we will run. Anyone can win the race.” – Ty Dillon
- “Obviously, speeds are going to be slower, a lot more downforce, a lot more drag. But it’s still a big question mark. Nobody knows how it’s really going to play out.” – Michael McDowell