As the engines fired, the lightbulbs buzzed - a first for the annual non-points extravaganza. Never before had an all-star race been run under the lights. Dubbed "One Hot Night," the 1992 race signaled a new era, one that became tradition for the fan-favorite event.
And now, 25 years later, past meets present ... as another new era begins with the first all-star race under the Monster Energy banner.
NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway today announced the format for the 2017 Monster Energy All-Star Race, one that rewards winning, and incorporates a fascinating strategy component.
The race format is as follows:
- The race will feature four stages (20 laps / 20 laps / 20 laps / 10 laps), totaling 70 laps, an ode to the 1992 edition of the same distance.
- The goal for all competitors: Earn a spot in the final 10-lap, 10-car stage.
- The winner of each of the first three stages will lock up a spot in the final stage, as long as they remain on the lead lap after the third stage.
- The cars with the best average finish in the first three stages will make up the remaining spots needed to fill the 10-car final stage.
- The remaining 10 cars will be lined up by average finish of the first three stages and given the option to pit. Exit off pit road determines starting order for final stage.
- The winner will be awarded $1,000,000.
Crew chief strategy has been at a premium throughout this season, and that won't change in the all-star race thanks to a unique opportunity granted each team: a coveted set of softer tires. Each team will have one set of these tires available to use at their discretion. A softer tire provides the car with more grip and, thus, speed. In other words, it's a game-changer. But there's a catch: Teams that choose to put on their softer tires to start the final stage must start behind those that choose regular tires.
"The Monster Energy All-Star Race is designed to be fun for fans, showcasing the best drivers and race teams in NASCAR," said Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. "With the effort that Goodyear has put into this race with multiple tire compounds, I am excited to see how the stages play out, especially the final 10-car, 10-lap sprint to the checkered flag."
"The Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race is etched in the history of our sport for the most memorable moments, trend-setting innovation and big-money payouts," said Marcus Smith, president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway. "This new 70-lap format pays tribute to the 25th anniversary of 'One Hot Night' while pushing the drivers to the brink of insanity with the chances they'll take to win $1 million. I'm as ready as our fans for a May 20 Saturday night shootout where only a daredevil behind the wheel truly has a shot at Victory Lane."
Qualifying for the main event, which returns to Friday night, will again include the wildly popular 'no speed limit' four-tire pit stop. Each team will have three timed laps, one of which will include a mandatory four-tire pit stop with no pit-road speed limits enforced. The five quickest teams will advance to the final round of qualifying to determine starting positions one through five. The team that completes the fastest stop will earn the Pit Crew Competition Award.
The Monster Energy Open will occur Saturday evening prior to the Monster Energy All-Star Race and will include three stages (20 laps / 20 Laps / 10 laps). The winner of each stage will earn a spot in the all-star race. The Monster Energy Open field will be set by two rounds of traditional knock-out qualifying.
Those eligible for the Monster Energy All-Star Race include: drivers who won a points event in either 2016 or 2017; drivers who won a Monster Energy All-Star Race and compete full-time; and drivers who won a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship and compete fulltime. Those who have not already earned a spot via the above criteria can still lock-in by winning a stage in the Monster Energy Open or by winning the Fan Vote.
Drivers who have already clinched an all-star spot: Chris Buescher, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr.
Weekend passes for the Monster Energy All-Star Race start at just $79 and include admission to the May 19 N.C. Education Lottery 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, May 20 Justin Moore All-Star pre-race concert presented by Rayovac and Kwikset and the Monster Energy Open. Individual adult tickets for the May 20 Monster Energy All-Star Race start at just $39 and tickets for children 13 and under are just $10. To obtain tickets, camping or race-day upgrades, fans should call 1-800-455-FANS (3267) or shop online at www.CharlotteMotorSpeedway.com.
The Monster Energy All-Star Race and Monster Energy Open will air live on FS1 starting at 6 p.m. ET. The races can also be heard on MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.
-- NASCAR --